Attention Snowbirds: How To Save More Money on Your Exchanges for your next winter escape! May 26, 2017

If you're a snowbird - that is, a Canadian (Northerner) who escapes the winter months by travelling south to the USA to escape the cold weather. You've most likely just returned or on your way home and ready to soak in the local sunshine rays of summer but before you took off for the winter did you exchange your currency the right way? - currency conversion is a topic that should be top of mind, no matter your destination. After all, as a snowbird you're going to be spending months living in another country, and you'll need months of living costs covered in another country's currency.

No matter what the current exchange rate is when you're looking to buy, you're exchanging enough money that even a small difference in exchange rates could save you hundreds of dollars per transaction. Perhaps even save enough money to put towards the cost of an air fair or two?

Here's how to plan for a currency exchange process that saves you money and lets you spend more time enjoying the pleasant warm winter months down south - and less time worrying about sub-par to poor exchange rates at your local bank!

Exchange in large amounts

The more you exchange, the more favourable spread you'll receive on your exchange.

If you're exchanging a lot of money, which isn't unusual as a snowbird, you will likely find you're offered more competitive rates when you exchange in larger transaction volumes. That means planning your exchanges ahead, to strategically exchange larger dollar volumes, which makes for a great idea to save you more money to put towards your southern excursions.

Avoid exchanging currency at the bank

Often, your everyday bank won't have a competitive rate for foreign exchange. Foreign exchange is a reliable profit centre for big banks, and since you're already there, they have no incentive to compete on rates.

Don't let your bank's reluctance to compete on exchange rates cost you hundreds of dollars. Do what they think you won't, and look around at competitive rates. Seek out a foreign exchange broker, as well as specialized currency exchange businesses - and the latter is likely where you'll find the best rates.

Where to do your exchanges?

For snowbirds who want to convert a lot of money, your best bet is to find a specialized currency exchange business. You can find one in person, or find an online currency exchange like VBCE Online. Online platforms such as ours can service anyone living across Canada.

As long as you plan on doing at least five currency exchange transactions a year, and you have a Canadian and a foreign bank account, you qualify to access VBCE's competitive online currency exchange platform. There, you can book your exchange and lock in a rate, fund the transaction from your existing account to your foreign account and your currency exchange will be paid out at your locked-in rate - which will be much more favourable than the exchange you could have made at the bank, all with the same level of confidence and convenience.

When to do your exchanges?

Currency exchange rates can fluctuate for any number of reasons, but there are ways you can stay abreast of market updates that might influence when you want to make your exchanges in advance of your trip.

For example, if you join the VBCE mailing list, you'll receive daily market updates, as well as updates about scheduled economic calendar dates. Since the markets react to events such as central bank announcements, you may be able to time some of your exchanges to take advantage of favourable market conditions.

That said, if you're not comfortable exchanging all of your money at once, you can also take advantage of dollar cost averaging approaches, and exchanging at different times to average out the rates you paid. While this approach may not net you the absolute best, lowest rate, it will ensure you also don't pay the highest rate on your entire currency exchange.However, if you're planning to take that approach, it's important to ensure you exchange enough in each transaction to get the most favourable bulk exchange rates.

For additional savings remember to exchange in bulk with larger transaction volumes (typically in 10k increments)

Have an in-country exchange strategy

Even the best-laid currency exchange plans can go awry with unexpected expenses or extended vacation plans. No matter what the reason, if you find yourself in your warm-weather destination in need of additional foreign currency, here's how you can handle it while ensuring you still secure a competitive rate.

If you're going to be in your destination for a few months, on a regular basis, it'll be worth signing up for and carrying a credit card in that destination's currency for these types of situations. If you need to spend more than you had previously exchanged, you can put the purchases on the credit card, exchange money using your online currency exchange platform, and pay off the credit card using funds from your newly exchanged currency.

That way, you'll avoid things like foreign exchange credit card fees, ATM withdrawal fees and sub-par to poor exchange rates in one fell swoop.

Save Money with a Currency Conversion Strategy

With just a little bit of preparation, you could position yourself to save hundreds as you get ready to head south for your next winter snowbird retreat. Leveraging online currency conversion platforms, advance planning, and avoiding unfavourable exchange rates will leave you with more money to spend on enjoying the nice weather in your chosen destination!


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The information and opinions contained herein are gathered from sources which are thought to be reliable but the reader should not assume that the information and opinions are official or final. VBCE makes no warranty concerning the accuracy of the information and opinions, and accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information and opinions provided. The content is for general information only and does not constitute in anyway giving financial advice.