The increasingly large numbers of Canadians who reside in the warmer climates of the United States during the Canadian winters are increasing every year; as Canadian baby boomers begin to retire, more and more Canadians will look to spend time in the United States, with Florida and Arizona as the preeminent locations. While the looming thought of sunny weather and beach front homes is appealing, there are a number of issues and responsibilities that Canadian snowbirds must address before and during their stay in the United States.
Luckily for Canadians, the Canadian Snowbird Association was established to assist and defend the rights of Canadians who temporarily reside or travel to the United States. Since its establishment in 1993, the CSA has worked to achieve a number of amendments including increasing the amount of time that Ontario and British Columbia residents could spend outside the province while still retaining their health care to allowing for mail-in ballots for Ontario residents during a provincial election.
While advocacy and lobbying is a core component of the Canadian Snowbird Association of Canada, they also provide a number of programs and services that assist Canadians in the United States. Let’s review some of these and how they can help ensure that your stay in the United States is enjoyable and stress free.
As a Canadian snowbird, currency exchange is one of the most imperative issues since you want to ensure that you are getting the best rates for your Canadian dollar. The CSA provides a currency exchange program that allows Canadians to convert Canadian dollars to US dollars on a monthly basis. The program works by automatically transferring funds out of your Canadian bank account and depositing the converted US dollars to your US bank account. Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of this program.
Preferential Exchange Rates – Since the CSA buys currency in bulks at a discounted exchange rate, it can therefore offer its members much better exchange rates then the banks.
Convenience – Once you are enrolled in the program, you can simply specify how much you want to exchange in what months or you can setup a fixed amount on a continuous monthly basis and your funds will be automatically debited and credited.
Fees – There are transfer fees depending on your CSA membership type. Non-CSA members will have to pay $5 each month there is a transfer, CSA members will have to pay $2 and CSA lifetime members are exempt. While these are still low fees in comparison to the banks, there are other service providers that don’t charge transfer fees.
Small Monthly Transaction Amount – The program is not intended for exchanging large quantities of currency. Single transactions in excess of $10,000 CAD will require prior approval. If you’re looking to exchange significantly larger amounts, it is best to look for alternative providers.
Slow Speed and Lack of Immediate Funds – the program is built to debit your Canadian account on the first business day of each month and deposit your converted funds on the fifth business day. So if you need funds immediately or during another period within the month, this could be problematic.
Ineligibility of US Dollar Accounts with a Canadian Bank – Converted US dollars can only be sent to a chequing account with a US bank, they cannot be sent to a US dollar account with a bank situated in Canada.
Overall, the CSA’s currency exchange program provides an easy and convenient currency exchange program for Canadian snowbirds that just need a minimal amount of funds each month to cover their living expenses and other minimal purchases. For Canadians that are doing larger transactions, want the option of sending funds to a Canadian US dollar account or looking to sell US dollars, an alternative currency exchange provider would be the better solution (such as KnightsbridgeFX). With the gradual decline of the Canadian dollar, snowbirds might want to consult our article on the best tips for snowbirds to manage the rising Canadian dollar pain in 2016.
Provincial health insurance plans provide only partial coverage for medical expenses outside Canada, and in some cases are not applicable when a Canadian snowbird resides outside of that particular province for a specific period of time. That is why it is essential that Canadian snowbirds have adequate travel health insurance in cases of emergency. Medipac is similar to other travel medical insurance providers but it does have a few additional benefits that are not offered by other providers.
These benefits include the ease of signing up, the Medipac assist service and their comprehensive short term plans. Medipac allow its customers to signup online without having to visit their branch. Their Medipac assist service provides real time medical emergency services through the phone with medical professionals including doctors and nurses which can be enormously beneficial during situations where you cannot see a medical professional immediately. They also provide comprehensive short term plans for people who only require travel medical insurance for a short period of time. Snowbirds and other Canadians that spend a significant time in the United States may want to take a look at our article on the best financial tips for snowbirds and Canadians planning extended US travel.
There aren’t any significant downside to using Medipac, but when looking for out of country insurance for snowbirds it always advantageous that you shop around and compare rates.
Canadian snowbirds looking for an alternative currency exchange service can also consult our specialized currency exchange services for Canadian snowbirds. We offer better exchange rates than the bank, transactions can occur on any weekday, and we work with both Canadian and US banks. Larger amounts get even better exchange rates.