An Essentials Guide for Snowbirds Migrating to the USA this Winter

An Essentials Guide for Snowbirds Migrating to the USA this Winter
Last Updated: 26 Oct 2021

Google defines a snowbird as either “a northerner who moves to a warmer southern state in the winter”, or “a junco with gray or brown upperparts and a white belly.” These definitions are quite similar if you think about it. Most Canadians who spend their winters in states like Florida, Arizona, California, and the Carolinas have gray hair, a brown “farmer’s tan” and white bellies.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccines are taking effect, and the United States opened its northern border, many snowbirds are eager to begin their migration south. In order to make the most of the 2021/22 winter season, they will need to pack their sunscreen and renew their passports. Most importantly, they need to find an international money transfer provider that can help them securely and affordably exchange their Canadian dollars for American greenbacks.

Whether you are a snowbird preparing to make your first trek south, or last year was your first-time seeing snow in a decade, here are ideas to help you get the best value for your money.

1. Ensure Your US Bank Account is Well-Stocked Before You Go

Canadian banks offer online money transfer services; however, their exchange rates are often two percent or higher more than what you would pay a pure-play online money transfer provider. Banks also charge transaction fees of up to 5%, and transactions often take longer to complete such as in the case of wire or ACH transfers.

When you transfer over $10,000 internationally with a bank, you run the risk of needing to visit a bank branch to present your identification documentation in person. When you transfer money from Canada to a US bank account through an online money transfer provider, your cross-border money transfer can be conducted entirely via the internet and phone without needing to travel to a bank branch. Be sure to have your Canadian documentation with you, however, such as a driver’s license, passport, and a utility bill with your home address on it.

Leading international money transfer providers also offer services like forward contracts and market orders for recurring or high-value transfers. Many banks don’t offer these services. If you are making monthly mortgage or lease payments on a home in Scottsdale or St. Petersburg, any service which can lessen the impact of currency fluctuations is a great money-savings opportunity. 

2. Know Who is Actually Transferring Your Money

There are a number of service providers who cater to the lifestyle, health, and travel needs of the one-million or so Canadian snowbirds¹ who regularly travel to the US every winter. They offer a range of services effectively to inform, educate, and connect snowbirds. Yet when you are moving substantial amounts of money around when you are far from home, it’s important to know who is handling your money, and where it is in the process.

Some organizations offer international money transfer services under a nubilous “white-labelled” relationship.

MTFX has been in the business of helping North Americans to send money online internationally for over twenty-five years. We are regulated by the Government of Canada’s FINTRAC regulatory agency, and FINCEN in the United States. It’s assumed that the money transfer service providers who partner with these organizations are subject to the same regulations and standards. Yet it should be completely transparent to you who is handling your money, and how long it will take to transfer your funds to your American bank account. Especially when you are moving thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars across borders to establish a comfortable winter lifestyle in places like Florida and Arizona.

Remember The Ford Motor Company’s advertising which you shouldn’t open your hood to strangers? It’s a safe bet that you shouldn’t open your wallet (or your bank account) to strangers, either.

3. Get Your COVID-19 Vaccines and Health Matters in Order

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for all of us over the past couple of years. Vaccine passports don’t make border crossings easier; they are a safe bet for proving you are fully vaccinated when crossing the southern border.  

Ensure you have the appropriate health care insurance in place and get clarity on whether you need to pay for medical expenses in advance, or if providers can bill your insurer directly.

4. Winterize and Organize Your Canadian Home Before Departure

Before you get in your car or board a plane for your winter getaway, ensure you won’t return to Canada with your mailbox overflowing, burst pipes, or strangers living in your home. 

Here are some quick tips on preparing your principal residence and Canadian affairs before you leave:

  1. Resist the urge to announce your plans to spend the winter abroad on social media. Many homes have been broken into by opportunistic thieves surfing sites like Instagram and Facebook. Have a friend, neighbor, or family member check on your home while you are away.
  2. We all well know our obligations to CRA related to income, business, sales, and capital gains taxes. Yet many snowbirds don’t fully appreciate their tax responsibilities to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Consult with a tax accountant or lawyer to better understand what your responsibilities are to the American government.
  3. Switch to electronic mail only and notify your bank and relatives that you will be wintering in the US. After a year or so of minimal travel, banks might flag out-of-country activity on your credit or debit cards as suspicious.
  4. Ensure your home’s plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems are prepared for frigid weather while you are away. Paying professionals to properly close your house and install leak sensors will be far less expensive than paying to restore your home if your pipes leak or other damage occurs.
  5. Unplug all your electric devices and appliances which would otherwise draw electricity. Computers and TVs can experience power surges and are a fire risk. Dispose of any perishable food.

Snowbird migrations south will likely be more challenging than in years past, so it will be important to pack some extra patience when you travel. Preparing by following the tips in this article, and seeking the advice of the experts in legal, accounting, home care, and finance should alleviate a lot of frustration.

MTFX has been supporting snowbirds and their international travels for over twenty-five years. Our practices and exchange rates are unbeatable, transparent, secure, and reliable. Our friendly, knowledgeable customer care team will be happy to help you through hassle-free online money transfers and set you up for an enjoyable winter season wherever your journey takes you.

Sign up for an MTFX account and exchange your Canadian dollars for American ones. You can make fast, affordable and secure monthly transfers over the winter to your US account.

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