Best Banks For Snowbirds

Best Banks For Snowbirds

Written by Lisa Rennie
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated October 6, 2021

About half a million Canadians are classified as “snowbirds,” meaning that they spend a good part of the winter in southern parts of the US to escape the frigid Canadian temperatures.  

Considering how much time snowbirds spend outside of Canada, it might have made sense in the past to have a US bank account open to provide easy access to US funds rather than travelling with hoards of archaic travellers’ cheques or wads of US cash. 

Planning on travelling? Make sure you’re equipped with snowbird insurance.

However, that’s no longer necessary thanks to the advent of technology which now makes it a lot easier for Canadians to handle their finances and make payments in US currency without the need for a US-based bank account. 

Several banks in Canada offer US dollar bank accounts, which are particularly attractive and convenient for Canadian snowbirds.

Let’s go over some of the best banks for snowbirds in terms of US accounts.

Do you work with multiple currencies? Then you may want to consider getting a foreign currency bank account.

What Is Cross Border Banking?

Cross-border banking offers snowbirds travelling from Canada to a southern destination a convenient way to spend their money in the US. These types of specialized accounts are offered directly through Canadian banks and without the need to seek financial services from American financial institutions. 

Cross border banking products offer various banking, payment, and foreign exchange solutions for Canadian snowbirds who plan to spend a good chunk of their winters in southern US states to escape the harsh winters of Canada.

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Types Of Cross Border Banking Services

There are several cross border banking services available to snowbirds who wish to avoid any financial hurdles that may come with spending money abroad:

Find out what you should do if you lose your credit card overseas.

US Dollar Bank Accounts

Canadian banks typically offer a US dollar bank account in which funds can be deposited and saved in US funds to avoid being exposed to foreign exchange costs. But these days, Canadians may also be able to open US dollar accounts with American divisions of their Canadian banks. 

These accounts allow consumers to make transfers to and from Canadian bank accounts and come with various flexible options for obtaining cash and making payments in the US, such as the following: 

  • ATM cash withdrawals
  • Debit payments 
  • US bill payments
  • US dollar transfers
  • Writing and depositing US cheques 

Credit Cards

Canadians have various options available to them when it comes to US-friendly credit cards, including USD credit cards and no foreign transaction fee credit cards. Rather than using a Canadian credit card, these alternative cards can save consumers between 2.5% to 5% in transaction fees when making purchases in American currency.

Mortgages

If you plan to buy a property in the US rather than rent, your lender may offer specialized mortgage services specifically for this purpose. While you can always use mortgage options in the US, a Canadian financial institution may offer you attractive options while dealing with lenders in Canada rather than south of the border. 

That said, it’s still important to understand that the terms and criteria for securing a mortgage on a vacation home in the US are different from getting a mortgage on a primary residence in Canada.

Find out if you need insurance for an unoccupied home.

Currency Exchange

If you plan to convert a large amount of money on a regular basis, you may find a boutique currency exchange company useful. These firms can help you save as much as 2% compared to big banks, which can mean hundreds or thousands of dollars in savings. But, if you only plan to spend much smaller amounts from time to time, then using your Canadian bank to convert Canadian and US currency may be more convenient for you.

Need to send money? Consider these international money transfer services.

Best Banks For Snowbirds

Certain financial institutions offer attractive options for snowbirds who spend a considerable amount of time in the southern part of the US, including the following.

Desjardin Florida

Desjardin Bank, founded in Hallandale Beach in 1992, was the first Quebec financial institution to open in Florida. Desjardin Bank serves members in not only all of Florida but the US as well. Furthermore,  Desjardin Bank is able to specialize in offering both personal and business banking solutions to the unique French Canadian population that both live in and visit Florida.  

Canadians who are members of Desjardins can receive service in French and know that they will experience the same level of service that they receive at their local branch back home. 

Desjardin Bank is a subsidiary of Desjardins Group but is a US bank that is governed by American laws. This means that all of the products that Desjardin bank offers, both personal and business, have been adapted to local regulations. 

Desjardin Bank offers a wide variety of products and services to meet the ever-evolving needs of its members.

The bank offers a few products that Canadian snowbirds may find useful:

Consumer Chequing Accounts

Includes a debit card, online and mobile banking, cheque-writing privileges, and insured deposits up to $250,000 per depositor.

US Dollar Credit Cards

Comes with reduced rates on balance transfers for the first 6 months, identity theft resolution, and an extended warranty. 

Personal Loans

Loans are available for over $3,000 at fixed or variable rates for terms between 1 to 5 years.

Auto Loans 

Loans are available for up to 90% of the cost of the vehicle.

Mortgages 

Minimum $50,000 mortgage loans are available at fixed or variable rates, with terms between 1 to 7 years and amortized up to 25 years.

Business Chequing Accounts

Includes cheque-writing privileges and requires a minimum balance of $5,000 to avoid service charges.

Business Money Market Accounts

Includes cheque-writing privileges, interest compounded daily and credited monthly, and requires a minimum balance of $15,000 to avoid service charges.

Loans And Lines Of Credit

Specializing in commercial and rental real estate.

Business US Dollar Credit Cards

Offers reduced rates on balance transfers for the first 6 months, a rewards program, and VAT reclaim services.

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RBC

RBC offers two US-based accounts for those who frequently travel to the US. Rather than having to deal with exchange rates and keeping funds in a US-based bank account, Canadians can stash their US funds in an RBC US-funds account for readily accessible US cash when needed. 

RBC Personal US Bank Account 

This account charges a $2 monthly fee in exchange for perks that include 6 debits per month ($1.25 each after that) and no minimum balance requirements. Bank drafts, personalized cheques, and overdraft protection are also available for an extra fee. 

RBC US High-Interest eSavings Account 

There are no monthly fees with this account, and you can earn up to 0.05% interest on your balance. The account comes with 1 free transaction per month ($3 fee per transaction after that). 

TD Bank

Canadians have a couple of options through TD Bank in terms of US dollar accounts, including the following:

TD US Daily Interest Chequing Account

There’s no monthly fee with this account, and you’ll be paid out interest on balances of $1,000 or more. 

TD Borderless Plan 

This is a premium US bank account that offers unlimited transactions, and the $4.95 monthly fee is waived if you manage to maintain a minimum $3,000 balance. 

TD also offers the US Dollar Visa Card, which you can pair with either one of the above-mentioned accounts. The card comes with a $39 US annual fee, which can be waived when you open a Borderless Plan bank account).

BMO

BMO also offers 2 different US bank account for Canadians:

BMO US Dollar Chequing Account 

This account comes with no monthly fees if you maintain a minimum monthly balance with a qualifying Bank Plan, as well as unlimited transactions on BMO platforms and 1 free non-BMO ATM withdrawal on the Interac network per month. 

BMO Harris Smart Advantage Account 

There are no monthly fees with this account, as long as you opt for paperless statements. Plus transactions are unlimited with over 40,000 ATMs across the globe where you can withdraw funds at no charge. 

CIBC

CIBC offers its US Personal Account, which comes with no monthly fees and the ability to earn 0.05% interest on every dollar deposited without minimum balance requirements. You can write cheques in US funds and withdraw US cash from any CIBC ATM or physical branch in Canada. There is a $0.75 fee per transaction, however.

Final Thoughts

If you typically spend your winters in the southern parts of the US, you may want to consider opening a US dollar bank account. However, rather than actually opening an account in the US, you can easily do so right at home thanks to the various Canadian banks that offer US dollar bank accounts.

Lisa has been working as a writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same. She's used a variety of financial tools over the years and is currently growing her money with Wealthsimple, while stashing some capital in a liquid high-interest savings account so that she always has a financial cushion to fall back on. She's also been avidly using her Aeroplan TD credit card to collect as many Aeroplan points as possible to put towards her travels!

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