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Managing Cross Border Banking: 4 Tips for Snowbirds


Published August 22, 2023 • 4 Min Read

Travelling to the U.S. as a Canadian is usually straightforward. Crossing the border is relatively painless, and with the commonalities between both, it’s easy to live your day-to-day life south of the border. When managing your money in the U.S., finding an ATM and paying for things with your credit card is easy — but your every day transactions might be costing you more than is necessary, between transaction fees, foreign exchange costs and ATM charges.

These cross-border tips can help you save money — on everyday and long-term expenses — manage your finances easier and make for the relaxing snowbird experience you deserve.

1. Sign up with a U.S.-based bank

While you’re living in the U.S., you’ll be paying for everything in U.S. dollars — from groceries to gas, living expenses to entertainment. So, having a U.S. bank account based at a U.S. financial institution makes sense. One that has cross-border Canada/U.S. solutions is particularly beneficial for Canadians.

With the right cross-border banking solution, you can:

  • Transfer money between the U.S. and Canada as often as you need to

  • Pay U.S. bills in U.S. dollars easily online

  • Send and receive money person-to-person in the U.S.

  • Easily withdraw U.S. dollars cash at the ATM for no fee

2. Get a U.S.-based credit card

Yes, you can use your Canadian-based credit card in the U.S. without issue. But when you do, you’re charged foreign transaction fees, typically 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent of your purchase amount. When you use a U.S.-based credit card, however, you avoid these fees and bypass the foreign exchange costs, saving you money every time you use your card.

Some U.S. credit cards also offer the opportunity to earn rewards, which can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, merchandise and even cash back.

3. Consider purchasing a U.S. home

If you’re a regular visitor to the U.S., you may be tired of paying rent or other accommodation costs while you’re there. Purchasing a U.S. property comes with many benefits for snowbirds and may be more attainable than you might think. Here’s why:

  • Getting a U.S. mortgage is easier than ever: This is particularly true if you work with a cross-border bank that considers your Canadian credit history. And when you finance, you reduce the impact of upfront foreign exchange costs — RBC Bank, for instance, requires only a 20 per cent down payment for primary and vacation properties.

  • You’ll build your U.S. credit score: Having a U.S. mortgage enables you to build your U.S. credit score, which may make it even easier to qualify for loans or other financing in the future.

  • You can leverage your home equity in the future: Should your property increase in value, you can tap into the equity you have built up to finance your lifestyle in U.S. funds. Discover 3 Ways to Use the Equity in Your U.S. Home.

Plus, there are no pre-payment restrictions on many U.S. mortgages, allowing you to pre-pay your mortgage in full at any time without penalty. This is a great perk if your winter lifestyle plans change!

4. Rent out your property for extra U.S. income

If you do own a U.S. home, you can help cover some of your homeownership costs by renting out your property when you’re not there. Renting can generate an additional income stream — in U.S. dollars — providing cash flow for U.S. expenses without converting money.

If you’re thinking about short-term rental opportunities, check with local bylaws and your homeowner association to see if any rules prevent you from renting a place for less than a month. Read What to Know Before You Rent Out Your U.S. Home for more tips.

Spending time in the U.S. — especially in the winter months — can be a great way to avoid the Canadian cold and remain active and outdoors all year long. Make the most of your snowbirding experience with tips that can enhance your time south of the border.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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Banking/ Digital banking Cross-Border Real Estate