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bob_brown May 8th, 2004 02:16 PM

Sending money to pay a bill from within Canada
Let me pose the following scenario and hope that a few good answers come in.

I need to pay a lodge bill of quite a few hundred dollars. The owner does not accept personal checks or credit cards; cash or travelers checks are the 2 options suggested. I don't know about postal money orders.

I am reluctant to carry a huge (to me) wad of currency around with me for several days before I get there. Buying traveler's checks in the US, by the time I pay the exchange rate, will cost me 5% of the amount. (And don't tell me it is less than 5% because I have already acquired some Canadian dollar checks and that is what I had to pay at AAA!!)

If I am in a bank in Canada, is it possible to acquire a cashier's check for a nominal fee? I put down the money in cash form, and receive a check from a bank teller.
The check is made out as payble only to the owner of the lodge. So if lost or stolen it can be traced.

Or could I buy Canadian traveler's checks in Canada at a reasonable fee, like 1% or 2%?

Your suggestions please. But, and this may be useless to say, I need realistic suggestions. I can always tote the money in currency form up the hill and fork it over when I get there. But I am reluctant to do so. Lived in the US too long I suppose where people get hit over the head for $10.00.

Judy_in_Calgary May 8th, 2004 04:44 PM

Could you get the B&B owner to accompany you to the ATM machine or bank? If so, you could withdraw the cash, hand it to the owner, and then it's his/her responsibility to deal with the loot from that moment onwards. I suppose this ploy would only work if the B&B is within reasonable distance of an ATM and/or bank, not somewhere in the back of beyond. Just a thought.

WillTravel May 8th, 2004 05:14 PM

You can get travellers' cheques at a local Automobile Association office (in BC, this is called the BCAA, and it's probably similar for other provinces). These offices probably all have an ATM very close by. Check with the office that you can buy the cheques, get some money out of the ATM, and then buy them.

I'm not sure how much a cashier's cheque costs at a bank. It's possible you could buy travellers' cheques at the bank also, but I'm not sure. There would be ATMs there that you could use also.

bob_brown May 8th, 2004 06:50 PM

Judy, we are talking 8 miles from a paved road. Moreover, we would have to drive to Banff or Golden.

The franchises in Lake Louise village and in Field that have an ATM do not accept my type of ATM or debit card. They are Cirrus; I am Plus. And never the twain shall meet.

I have been to Twin Falls before and my personal check was about like paying the 5% to buy checks at AAA.

Judy, you can however answer me a very vital question. Does Calgary have any branches of the Bank of Nova Scotia?
I understand that Bank of America is allied with BNS and I don't run into fee problems of off net transactons.

ron May 8th, 2004 08:02 PM

Bob, just go to and click on branch & abm locator.

Judy_in_Calgary May 8th, 2004 08:16 PM

Hi Bob,

Although the website Ron gave you certainly works, the Calgary phone directory (if one just happens to have one ;) ) is even quicker to use.

Although there are Scotiabank branches downtown and all over the suburbs, the one that is closest to the Greenwood Inn, if that's the one you want, is:

Horizon Square Branch
3508 - 32 Ave NE
Tel (403) 221-6860


Mon - Thu : 10 am - 4 pm

Fri : 10 am - 6 pm

Sat & Sun : Closed

If you desperately need a bank, any bank, during a weekday evening or on a Saturday, TD Canada Trust, which also has branches all over the place, is open till 8 pm on weekdays and 9 am - 3 pm on Saturdays. Well that's the case in Calgary at any rate.

bob_brown May 9th, 2004 07:51 AM

I am fairly sure it was that very branch of Scotiabank I used last year to withdraw Canadian currency right after we arrived in Calgary.
It is very close to the Greenwood.

My usual succession of stops after being turned loose in the country, is rental car counter, hotel, bank, and then a place to eat. (Bank and hotel can be interchanged.)

llamalady May 9th, 2004 08:29 AM

Hi Bob:
I'm not sure if this is of any value (!)
to you, but I've just sent a wire payment to pay for a gîte.

The owner emailed an account number for
the transfer and it cost me $30Cdn on
a total of 330E.

The lodge owner is making you work for
your wilderness experience, isn't he!

Hope this helps,

bob_brown May 9th, 2004 11:35 AM

That is a higher percentage than buying traveler's checks!

llamalady May 9th, 2004 11:49 AM

Ooops, sorry, never could do basic math!
Although for ease of handling it might
be worth it!

April May 9th, 2004 12:16 PM

Maybe it's just me... but I'm not understanding this exchange rate you're having to pay on the traveller's cheques. Can't you get them from your bank for free?

bob_brown May 9th, 2004 02:44 PM

April, "free" travelers' checks are the siren song of the financial industry.
Sure, there is no fee, per se, but the exchange rate you get is so much above the bank wholesale rate that you end up paying considerably more.

When I say that buying the travelers' checks earlier in the spring cost me 5%, I am using the wholesale bank rate of exchange as my basis.

I thought we would be ok on the transaction. I was told that the checks cost 2%. What I did not know when I okayed the transaction was that the exchange rate being quoted was not the bank wholesale rate; it was the AAA special.

If I buy US travelers' checks, you are correct, no fee. I pay $100 US for $100 US in travelers checks. But if they are denominated in US dollars, they do me no good in Canada until converted.

Unfortunately, there is a conversion fee involved. The last time I converted US travelers's checks, I paid $4.00 C flat fee to cash each check plus I got clipped with something less favorable to me than the wholesale bank rate. I think I payed about 5% to make the conversion.

In this case, I can go to Canada and use my ATM cards and take out enough folding money at 1% to pay the bill. (I might have to spread it over 2 days to meet withdrawal limits.) I just don't want to walk around for a couple of days with bulging pockets. I might be perfectly safe to do so, but I would feel uncomfortable.

One other fly in the ointment is that the ATM machines in the vicinity of where I am going are Cirrus. (Or at least they were last year.) My accounts are all on the PLUS system.

I could open up a 3rd checking account just to have a Cirrus ATM card. But that is not necessary and something of a nuisance for a one time payment.

From what I gather, I can buy a cashier's check for the exact amount, made out to a specific, named payee, and pay about $5.00 for the service.
If that is true, then that is the way I will go.
If not, then I may just walk the trail with a fat pocket.

To come back to the bank wire. The fee there was 5.5%, about .5 of 1% higher than traveler's checks.
Not much difference.
How do I figure it?
Well 330€ convers to $542.49 Canadian.
$30/542.49 = 5.53%.

April May 9th, 2004 06:00 PM

Very interesting. When you mentioned postal orders, were you thinking of getting that in the US or Canada? Here is a Can. post office site if it's of any help:

I think I'm out of my depth in this conversation (and sorry if I don't fall into the category of those giving realistic suggestions) but now you have me curious. Can one buy a cashier's check in a bank where they don't have an account?

Would a Scotiabank in Banff be more convenient to where you are staying?

bob_brown May 10th, 2004 07:20 AM

I am told by a Toronto friend who replied privately that I can purchase the necessary check as a non account holder at Soctia Bank because it is a correspondent bank with Bank of America, which is where I bank at home.

Of course everything calculated on percentages discussed above is based on the wholesale bank rate of exchange. Without knowing that rate, the calculations are meaningless.

That rate is posted on the Internet at several places. Out of habit, I use Yahoo, subset Financial, subset Currency to get my information,but there are several sources.

People who trade a lot watch the rates carefully because they are shifting millions of dollars. There is a huge profit to be made in this type of trading, known generally as arbitrage.

The little guy, like me, can get taken here and there for 5% or more each time he does some transacting between currencies.

I don't get much help here at home because my first problem is to convince the folks at my friendly local branch that Canadian dollars are not American dollars and they are not Australian dollars. That discussion got started when the teller said "Just send a check made out in the amount you want. Its all dollars." Hmm. Nope. One dollar Canadian does not equal one dollar US.

Judy pinpointed a bank in Calgary that is very close to the hotel where I will stay the first night in Calgary.
On Sunday I will tap the ATM for money; probably repeat on Monday morning to get the requisite amount, and walk inside and see if I can negotiate a bank draft. If not, I suppose I try the post office for a postal money order.
I hope to have the issue resolved before I get there. Nothing like a phone call to a Canadian bank.
I could have done that too, but I often get some original, innovative ideas from the forum -- ideas that I had not come up with!! I always thought two smart heads were better than one.

kodi May 10th, 2004 02:08 PM

For everyone's benefit, I will post my research results here. I spoke to the Bank of Nova Scotia in Calgary today, and they assured me that it is not a problem for a person not having an account there, to buy a bank draft or money order. I explained that the person was an American tourist and would be withdrawing money from the ATm and going straight to the counter to buy a draft. There was no hesitation in her answer and no other questions were asked by her. SO there is no affiliation required. Bob, you can simply walk in and do it. I forgot to ask the fee, but on their web site it does state $5.00. This seems to be the best way..
Good luck.. ( and I'll write to you)

bob_brown May 10th, 2004 04:12 PM

Well folks, I am satisfied that I now have the best answers, particularly from Kodi and Judy. For Judy, I looked at my receipt from last year, and you pinpointed the the exact branch of Scotia Bank that I used in Calgary. I think I remember right where it is.
I really did not notice which bank it was last year; it had an open ATM and it was near my hotel. This year I will be a little more appreciative.

For Kodi, I think you have the answer I needed, and that is what I will plan on doing. It is for me cheap insurance.

All I need to do is make sure my checking account has enough money in it!!

So as far as I am concerned, the way is clear, and I think we can reach closure on a most interesting and instructive thread - at least I can. Thanks to you all.

bob_brown May 10th, 2004 08:02 PM

Again. This was a great discussion. Good exchange of facts and opinions. Good informatioin transmitted up and down the line. I learned some things and I hope others did too. So perhaps redundant, I do again want to express my thanks to all who got involved and I hope we all got something positive out of it. I sure did.

April May 10th, 2004 11:50 PM

Yes, except that it made me realize how dopey I am on the matter. Having had bank cards suddenly not work, I am reluctant to rely on them entirely. So, if you feel like carrying on with this lesson - in order of preference, how do you like to pay for things in, say, Europe? Bank card, credit card, travellers cheque, cash?

You had your surgery already, Bob? I hope your healing is speedy so you can get back to your trails.

bob_brown May 11th, 2004 03:39 PM

In Europe I usually arrive with a few euro notes in my pocket. Usually I can get some through a private trade; one advantage of being in an university town. The wholesale bank rate is usually beneficial for both sides.

Next,I rely on the ATMs for daily spending money.

Then we use our credit cards for major purchases so we don't have to keep raiding the ATMs.

My primary overseas card is issued through MBNA because that bank has not, so far, charged the extra 2% that some credit card issuers assess for essentially no service. I do have a second card just in case. (Like once in Paris the waiter came back gesticulating wildly, waving my card, and saying saying No Good. The second one worked, but before I could get to it, my wife got up to go get folding money at the ATM. The waiter just about blew a gasket. I was still seated, so I never figured out his problem.)

We also carry a second aTM card on a separate account, just in case as well.
It comes in handy. If I could I would diversify and have both Cirrus and Plus cards, but no local banks offer Cirrus that I know of.

And, as a doomsday defense, I have a few hundred dollars in traveler's checks that I carry with me all the time even here at home. Some of the checks have made 3 Atlantic round trip crossings.

Were interest rates higher, I would cash them in, but at current money market rates, the interest foregone is so minor I have not bothered.

The only time I really had to have one was at the airport in Zürich. The train was near departure time, I wanted something to take with me on the train to eat, and the ATM was out of order.
The man in the window was glad to convert my AE check to Swiss money. I just shut my eyes and did it.

I think the worst pounding I ever got on an exchange was once in Lausanne. We arrived from Paris and discovered that we still had French francs in paper form. They were folded up in my inner coat pocket. Why, I will never know.
So I went in the bank, gritted my teeth, and converted the notes. I still have a few francs in coins because banks will not convert coins. You are stuck with them.

I knew the euro would be in circulation soon and I had no plans to return to France any time soon. So French francs were not of much use to me.

The hip is now 6 weeks old, almost.
And recovery is slow. I think some new hip people must have selective amnesia.
I am yet to see any benefits from it.
I cannot walk without assistance (walker or cane), and I find that a major nuisance. My exercise routine is underway, and I hope that I can soon step it up to a higher level. There is a lot of muscle rebuilding to be done.
No hiking much this summer in Canada.
I actually made the reservations before the hip collapsed on me and my hand was somewhat forced.

April May 11th, 2004 05:05 PM

It doesn't seem right that a person who likes to hike so much should have this happen when some others would be happy to sit in their chairs. I hope your recovery goes in leaps and bounds as it did for my husband - although his was not a hip problem. He went from barely able to move, to walking with a walker and now troops all over the place. Anyway, thanks for all the good information. Maybe I'll get into the new age (and quit using travellers cheques as much).

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