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I'm Canadian and I will be doing graduate study in the US, but I will have scholarship money deposited in my Canadian bank account (it has to be done like that, and no, they won't send checks). So I need to transfer this money to a US bank account. I looked into wire transfers, but it seems that I need to go to my Canadian bank branch in person. That is clearly not feasible, and I don't have anyone to do this for me.

What options are available? Can I write a check to myself?

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I've had experience with international and domestic wire transfers (not from/to Canada though), and there always was an option to come in once to set up the transfer, and then call/use internet/fax for any further transaction to the same destination. In some banks, they would accept faxes with my signature for any wire transfer. Bottom line - ask around, if your bank doesn't do it - then one next do might. –  littleadv Apr 26 '12 at 4:54
    
I too have had experience with international money transfers (not from/to Canada, though), and found that many banks offered a choice of wire transfer (most expensive, but same business day transfer), electronic funds transfer (funds removed by eft one day, deposited in other bank by fourth day; much cheaper) and checks (cheapest and slowest). The exchange rates proffered (a little higher than that day's interbank rate) were guaranteed in the first two methods while with the check method, you got whatever the rate was when the check cleared. All methods started on the bank's Internet website. –  Dilip Sarwate Apr 26 '12 at 14:39

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You have a variety of options depending on the specifics of your situation. I would recommend the first option if you live in an area served by TD Bank (you can also research similar banks who have both a US and Canadian presence such as RBC).

  1. The ATM: TD Bank doesn't charge ATM fees for use at a TD Bank/TD Canada Trust ATM (this is true for both TD Canada Trust customers in the US and TD Bank customers in Canada). This allows you to pull the money out of one account and deposit it into another with ease (no banking delays or high fees to contend with.
  2. The Check: Write yourself a check. You can always take this approach, but it may be slow and incur fees at your bank in the US.
  3. The Wire: You can take this route if your bank will allow it, but many won't like the idea of allowing you to initiate a wire without showing up in person (to minimize fraud).

In order to give a more detailed answer you'd have to expose more information in the question regarding location.


Additional Notes:

  1. You can also always use a Canadian card in a US ATM. The fee you will be charged will be imposed by your financial institution (unless times have changed the US ATM will not charge you its ATM fee). So if you're doing it infrequently you may consider paying the ATM fee irrespective of your US bank situation.
  2. You also can go to any major bank and request to do a withdrawal "at the counter" in case the amount you're withdrawing requires more than the ATM's dispense limit (but less than your daily withdrawal limit) or if you lack a PIN number.
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I just want to add that, if anyone is reading this and is in my situation, I ended up with RBC's Access USA service with a monthly fee of $2.95, and I get free ATM access on PNC's network (they recently acquired RBC's US bank), and I happen to be going to Pittsburgh, where PNC is headquartered. –  sxu Apr 30 '12 at 19:52

There are a few options that I know of, but pretty much every one of them will cost more than you want to pay in fees, probably. You should be able to write a check/cheque to yourself. You might check with your US bank branch to see how much of a limit they'd have. You can also use a Canadian ATM card at a US ATM. The final option would be to use a Canadian credit card for all of your purchases in the US, and then pay the bill from the Canadian bank account. I don't recommend the last option because if you're not careful to pay off the bill every month, you're running up debt. Also, it's hard to pay some kinds of expenses by credit card, so you'd want a way to have cash available.

Another option would be to use a service like Paypal or Hyperwallet to send yourself the money. Again, you'd be paying fees, but these might be cheaper than what the bank would charge.

There may be other options, but these are the ones I'm aware of. Whatever you choose, look carefully at what the fees would be, and how long you'd have to wait to get the money. If you can plan ahead a bit, and take larger chunks of money at a time, that should help keep the fees down a bit. I believe there's also a point where you start having to report these transfers to the US government. The number $10,000 stick in my head, but they may have changed that recently.

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Could you explain what you mean by the limit of the US bank on writing checks to myself? My US account is yet to be opened and I don't know anyone who has done it, is it something that's frowned upon? –  sxu Apr 26 '12 at 4:46
    
They may not want to cash a check that's "too big" for fear that it's a bad check. You'd need to find out what "too big" means for the bank you choose. Since you don't have an account yet, that can be one of the questions you use to select the bank you want to deal with. –  Randy Coulman Apr 26 '12 at 14:23
    
Also, there may be delays (weeks?) for funds to clear when depositing or cashing a cheque from a foreign bank (and even though TD operates in the U.S., a CAD-denominated cheque from TD Canada Trust is likely to be treated as foreign.) The other thing I'll add is: Using a Canadian credit card for the purchases in the U.S. is likely to incur a 2.5% foreign currency fee on each transaction. Avoidable if you use a U.S. dollar card, but that just kicks the can down the road some; you'll eventually need U.S. dollars to pay off thecard. Become aware of currency conversion fees for each option. –  Chris W. Rea Jun 22 '12 at 12:47

My recommendation is to shop around for a bank that handles wire transfers in a more sensible manner. Many wire transfers are set up so that you do not need to go physically into a branch. The wire transfer system I use has me initiate the transfer online, then call a dedicated number with a pin to authorise the transaction (24/7/365). I'm on the other side of the world from where the money "is" initially - no branch visit required.

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RoyalBank provides a no fee transfer service (no fee in the sense that there is no per transfer fee aside from the spread). There is monthly fee if you keep less than 1500 or so on the american side.

http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/usbanking/cross-border-transfer.html

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You can open an account at Scotiabank and use a Bank of America atm (and vice versa). No ATM or bank imposed foreign transaction fee (outside the 1% network imposed fee)

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protected by Chris W. Rea May 7 '13 at 2:20

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