Southern Exposure Smart snowbird tips for your wallet and your well-being
If you’re flying away this winter, we’ve got all the angles for your money, your health and a few ways to give those classic hot spots a new twist
1 MAKING THE MOST OF THE LACKLUSTRE LOONIE By Peter Muggeridge BUYING CHEAPER GREENBACKS
Whenever the Canadian dollar languishes down in the mid- to low-70s doldrums, somewhere, a snowbird cringes – our cellar-dwelling loonie just doesn’t go very far at stores or hotels in the U.S. Sunbelt. Adding to that frustration is the actual cost of buying U.S. bucks – every time we purchase them at a Canadian financial institution, not only do we have to use the bank’s own exchange rate but we’re also nailed with extra fees, with as much as 3.5 per cent added on for each transaction. In a desperate search for cheaper greenbacks, many winter vacationers are turning to apps like Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange, which promises exchange rates up to two per cent better than what the big banks offer. KnightsbridgeFX claims it reduces costs by buying U.S. dollars in bulk through pooling its customers’ funds as well as having special exchange deals with financial institutions. They guarantee they will beat any of the major banks’ daily conversion rates and won’t charge hidden fees and the dollars will be transferred online to your account by the next business day. Using KnightsbridgeFX’s currency converter (at press time, $1US was 0.7746 C), if you exchange C$20,000 through a bank, after conversion and fees, you’d end up with US$15,492. However, using KnightsbridgeFX could save you up to $325. Every little bit counts. Visit knightsbridgefx.com for more information.
Another relatively new fin-tech company that’s trying to undercut banks is TransferWise, which transfers money in more than 40 currencies around the world. Co-founded by Taavet Hinrikus (Skype’s first employee), it offers snowbirds a new and cheaper way to wire money to U.S. destinations. Here’s how it works: someone living in Canada wants to wire money to their parents who are spending the winter in Arizona. Instead of going the traditional route and sending money through a financial institution, the son uses the TransferWise app. He sends C$5,000 to the company’s Canadian account, and the equivalent (in U.S. dollars) will be sent from TransferWise’s U.S. account to the recipient,