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Carrick on money

How snowbirds can buy U.S. dollars on the cheap Add to ...

The Canadian dollar is pretty much where it was a year ago, which is not great news for snowbirds. Our currency is worth about 75 cents U.S. on the wholesale market, which means you might pay $135 or more to buy $100 U.S. dollars. Ouch.

Buying U.S. dollars at your bank is convenient, but expensive. Foreign exchange is one of retail banking’s reliable profit centres. A few options for cheaper rates:

  • The Canadian Snowbird Association’s currency exchange program: The group says members get an “exclusive, preferred exchange rate.”
  • Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange: Budget travel expert Barry Choi says they’re the cheapest option for people who need to exchange large sums of money – above $2,000.
  • Search for independent forex dealers in your city or neighborhood on Google: A lot of these outlets post their conversion rates online.

I invite snowbirds and other regular visitors to the United States to contact me at rcarrick@globeandmail.com to offer their best tips for exchanging Canadian money into U.S. dollars. If I get enough good suggestions, I’ll gather them up in a future edition of this e-mail.

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Ask Rob
The question:
“I am a member of the finance committee of a church. We have many different accounts covering things like organ repair, education, building maintenance, cemetery, contingency etc., all in separate accounts and earning virtually zero interest. They total about $100,000. I have been asked to suggest an alternative investment which is flexible, liquid, "safe" and convenient. Any suggestions you can give me would be greatly appreciated.”

My reply: It sounds like you need a business account, which limits your options. I suggest you start with Tangerine, which pays 0.5 per cent on its Business Savings Account. That’s not much, I know, but it’s better than zero. If any readers know of a better paying business savings account, let me know and I’ll mention it in this space.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

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