Transferring US Dollars from USA to Canada

I wanted to write about my experiences transferring US dollars from a US bank to a USD bank account in Canada. 

Being a Canadian doing business that involves US dollar transactions can be particularly challenging.  Things have certainly improved over the years in the sense that you can now open a US dollar account in Canada through major banks such as TD, BMO, RBC and Scotia to name a few.

But unless you’re a sole proprietor or someone who frequently transacts in US dollars, there are costs involved in maintaining a US dollar account as a small business or commercial enterprise.  

I’m not quite at the commercial level, but over the past couple of years, I’ve meddled with a couple different online business models that involve transacting in US dollars.  

There are far more consumers in the US than there are in Canada, so it only makes sense to tap into this market whether you are running an Amazon business, E-Commerce store, or affiliate website for example.

I recently sold an Amazon business and had the proceeds of the sale sent to my personal bank account in the US.  What I didn’t realize was how difficult it would be to transfer that money to my company account back in Canada.

No US dollar Account Under Canadian Company

After talking to my accountant, he had explained that I probably should have had the broker send the money I received from the sale of my business to my company account for transparency reasons.

I would have done this had I had a US dollar account setup under my company name already, but that wasn’t the case. 

However, I did have a US dollar account under my name.  So I figured if I had the money transferred there, I could always move it over to my company after.  

Personal US Dollar Account in US - Company US Dollar Account in Canada

I used to work as a Foreign Exchange broker for Western Union Business Solutions, so I had experience moving large amounts of money for my clients.  One of the perks working at my company was that I could get a favorable FX rate for my own personal use.  This included the ability to use the online platform to buy or sell currencies and even make same currency transfers such as US dollar to US dollar.

Unfortunately, around 2018, they changed their servicing and I lost my grandfathered rates and permissions through the company.

Had the services still been in place, I could have sent the US dollars sitting in my personal account to one of the company’s accounts in the US via ACH.  ACH is the US payment network that allows you to easily make transfers to other US accounts or even pay bills through.

But since that was no longer possible, my only option was to wire the US funds via international wire which involves higher costs.

Transferwise is becoming more and more popular for international transfers, but unfortunately they wouldn’t be very helpful for my situation.

TD Bank Can’t Initiate Wire Transfers Over the Phone

Because I am a frequent traveler and work remotely, I’m not always in my hometown most of the year.  I try to avoid the winters by spending those months in the warmer countries of South East Asia like Thailand and Malaysia.

I learnt that this can be a real pain.

I called up the TD toll free number to ask them to initiate a wire transfer from my account to RBC in Canada.

Unfortunately, that was not possible. I was told by the phone rep that I needed to go to the branch where my account was setup.

 

Where the hell was that?

 

I’m a Canadian who setup my account in the US over the phone.  So I asked them to look into where my account was setup :  Malden, South Carolina.

There was no way in hell that I was going to be able to get there since I was in Asia.  And even if I was in Canada, there was still very little probability that I would drive or take a plane to South Carolina just to initiate a wire transfer.

Challenges of Cross Border Banking Between the US and Canada

Since I couldn’t go visit a branch to do this wire.  I decided that I would transfer the funds to my US dollar account in Canada at TD.  Since I have cross border banking setup, TD makes it very easy to transfer funds from the US to Canada or vice versa as long as the accounts are domiciled within TD.

I figured if the funds were in Canada, it would be more feasible than trying to figure out a way to send a wire transfer in the US.

Another problem: how do I send US dollars to another USD account in Canada?

Once the funds got into my personal US dollar account in Canada, I needed to figure out how to transfer them over to my RBC company US dollar account.

Remember, I was on the other side of the world.  So I called up the Canadian TD support and asked them how I could do this.

The answer was that I needed to go into a branch to initiate the wire transfer to RBC.

Well, that wasn’t going to work because I was on the other side of the world. 

Does the bank honestly expect everyone to stay in the country at all times? Why were there no ways around this?  

Okay KYC (Know-Your-Client), one thing I had to become very familiar with working at Western Union played a big role on how strict things have become since 9/11.  But with the world moving more and more digital, you would hope that there were services that catered to digital nomads like myself.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, if you are a Canadian and plan on doing wire transfers over $10,000 USD in Canada or even the US.  Your options are next to none if you are abroad, at least if you’re trying to deal with a bank like TD.

What I’ve learned is that it would be smart to open a shared account with someone you trust like a family member (in my case, my father) who can execute transfers if you are ever stuck in a situation similar to mine.

In hindsight, the smart thing would have been to open a US dollar account under my company with RBC before having it transferred over to my account through the broker.

If you have any questions about this process, feel free to contact me and I will be glad to try and help you.

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