What’s the best way to transfer money US -> Canada?

All my income is in the States, and all my student debt is in Canada, so I’ll be regularly be transferring pretty hefty sums of money to Canada for probably the next decade.

The support for this is pretty terrible. While money transfer within countries seems very easy, as soon as you cross a border, it becomes un-futuristically awful.

My Canadian bank (CIBC) initially suggested I mail a cheque from my American bank to someone in Canada I trusted, who would then deposit it in my bank account. They’d have to do this once/month. Nope.

The current way I’ve been doing it is via a Paypal account. I transfer money into it from the US, then transfer money out of it to Canada. The turn around time on each of these transactions is 3-5 business days, so I need to plan balances in both accounts two weeks in advance at any given time. Terrible.

For Paypal, each of the two steps to complete the transfer are through a web interface, and it takes about 2 minutes, and I can set a calendar reminder for them. There’s no explicit fee, but I’m aware there can be fees built into the exchange rate. Based on a single data point, it looks like I lose 2% of the market rate reported by http://usd.fx-exchange.com each transaction.

I wanted to compare with a Wire Transfer. This entailed me waiting in my US bank for 45 minutes, as two attendants worked on copying a form I’d filled out digitally into another form, and then charged the wrong account. The fee was $60. It took two days to complete (and frankly based on the confusion around what US vs Canadian banks expected, I expected a call saying they’d lost it). And I lost 7% of the market rate

So, Wire Transfers appear to be terrible, and PayPal is the way to go for now. I just wish it was a one-stage, not a two-stage transaction. Am I alone in this? Surely I’m not alone experiencing how stupid this is.

Also, Paypal defaults to showing my balance in Great Britain Pounds, because I started using it while I worked in the UK. So it’s a big currency mess.

2 responses to “What’s the best way to transfer money US -> Canada?”

  1. I use xe trade, and the experience seems to be identical to paypal, except that you can also create bids, and wait for rates to go to certain points.

  2. I was faced with the same USD/CAN issue, and also found that paypal was the best option. The banks’ options are ridiculous. If you are going IN PERSON, you can sometimes —- depending on your money-originating bank —- find an ATM where you can withdraw money in the target currency with no fees, just the posted exchange rate. Then deposit the cash in your target bank account. But this depends on your physical location, and probably is not a good solution for large sums over extended time periods.

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