Cross-border banking guide: How to move US dollars or pay your US Visa card with TD Canada Trust and TD Bank

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Arrow points from TD Canada Trust bank card to US TD Bank Card

TD Canada Trust (a Canadian bank) and TD Bank (a US bank) make a big deal of their cross-border services, which supposedly make life easier for folks like me, who work or live in both countries.  But their own cross-border team is usually unable to help me, which is why I recently found myself frustrated by the effort of trying to pay my TD Bank Visa card with US dollars that currently sit in my TD Canada Trust USD business account.

Eventually, I figured this out — and if you’re having the same problem, you can find my solution below.  Since this is just the latest chapter in my multi-year effort to get decent cross-border banking support from TD Canada Trust, I’ve documented the way you can solve all your biggest cross-border banking headaches as a TD customer. (Short version: Do as much as possible with Transferwise instead.) Here’s how I’ve done it:

To spend money in the US: TD Bank Visa card and checking account

As more and more of my work and income have shifted to the US, however, I found that TD Canada Trust was unable to offer me bank services, exchange rates or a USD credit card that made sense, however, which is why I finally decided to get a US credit card.  I wanted to get the Chase Sapphire rewards card recommend by NerdWallet, but even though I’m a US citizen, I didn’t have enough of a US credit history to qualify, because I’ve lived in Canada for the past twenty years.

My fallback solution (at least until I build up a US credit history) was to get a Visa card with TD Bank in the US. That pretty much required me opening a USD bank account with TD Bank, so that I’d have a straightforward way of paying my credit card bills.

My TD Bank Visa and checking accounts have solved a few problems for me:

  • When US clients send me a check, I can deposit that check to my US bank account using the TD Bank mobile app — as long as the check is for less than $3,000
  • When I’m spending money in the US, I can use my TD Bank USD Visa card, which has better benefits that the USD Visa cards offered by TD Canada Trust, and which I can pay off directly from my TD Bank checking account
  • When I need cash while in the US, I can withdraw it from any TD Bank ATM with no fees (withdrawing USD with a Canadian ATM card racks up crazy ATM and exchange fees)

Note that even though I am a US citizen, it took many months and lots of aggravation to get this all in place at the outset. Again, despite all the cross-border branding, TD Bank doesn’t really know how to serve Canadian customers: My credit card application was initially declined because I followed the directions of a rep who told me to provide my US social security number, even though that led to TD looking at my US rather than Canadian credit history, when the whole point was that (in theory) they know how to assess Canadians. So if you decide to go this route, be very careful to fill out the paperwork so that they don’t mistakenly treat you as a US customer.

Even with all these pieces in place, the job of moving money back and forth between TD Bank and TD Canada Trust remains hugely painful, and despite lots of conversations with TD, I was never able to get a decent exchange rate when converting from USD to CAD.

To accept US payments: Transferwise

In contrast to the endless hassles and expense of dealing with TD, I’ve been absolutely thrilled with my experience as a customer of Transferwise, a virtual financial institution that offers “borderless” accounts. When my US clients issue a payment to my Transferwise account, I get 100% of my earnings, whereas TD Canada Trust deducts a USD $17.50 wire transfer fee every time a US client makes a payment into my Canada-based USD account. Even better, Transferwise makes it economical to transfer USD to CAD: If I transfer $10k USD from my business account at TD, I only get $12,722 CAD in my Canadian business account, but if I make that same transfer within Transferwise, $10K USD buys me $12,844 CAD.

Best of all, Transferwise makes it very easy for me to move my USD income into whichever bank and currency I choose. If I want to transfer those US dollars into my USD bank account with TD Bank in the States, so I can pay my US Visa card, no problem! I can do the transfer myself online. If I want to turn them into Canadian dollars in my TD Canada Trust, no problem! I can convert the money myself, at Transferwise’s great rates, and then transfer the money to my Canadian account.  It takes a couple of days for the transfer to go through but it’s hassle free.

To get money from a USD TD Canada Trust business account to a USD TD Bank checking account:
A USD Daily Interest Personal Checking Account with TD Canada Trust

Unfortunately, however, I still get the occasional US payment via check rather than Transferwise deposit, and some of those checks are either larger than TD Bank’s $3k deposit limit, or simply won’t scan. In those situations, I have to deposit my US checks at TD Canada Trust. (Unless I happen to have an upcoming trip to one of the US states that has a TD Bank branch, in which case the easiest thing is to hold onto my check until I can deposit it in person.)

To my amazement, and despite all the marketing from TD about its cross-border banking, it is very hard to get US dollars I deposit in Canada into my US dollar accounts in the States.  Even though they have a “dedicated” cross-border team, it usually takes many hours and phone calls before I can get anyone to figure out how to move money from my USD business account at TD Canada Trust to my USD personal account at TD Bank in the US. And there is no documentation on either TD site to facilitate the process.

After my latest five-call foray, I finally came up with what seems to be a workable solution. I’m documenting it here so that I remember how to transfer my money the next time I’m in this situation, but also, for the benefit of anyone else who can’t find the info they need on the TD site, or who is frustrated by all the phone calls.  So without further ado….

How to pay a TD Bank USD Visa card with money in your USD TD Canada Trust business account

Ingredients

At TD Canada Trust in Canada:

  • Business USD account
  • Personal USD account (I’m using the USD Daily Interest account, which has no monthly service fee, but charges $1.25 per transaction.)

At TD Bank in the United States:

  • US checking account
  • TD USD Visa Card

Steps

  1. Deposit USD check into TD CanadaTrust USD business account by visiting your nearest Canada Trust bank. Do this with an actual human teller.
  2. Transfer the USD you’ve just deposited in your business account to your USD personal account with TD Canada Trust. You can ask the teller to do this for you, but if they put a hold on the US check until it clears (as they often do), you’ll have to wait the 2-3 weeks for it to clear before you can do the transfer.
  3. Call the TD Cross-Border banking support line at 1-877-700-2913 and enter your Canadian personal access card when prompted. When you get to speak to a rep, ask them to transfer your money from your TD Canada Trust Personal USD account to your TD Bank USD checking account. You will need to know the account number of your TD Bank checking account, and the address associated with that account. (Note that this is not necessarily the same as the address you have linked to your US Visa card: You can link your TD Bank Visa card to a US mailing address, so that it will be accepted by vendors who insist on a US address, but still keep your TD Bank checking account linked to your Canadian address.)
  4. Wait 48 hours for the transfer to go through, so the dollars show up in your TD Bank checking account. Now, log into your TD Bank account in the US, and make an electronic payment to your TD Bank Visa card.

Gosh, wasn’t that easy? A couple more notes:

In theory you do step #3 with an online “Visa Direct” transfer to get money from your USD Canada Trust personal account to your USD TD Bank account. According to the TD website the daily limit is $2500 but the TD rep I spoke to said the transfer has to be less than $1k; maybe TD only rebates the fee for lower denomination transfers? These are exactly the kinds of questions where I never get the same answer from two TD reps in a row. Since I’m usually transferring more than $2500 anyhow, I prefer to just call and have them do the the transfer.

When it transfers money between the Canadian and US institutions, TD charges a $15 wire transfer fee that will be deducted from the amount that shows up in my TDBank USD account, but that $15 will be refunded back to my TDBank account within 1 business days. It can take up to 48 hours for that wire transfer to go through. There is also a $23.63 USD wire transfer fee charged to my TD Canada Trust USD account, but that is refunded immediately (though you may still see it on your bank records).

There you have it, folks: The cross-border banking guide that TD should offer its customers, but apparently, doesn’t offer its own service team, because I had to figure this all out myself. So a special note to the hard-working TD cross-banking service reps who (I hope) will find this guide useful for themselves and their customers: I am really sorry that you don’t get the information or support you need from your managers to do your jobs effectively, and I’m especially sorry that I’m occasionally testy by the time I get to the fifth or sixth person who doesn’t know how to transfer my money. I’m really trying, and I know you are too.

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