One of the challenges for the cross-border shopper and more so for the frequent traveler and snowbird is the fine art of timing currency conversion when you need to get the best bang, so to say, for your buck or, in our case a 0.756 buck!
There is a relatively new player in the market that can help you in this process, Zenbanx®. With a single Zenbanx® account you can hold up to five currencies and exchange money between them at any time through their web portal or via iPhone and Android Apps. You have a single Debit Card and it can be used any ATM in your home country or while you are travelling in participating countries that recognize Interac. Arkadi Kuhlmann, who founded ING Direct is the man behind. Like ING Direct Zenbanx® is a mobile-only bank in that there are no physical branches however your account and therefore your money is held by a regulated financial institution; in this case Duca Financial Services Credit Union Ltd. The Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario (DICO) insures eligible Canadian dollar deposits held at DUCA Financial Services Credit Union Ltd. up to a combined maximum of $100,000. To find out more about deposit insurance visit http://www.dico.com. Another feature is the ability to send money outside Canada at a maximum cost of $5.95 regardless of the size of the transaction.
Setting up a Zenbanx® account is relatively easy however having some key pieces of information at hand during setup will streamline the process. For Canadian Citizens those items are your Social Insurance Number, a government approved piece of identification like a Driver’s License or Passport and a check from your “traditional” banking institution. During the setup portion you are instructed to “write” a check to yourself in an amount between $25.00 and $25,000.00 Dollars. Be aware that the amount on the check is the amount that you will be depositing in your new Zenbanx® account!
Now let’s get into the Canada – U.S. cross-border shopper benefits. First off we will discuss transferring money from Canadian Dollars into U.S. Dollars and the differences between Zenbanx® your current financial institution. Most of the “Big 5” banks will let you set up a U.S. Dollar Account. Depending on the Service Package that you have with your bank there may or may not be monthly charge associated with this U.S. account and you will probably not earn any interest on money in it. You may be limited to how many withdrawals you can make per month, you cannot withdraw from anywhere other than a branch of your bank or from your banks ATM if they offer U.S. currency. Since you don’t get a unique Debit Card linked to your U.S. account you cannot use your existing Debit Card to make transactions in the U.S. and have these funds come out of your U.S. Dollar account and you cannot make interact e-Transfers. Basically they are keeping your U.S. Dollars in their sock! Finally if you want to transfer dollars from your Canadian account into your U.S. account you will do so at the posted bank rate on that day including all of the associated bank fees.
With Zenbanx® there is no charge to set up your account nor is there a monthly service charge. You have one account with both your Canadian and U.S. dollars in this account. You have one Debit Card with which you make transactions in either Canada or the U.S. and have funds debited from the corresponding currency. You can you send money to family and friends for a flat-rate regardless as to the amount of the transfer. You can convert Canadian dollars to U.S. dollars as required.
As I have a Zenbanx® and a U.S. Dollar account with one of the “Big 5” I went through the exercise of converting $500.00 Canadian to U.S. to compare the rates between the two at time of this posting.
Zenbanx® $500.00 CDN = 375.30 USD
RBC® $500.00 CDN = $369.96
With Zenbanx® I received $5.34 US more than with RBC®.
That’s a free burger and fries next time I’m in the U.S.!