Lynda and I have visited the US during the fall or early spring every year since retirement. Of course traveling into the US creates many issues for Canadians. Crossing the border is only the beginning of problems and issues to deal with. Check out my articles on entering the US.
If you are a Canadian or American citizen it's not a huge deal to cross from one country to the another if you have all your chickens in the coop. My two previous articles contain many hints and tips to make the passage from one country to the other easy.
Americans and Canadians are as they say "Children of a Common Mother", I guess it means our heritage is identical. Our respective countries were populated from Europe originally. Many families on both sides of the border have roots on the other side.
With all the similarities between our countries, you would think there wouldn't be so many hurdles to overcome. It begins with documents and identification, from here it flows to items on your person or in your possession.
Once across the border there are several complications. Cell phone service is one of the first issues that requires attention. In this day and age, none of us feel safe without our cell phones. It's a good idea to check into cell service before you cross the border. If you have not made prior arrangements with your cell phone service provider you could be in for a shock when your monthly bill arrives. Roaming charges can take a huge chunk out of your travel budget. Although the Canadian government recently passed legislation limiting the amount cell companies can charge for roaming.
Unlocking our cell phone and tapping into a foreign cell phone network works well for us. We have a pay as you go plan in both Canada and the US. Virgin in Canada and T-mobile in the US. US rates are far cheaper than Canada, ten cents per minute. I simply change the SIM card when we cross the border, a seamless transition.
Internet was a challenge on our first couple of trips south. Using our Canadian phone with a data plan was out of the question the rates were outrageous. We resorted to using free internet at libraries, hotel lobbies, and restaurants. This system worked well except somewhat inconvenient.
Our next experiment was using our android phone as a hot spot with T-mobile. This worked well for several years the cost was $50 per month for unlimited phone and data although after a certain usage the internet speed was greatly reduced.
Once I began my writing career and built this website the limited data plan had to go. From here we upgraded to a jet pack wireless hot spot and signed up with Verizon. An excellent plan of $60 per month for 5 gigs and great coverage. We are still using this method for internet as I am writing this article.
The Canadian Peso
When traveling to a foreign country currency differences and exchange rates are alway a challenge. The US dollar is always the benchmark for currency exchange, foreign currencies always compare to the greenback.
The Canadian dollar, in my lifetime, has rarely been equal to or worth more than the US dollar. Since the 1970's the Canadian dollar has averaged around .81 cents US, only twice in 2007 and 2011 reaching par or above. Although a lower dollar is said to be good for Canadian exports and tourism, it is not so good for us travelers.
It's disappointing enough checking out the bank rate, but wait till you actually change your money from one currency to another and get charged another 4 or 5 percent fee. So instead of receiving .77 cents US, (the bank of Canada rate today) you will actually receive less than .73 cents.
Money experts give examples of how to get the best bang for your buck. They have trouble agreeing on the best strategy. Lump sum buying when the Canadian dollar is high or regular buying thereby receiving an average of exchange rates.
One of the best ways we have found to convert the Canadian Peso to the American dollar is the Canadian Snowbird Association currency exchange. This organization charges a $25 membership fee, once a member you can do lump sum currency exchanges or regularly scheduled US dollar purchases.
The rate you receive is about 3 percent better than posted bank rates. The only other hurdle to jump is opening a US account in a US bank.
If you're a Canadian and travel or shop often in the US you should be aware that most Canadian credit card companies charge around 2.5 percent foreign exchange on every purchase. In other words, if you buy something in the US that costs $10 at today's rate of $1.30 Canadian for one US dollar. The item will cost $13.00 Canadian, plus 4% bank charge plus 2.5% credit card foreign exchange charge. So the $10 US item will cost $13.86, and if you do not keep your credit card balance current (pay it in full every month) you will be charged interest, which increases the cost for the $10 US item even more.
To reduce these charges, most Canadian banks offer a US credit card. Using a US money credit card eliminates the 2.5 percent charge on your US purchases.
Opening a US Bank Account?
For snowbirds and other Canadians who shop or spend substantial time in the US having a convenient way to transfer money presents problems. If you require regular transfers or substantial amounts opening a bank account in the US is a good solution.
We had a situation several years back. Lynda and I booked into an RV resort in Surprise Az. for a month and during that time we came across a park model trailer at such a good price we could not pass it up. The only problem was how to get the cash needed to purchase the park model. The resort would not accept a credit card or a cheque for that amount. The solution was to ask our son to wire the money directly to the sales office. The purchase would have been a breeze if we had a US bank account.
A Canadian does not need to own property or have a US mailing address to open an account at a US bank. A US chequing account lets you transfer funds with minimal hassle and write cheques to Americans that won’t be put on indefinite hold. US or Canadian bills can be paid online, and Canadians can negotiate mortgages and other lending services tailored for Canadians.
I recommend dealing with a US bank that is owned by a Canadian bank. Some US banks are not familiar with opening accounts for foreigners and tend to make it more difficult than it needs to be. This is what our friends discovered when they applied at a Chase bank in Arizona. The bank had so many requirements the couple gave up and went to another bank.
Lynda and I recently opened an account with BMO Harris in Arizona. BMO Harris is owned by the Canadian Bank of Montreal. The process was very simple, two pieces of picture ID was all that was required. The account manager at the time commented that many US banks are not accustomed to foreigners opening accounts. She also said many Americans are flocking to Canadian owned banks because of the stability of Canadian banks.
Crossing the Canada/US border does create some problems, but with a little research and preparation in can be as easy as the drive through.
I have covered all aspects of crossing the US/Canada border throughout my website. If there is an issue you would like more info. on you can search my site or leave me a message.
Lynda and I have traveled in our RV for more than 40 years.
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