In Canada, Foreign, Money, USA

How Canadians can use USD when traveling & transfer USD from Paypal to USD at a bank in Canada or Questrade (Royal Bank of Canada RBC, Transferwise and TD Bank)

Ahhhh U.S. I work so much with Americans and get paid a lot in $USD but always get screwed with $USD to $CAD conversions that it makes me annoyed.

So I thought — how can I just get $USD to stay as $USD and use it to invest, spend freely when I travel and not pay any conversion or bank fees?

WHY MOVE $USD DIRECTLY INTO A $USD ACCOUNT IN CANADA?

Because you don’t want to pay that 2.5% fee any more? I have been paying it for years and it is driving me insane.

The conversion from USD to CAD, and then the sickening feeling I have when I have to convert it BACK from CAD to USD when I travel, makes me nauseous.

My plan is to have all the money in USD from Paypal be able to serve two things:

  1. Use that money in the U.S. when I visit (e.g. through a debit card, or bank)
  2. Transfer the $USD directly into my Questrade Trading account so I can buy $USD stocks without converting the money at all

My goal was:

Cheapest possible + Automatic + Least Hassle + No USD$ conversion

Fun twist I didn’t expect: COVID-19 lockdowns. More on that later.

THE ISSUES: With Canadians transferring USD

  • You cannot set up a Canadian-based $USD chequing account directly in Paypal – it automatically assumes as it is in Canada, it is in $CAD and converts it because Canadian banks use transit numbers but American banks use routing numbers
  • Canadian banks do not deal with this USD$ transfer issue, nor do Paypal – do not bother calling them to ask for help
  • You have a legal method and a ‘trick Paypal’ method (The first one is “Trick Paypal”)

3 Methods I will review:

  1. RBC Workaround — this is the one that isn’t as clean
  2. TD Cross-Border — this one costs the most but is also clean
  3. Transferwise method — this is the one I am using as it is the most legal

You ABSOLUTELY cannot do the following and I know this because I tried it:

  1. Sign into PayPal
  2. Click WALLET (in the top menu)
  3. Click the LINK A BANK (large graphic)
  4. Click the ADD button (at the bottom)
  5. Click the small I HAVE A DIFFERENT BANK link (top left, above the banks logos)
  6. Change the COUNTRY to UNITED STATES (yes, us US even though this is for a Canadian Bank)
  7. Type in the name of the bank
  8. Surf to bank-code.net/routing-numbers and enter just the name of your bank, then click SEARCH
    usd-canadian-bank-account-on-paypal
  9. Copy the ROUTING NUMBER from Bank-Code.net in the PayPal ROUTING NUMBER field
  10. In the ACCOUNT NUMBER field enter BOTH you Canadian bank’s ‘transit number’+’account number’
  11. Click CONTINUE
  12. Complete the confirmation process
  13. Enjoy!

No. No enjoyment here. Paypal came back with “invalid bank information”. So this crap doesn’t work.


Method #1: RBC WORKAROUND

  1. Open an RBC account – the U.S. Dollar High Interest eSavings Account (no monthly fees, limited to ONE debit a month)
  2. Ask for online banking with this account by opening a chequing account then closing it right away so you can get an online account and access card
  3. (Optional) Ask if it’s possible to get online banking with this account. That way, you can set up online banking.
  4. The RBC access card will also allow you to withdraw USD from certain ATMs.
  5. Make sure you get a printout of the account and transit numbers for your newly minted RBC account.
  6. At home, log into Paypal and go to your Wallet and add a new bank account.
  7. Make sure you select “Other bank account”.
  8. When filling out your bank details, make sure you change the dropdown from Canada to United States.  Bank name is “Royal Bank of Canada“.
  9. Account type should be Savings
  10. MOST IMPORTANT STEP – Use the following routing number:  026004093.  This is the routing number for the RBC US branch.
  11. For the account number, enter in the combination of the 5 digit transit number + bank number your account number (for example, 06032 003 123456 with no spaces in between).  Alternatively if this doesn’t work  just use the transit and account number 06032 123456.
    • The latest update on this (Feb 19, 2016) is that the 003 is NOT required.  When you’re first trying this, I would recommend using only the transit + account number first.
  12. Once done, Paypal will send two small deposits to your RBC US account.
  13. 2-3 days later, check your balance and in Paypal, go back into your Wallet to verify the two amounts that came through.  Once you’ve done that your bank account is linked and you know that this works!

RESULT

  • You can now transfer $USD from Paypal to RBC $USD
  • You can now use that RBC $USD debit card in the U.S. directly to use the funds
  • No currency conversion or transfer fees apply

WHAT HAPPENED IN REAL-LIFE WITH COVID-19

I opened the account online, and since it was during the COVID-19 situation, they needed to somehow verify my identity without my going into the bank.

This is a conundrum.

I had to set up an appointment with an advisor anyway and they would contact me with what to do.

Then I get a call from a rep who tells me that I was ill-advised and they could not Facetime or use the telephone to verify who I was. I had to come IN PERSON to the brand in the middle of a pandemic to open this account and set it up.

Apparently this is a federal rule and you cannot open an account without being there in person.

So while my money languishes in Paypal limbo in USD, I have no idea when COVID will be over, so I had to find another solution.

OTHER ISSUES WITH THE RBC METHOD

  • Heard Paypal cracked down on this but I know people who are currently still doing this method.
  • Once COVID is over, I may re-visit adding RBC directly to Paypal.
  • I also heard this was not legal either, as you’re cheating the system with a routing number.

Method #2: TD CROSS-BORDER

You have to go set up a cross-border account with TD. In-person. So it doesn’t work for me with COVID.

You get an appointment with an account manager at a TD branch and they will open up  two accounts:

  • American cross-border account (the counterpart)
  • Canadian USD$ bank account (you should already have this or will get one)

May take time to get your account info, and it takes a long time apparently.

The benefit is you will now have an American bank account at TD Bank in America and those account and routing numbers will link in Paypal like a real American bank account (because it is).

The RBC trick only works because it tricks Paypal with the routing number to pretend the Canadian-based USD$ account is actually American so that it doesn’t force a USD –> CAD conversion when it moves the money from Paypal to RBC (which is the real crux of the issue).

See, Paypal, when it sees you have a CANADIAN bank account, even if it is in USD$, will force the conversion to CAD$ no matter what.

So the routing number trick with RBC is to falsify that it is actually an account based in the U.S., so it won’t convert the money to CAD.

Moving on. To move the money, you need to then ask them to wire the money from your TD American cross-border account to the TD one in Canada (there is a $17.50 fee taken out that they refund later because you’re wiring money to yourself basically, using TD bank on both sides.)

This is a real American bank account that TD has, which is therefore legal & OK by Paypal standards. Everything is verified, you’re documented, you are indeed the same person for both sides and there is no legal issue.

Then you just link your Canadian TD USD$ account to Questrade, and move USD$.

The only wrinkle is you need to call them each time you want to wire transfer the money from your TD American USD$ account to your Canadian TD USD$ account.

So, these are the options for your Canadian TD USD$ account by the way:

I obviously chose the first one because I don’t need the money desperately and am not transferring a ton every month.

The free one only allows ONE transaction (debit) a month from it.

If you want, the second one charges you, but also requires a $3K minimum for a fee rebate. No thanks. I am not that flush yet. LOL

Conclusion:

  • More legal than the RBC workaround
  • Minor hassle with calling them to wire the money each time

Method #3: TRANSFERWISE METHOD

This was the easiest of them all to set up AND you can do it online without having to call them every time you want to transfer money or wire anything.

The only downside is that it costs more in fees than the RBC illegal workaround (LOL). But the amount of fees is still less than what Paypal were gouging out of me.

High-level Process of moving Paypal –> Questrade

  1. Transfer Paypal USD$ funds to Transferwise Borderless Account
  2. Transfer Transferwise Borderless Account USD$ to Canadian-based USD$ bank account OR Transfer Transferwise Borderless Account USD$ to Questrade via their intermediaries*

*I do not recommend the Transferwise transfer to Questrade via intermediaries. You get charged an extra $20 USD

What you need:

  • Transferwise Borderless Account
  • Canadian-based USD$ bank account (TD, CIBC, Royal Bank.. they all have one)
  • Paypal account
  • Questrade account

1. I opened a Transferwise account

It won’t say “Transferwise Borderless” but basically all Transferwise accounts are borderless.

You can hold up to 40 currencies in there. The setup was standard – name, address, occupation.

2. I deposited $20 USD into Transferwise

You have to do this to verify the account as a minimum.

Without this verification process, you cannot obtain the Transferwise bank account details to pretend as though you have an American bank account to obtain/transfer money easily.

I tried to get around it but I guess this is a new requirement.

You can use a bunch of options, I did the credit card method.

NOTE: If you use the credit card method PLEASE NOTE that it will be considered a CASH CREDIT transaction as if you took the money out at an ATM (cash advance?), casino, lottery ticket etc. So once you take out that money, it starts charging you interest on it if you don’t pay it in advance the day it is charged.

I didn’t know this, so I got a shocking $0.31 charged as cash interest on my credit card when I went to check my statements and called the credit card company.

Lesson learned – please pay off the transaction once it is charged so your bank doesn’t slam you with a crazy 22% interest charge. *horrified* At least it was only $0.31

NOTE: The credit card method says $0.76 USD in fees, but because I used a CANADIAN credit card to deposit the money, they had to increase the fee to $0.91 USD, and also told me my credit card company would also charge forex fees.


3. I uploaded my documents

You have to upload a passport, ID card, or driver’s license front and back. I quickly snapped a shot of both, and uploaded it.

It says 1-2 business days to verify, but I had an email verification within 20 minutes.

Not sure how much they’re really verifying, but I guess they’ll investigate if it gets crazy.

4. Now I have my U.S. bank details

Now click on the U.S. balance that now has $20 USD, and you will open it up and see U.S. banking details below:

And you will see this:

5. Now I go into Paypal and add them as a bank account

Click on WALLET at the top

Now click on LINK A BANK

You will only see Canadian banks, so click on the bottom: Don’t see your bank?

Scroll to the very bottom and click on Link a U.S. Bank instead

Now you should see this:

Once you enter in the routing and account numbers from Transferwise, you will see the name comes up as Community Federal Bank

Paypal sent me a text to confirm my bank details. Then they will deposit two small accounts in USD to confirm:

By the next day, Paypal deposited two amounts into my account and in USD so you know that it recognizes it is USD not CAD:

Once you get the money and confirm, your Paypal is linked beautifully to Transferwise.

You cannot debit directly from TransferWise if you are in Canada. It just isn’t available yet.

This means you cannot have any institution request money from Transferwise at all.

7. Now move your money from Paypal to Transferwise

I simply just clicked on Transfer Money:

And then I clicked on Transfer to your bank and selected TransferWise:

8. Now for the final piece – How to send money to Questrade via Transferwise using SWIFT (wire transfer):

You CANNOT add Transferwise funds directly to Questrade.

I tried looking, but Questrade to fund in USD, requires that you have a Canadian-based USD$ bank account (TD, RBC, CIBC, etc) to move the money OR that you do a wire transfer.

I also confirmed this in a chat. They make you do this workaround which I will detail out below.

But before we go on..

ANY transfers from Transferwise outside to a non-U.S. bank will incur the following fees: $4.40 USD

Whether you decide to do it to your Canadian-based USD$ Bank account, or to Questrade, you will incur the following fees from Transferwise:

NOTE: SWIFT Transfers are the same as wire transfers.

It is just that Wired Funds is now a generic term as an international payment transfer.  When fast payment systems first came out these were “fast” since they were telegraphed (morse code) between banks (hence wired funds).  Later that became TELEX.

Since then with electronic, fibre optics you do not need a telegram, it can be done through the internet, and special links to the bank between the remitter and the bank in the form of code and password.

SWIFT is the acronym for: “Society for World, International, Funds Transfer”, which is like a bank in its own right, but more like a handling centre through which all electronic payments pass.  Each person who has a SWIFT Account, has a special number (rather like a bank account number) and on top of that a SWIFT Address which is a bespoke IP address for SWIFT.  Again, each time you make a SWIFT payment, it is real-time ( at worst 2 hours) and an audit trail of where the funds came from, which correspondent bank (if through another country) and destination account it finally landed up in.

All banks across the world now have an IBAN number which is bespoke to each bank and  branch within a  Country.

That provides a full audit trail for both remitter and recipient.

So really it is just an updated, faster, safer version of the old wired funds system.

The fee to transfer the money if you have a Transferwise Balance of USD already is $1.20 USD

There is an additional $3.40 USD as they have to use the SWIFT network to transfer money from an American bank to a Canadian one (or any international one).

Total = $4.60 USD per transfer from TransferWise

These seem to be fixed fees, so the more you have to transfer, the better to do it at once.

They also give you an email with the final fees it cost:

Now, we look at the two methods to get your USD$ to Questrade in USD$

  1. Wire Transfer/SWIFT from TransferWise to Questrade (DO NOT BOTHER WITH THIS ONE)
  2. Wire Transfer/SWIFT from TransferWise to a Canadian-based USD$ bank – DO THIS ONE

A) Wire Transfer / SWIFT Method from Transferwise to Questrade (DO NOT DO THIS ONE)

This one was the most complicated of the two. And confusing.

I will tell you what the process is just for completeness sake to let you know it is “possible”, but I couldn’t get a straight answer out of Questrade as how to do the transfer properly.

Apparently it works like this:

  1. Transferwise –> JP Morgan Chase ($20 USD fixed fee charged)
  2. JP Morgan Chase –> Royal Bank of Canada (No fee charged)
  3. Royal Bank of Canada –> Questrade Account (No fee charged)

The ONLY upside?

You don’t need any extra accounts for this like a Canadian-based USD$ account.

You simply need to go from Transferwise to JP Morgan Chase, and then they will transfer to Royal Bank, who will transfer to your Questrade Account.

The multiple downsides?

I couldn’t figure it out via chat with Questrade.

Another $20 USD transfer fee by JP Morgan Chase, and it is very confusing.

I also did not know what they wanted me to enter for the account holder’s name, and so on, as it would have to go to Questrade (account holder), but as funds for me.

I did not know if I should enter JP Morgan Chase (therefore domestic bank), but with Questrade as the account name, and then my account number or Questrade account’s number? And which SWIFT Code? Do I even need one?

NO IDEA. NO FREAKIN’ CLUE.

After half an hour I gave up trying to puzzle out how it worked.

Not worth the hassle. Just open a USD$ Bank account based in Canada, where you don’t pay fees or only do one debit a month and be done with this nonsense.

B) Wire Transfer / SWIFT Method from Transferwise to your Canadian-based USD$ Bank

This one is the only sane method to use out of the two.

Make sure you have a USD$ bank open at TD or RBC, or somewhere, and transfer the money from Transferwise to them, and then withdraw that money from the USD account to Questrade.

So, the process is:

  1. Transferwise –> Canadian-based USD$ Account ($17.50 USD fee charged by your Canadian bank)
  2. Canadian-based USD$ Account –> Questrade (using PAD)

Questrade says:

In order to set up a Pre-Authorized Deposit (PAD) you click on Funding> Pre Authorized Deposit.

When setting up a PAD, you can log in to your bank account through our system and we will be able to verify your bank account without requiring a void cheque.

[ This is what you have to do if you have a USD$ Savings account ]

You can also set up a PAD manually.

Please note however, that before we are able to process any PAD manually, we will require you to provide us with either a void cheque or a direct deposit form with your bank information pre-printed on it.

For your reference, a Pre-Authorized Deposit takes 1 to 2 business days to process if the funds are less than our $10,000. An additional 5 business day holding period is required if the funds exceeds this amount, as we would need the funds to clear with your bank.

You need to find the SWIFT code for your Canadian-based USD$ Bank

You can use the SWIFT code finder here:

You can just enter that SWIFT code and then Account number….

You may pay a SWIFT CODE receipt fee ($17.50 USD)

TD Bank says they charge $17.50 USD to receive the wire transfer from outside

But if you used the cross-border account in METHOD (B) with TD, if you sent money from your TD American bank account to your TD Canadian bank account (USD to USD), then you do not pay the $17.50 transfer fee because TD is not going to charge you to transfer money to yourself using TD bank.

TOTAL COSTS: $21.90 USD

  • $0 USD = Paypal to Transferwise
  • $4.40 USD = Transferwise to your Canadian $USD bank account
  • $17.50 = Canadian $USD bank account to receive the money
  • $0 USD = Pre-authorized debit via Questrade to debit your Canadian $USD account

It is only worth it if you want to send an amount AT LEAST over $876 USD.

Let’s say $1000 USD. Otherwise you might as well just pay the 2.5% Paypal fee.

And done.

I received the money in my TD Account US Savings account without an issue (minus that $17.50 USD fee), and had Questrade debit that money in USD, which I started trading with.

Questrade does indeed recognize it is in USD because when I linked it for direct pre-authorized debit, it put the currency in USD and I was good to go.

BENEFITS:

You can also get a card from Transferwise, and use that debit card when you are in the U.S. It is like you have a real, U.S. debit card / account.

I’ll try this out the next time I’m allowed back to NYC and report back.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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