When you sign up to Questrade, whether it’s a registered account or non-registered account, they automatically open both a USD account and a CAD account for you. So at any given time, Canadian investors might need to convert their Canadian dollars to the U.S.
Whether using the proceeds to acquire U.S. stocks or exchange-traded funds at opportune moments such as recessions, diversifying their accounts, or having USD ready in case they travel into the United States, a Questrade account allows you to convert your Canadian dollars to USD conveniently.
Questrade does not automatically convert CAD to USD when you purchase U.S. stocks. You must convert your Canadian dollars to USD first. You can also link your USD account to your Questrade account to start trading U.S. stocks.
There are two primary ways of converting your CAD to USD.
The first method is simply paying a 2.0% fee on the value of the transaction. This is the more straightforward method and usually takes 0-2 business days to convert your Canadian dollars to USD successfully.
The second is to pay a $5-$10 charge on the transaction, depending on the volume of the transaction. This method is commonly known as Norbert’s Gambit and usually takes 4-7 business days to complete the transactions.
Both methods have their pros and cons. We will be going through them in this article to educate the investor on the best to use, depending on the situation.
It’s important to note that the currency exchange fees are determined in the currency after the conversion.
Equity investments are subject to market risks and may not be suitable for all investors. If you have any doubts as to the merits of an investment, you should seek advice from an independent financial advisor. So please invest at your own risk.
To pay the 2% fees to convert your Canadian dollar to USD:
- Open your Questrade account on your browser and go to the main menu.
- Go to requests and click on exchange funds.
- Select the type of account (whether you are using a margin account, tax-free savings account, etc.)
- Specify from which currency you are converting(CAD to USD or USD to CAD).
- Input the amount you wish to convert.
- Then submit.
Questrade will automatically convert your CAD to USD. The transaction is processed the same day and usually does not exceed 24 hours, but this will depend on the volume of transactions.
You can monitor the transaction by checking the request history tab. When funds are exchanged, Questrade updates the tab to “processed.”
If you wish to cancel the transaction, the option remains available on your Questrade account for about 1 hour after the request is issued.
The fees are usually deducted from the amount of the exchange rate.
This method is far more cost-effective if the investor wants to convert USD into small amounts, but the higher volume transactions are much more expensive.
Norbert’s Gambit was developed in 2001 by a Libra investment management financial planner named Norbert Schlenker. Norbert’s Gambit is an excellent way to avoid currency exchange fees that can easily be exorbitant on higher volume transactions.
This method involves using the same shares listed on both the united states exchanges and Canadian exchanges—essentially, buying a Canadian-listed ETF and having your brokerage convert it into a U.S. dollar ETF.
Although any dual-listed security can be used, the preferred exchange-traded fund is the Horizons U.S. Dollar currency ETF (DLR.TO and DLR.U). This avoids currency risk since CAD and USD exchange rate is volatile.
The DLR.TO fluctuates depending on the exchange rate and will vary depending on the bid price in the market. At the same time, the DLR.U tends to be relatively stable. when converting Canadian Dollars to U.S. dollars, the foreign exchange rate is when buying DLR.TO will apply.
Norbert’s Gambit typically takes 4-7 business days to complete.
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Executing Norbert’s Gambit
- Open your Questrade account.
- Go to Order entry input DLT.TO and buy their shares.
- Journalize DLR.TO shares to DLR.U. There are two ways to do this (on desktop and the mobile app), and it entails requesting a Questrade account to convert DLR shares to DLR.U.
- On a P.C., you open your Questrade account. Next, go to the contact us tab. Fill in the form and select Self Directed Account.
- On Mobile, you open your Questrade account. Go to the menu page. Click on help. Click on the email icon visible at the bottom of the page. Navigate to the tell us more section where you can write to Questrade asking them to journalize the amount of DLR shares you want into DLR.U.
- Questrade usually responds on the same day or at most two days. In their response email, they typically specify the date when the transaction will be complete. This averages 4-7 days from the DLR shares’ purchase date.
- Once the journalizing is completed, sell the DLR.U shares. The proceeds are in USD, and the process is complete. You can transfer these funds to your USD account to continue investing or use them for other purposes as USD cash.
Norbert’s Gambit can also be used in the reverse situation to exchange USD for Canadian dollars. This method leaves the investor with more money to utilize after that would have been spent on fees had method 1 been used in a higher value transaction.
The Questrade exchange rate applies after the transaction, and the commission fee is USD. Therefore, Norbert’s Gambit is the best method to avoid currency risk.
Convert CAD to USD: Bottom Line
Converting CAD to USD can be done with two different methods on Questrade. The first method is by paying a flat 2% fee on the value of the transaction. This method is straightforward and takes a max of 2 days to complete.
The next method is using Norbert’s Gambit. This method is excellent for high-volume transactions but takes up to 4-7 days to process. It also involves a few more steps, such as emailing Questrade, but they will reply within two days. If you are converting a large amount, then Norbert’s Gambit is the ideal method.