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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Efficient Currency Exchange for Canadians

This article is not really about trading but finances in general and I wrote it because I think the information contained here could be very beneficial to somebody out there. At least it was to me.

As a non US resident the fluctuation of my currency (Canadian Dollar) versus the US Dollar is a constant concern. I probably look at the exchange rate more than 10 times a month. Be it for trips planning, sending money to a relative/friend, online business or simply for investment purposes in American companies. The point is, the currency exchange rate is something many of us really look at and care about. American folks have it easier, because they are "the currency". And that's one nice feeling I wouldn't mind having one day. You can ask any American right now what's the exchange rate of their currency vs any other currency and most don't know and don't really care. However, you can ask any Canadian, what's the current value of their currency vs the USD and a good number of them will have an approximate, accurate idea in mind. I'm not criticizing my American friends here or anything. It is understandable! In their position why would I care?

Anyways, I recently needed to obtain Canadian dollars from some US dollars that I was holding in one of my accounts and it was not a small amount. Well, it might be for you but for me it was pretty significant (15 800 USD). Obviously, I wanted to lose the least possible amount in the transaction. I started to investigate some of the most popular vehicles for currency exchange that Canadians use:
  • - A website for currency exchange
  • - The Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange
  • The banks: RBC, TD, BMO, Scotia Bank, CIBC etc. seems to take around 1.5% - 2% in their favor. That is a rate that is around 1.5% - 2% worse than the natural market at the moment. I don't know, I've never used their service. seems to be pretty decent charging the masses only around 1%. Although I read reviews saying that you never get what they show on their site, but always a little worse than that. Again, not sure about this as I never got to use them. Anyways, users of this service seem to be pretty satisfied overall.

The banks are the least competitive sources here. Usually charging 2% to 2.50% of the total amount. They don't charge it as a transaction fee, they simply offer you a rate that is 2% - 2.50% worse than what the natural market is offering. If you are lucky and you are the recipient of some special attention at the bank, be it because you're wealthier than the average person, or because you are too hot, then you may get a little special treatment reflected on a better rate, but being charged less than 1.50% is an utopia.

I was ready to go with  The Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange when I suddenly learned about a company in Toronto called Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange Inc ( Just one block away from my office in downtown Toronto. These folks took the currency exchange business to another level and they currently beat the competition hands down.

The first thing you think when it seems too good to be true is that it usually is. So, I started googling for more information about these guys and found this article on the Toronto Star. Then, I called them up to get more details on the account opening process, and that was it. I was convinced they were not a scam. I filled out and sent the application to open an account. A couple of days later (January 23) I wired them my funds, selling my US Dollars for 1.1000 flat. The exchange rate that morning was around 1.1080 (depending on the source, as Forex is not a centralized market). My rate was only 0.7% worse than the real market price!!!! Doesn't get much better than this folks.

Now, how do they survive charging such low rates for their service? Well, it's simple. They only deal with numbers greater than 10 000 Canadian dollars. Otherwise it just doesn't make sense for them, which is understandable. So, although you may not take advantage of them right now or in the near future, just know they exist. Because that knowledge can save you a lot when for whatever reason you need to exchange 5 or more digit amounts. By the way this service is not only open to Canadians. American folks can take advantage of it as well.

I am not affiliated with Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange Inc nor do I obtain any type of compensation from mentioning them in this article. The views expressed here are just my opinion as a result of a transaction I made with them which I reflect in hopes of sharing valuable information that can be helpful to somebody out there.

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  1. Not sure if Interactive Brokers is available to Canada. You can convert any currency (almost all spot available currency) within Interactive Brokers at spot rate. Then, you can transferred the exchanged currency to your bank accounts. Check it out.

  2. Thanks Tony.
    IB is indeed available for Canadians. Yes,the approach that you mention is a very good one. It's a broker and as such the process of opening an account is not complete in a day or two, but, once the account is there, that is one of the most efficient ways.

    The other one would be Norbert's Gambit

    Thanks for your comment.