Personal Finance

Paying Canadian phone bill as American

  • Last Updated:
  • Dec 12th, 2018 12:00 am
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 7, 2018
4 posts

Paying Canadian phone bill as American

Hey there,

I originally had this in paragraph form but it went on for ages. For everyone's sake I've decided to just use bulletpoints. I apologize if this comes across as being terse; I'm just trying to be concise :)

1. I am an American citizen who was recently granted a one-year Canadian working holiday visa.
2. I am technically in Canada now as a tourist. I can cross and come back under the work visa anytime. I prefer to wait to do that until my tourist visa expires in a few months but if necessary I can now. I don't believe I'm currently able to open a bank account here as a tourist (could be mistaken).
3. I want to switch to a Canadian mobile phone provider. This provider only accepts Canadian credit/debit cards for payment.
4. I have an amazing American bank (Schwab) through whom I have amazing perks that Canadian banks are lightyears away from offering (just for one example, unlimited ATM fee reimbursements worldwide — for me this is hundreds of dollars a year they refund me). I have not incurred a single fee with Schwab in 10+ years. I want to stick with them.
5. I have an American credit card through Schwab. I have a PayPal account with a confirmed American address and a PayPal account with a confirmed Canadian address. I also use Venmo.
6. I am trying to figure out how to, without incurring any fees, pay $50 CAD monthly to this mobile provider for my plan.
7. I've explored most every option. Debit accounts. Prepaid Visa cards. Virtual bank cards. Transferring to/from Schwab/PayPal/Venmo to Schwab/PayPal/Venmo/Canadian savings/chequing accounts.
8. Somewhere along the way, there's always a transaction fee, or a monthly fee, a currency conversion fee, or the like.

This all seems so complicated for a very simple idea: I am an American who wants to pay a Canadian bill without fees. If we're talking a one-time fee of a dollar or two, sure, I'll manage. But I'm going to be here for several years (1 year to find a job + 1 year to work under 1st visa + 1 more year to work under 2nd visa) at least and monthly fees for 3 years is something I'd like to avoid.

Thanks for your help!
12 replies
Deal Addict
Dec 16, 2017
1342 posts
506 upvotes
Raincouver
hey yo. came to the right place!
First of all, please tell me where you live so we can perhaps introduce you certain options. Canadian banking scene sucks, no competition and you won't generally find a good option anywhere in Canada. You may open certain credit union stating you're new on a work VISA (you didn't say if you have SIN - Canadian version of SSN - you should have by now)

Charles Schwab is more of a brokerage. You might wanna be careful w/ how they operate as they don't like dealing with foreigners (non-US resident per se)

Canadian cell phone bill, is it a prepaid? or is it a post paid account? and what provider?
If a prepaid, visit either their store or a groceries store or London Drugs and buy voucher.
If a postpaid, they generally accept foreign issue card if you use the automated IVR phone.

And as an American, do you have American Express credit card (the one issued by American Express?) it's easy to do global transfer to a card in Canada then pay it off.
Last edited by dekvitaly on Dec 9th, 2018 12:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Member
Jan 17, 2013
489 posts
113 upvotes
thejackson5 wrote:
Dec 8th, 2018 5:59 pm
Hey there,

I originally had this in paragraph form but it went on for ages. For everyone's sake I've decided to just use bulletpoints. I apologize if this comes across as being terse; I'm just trying to be concise :)

1. I am an American citizen who was recently granted a one-year Canadian working holiday visa.
2. I am technically in Canada now as a tourist. I can cross and come back under the work visa anytime. I prefer to wait to do that until my tourist visa expires in a few months but if necessary I can now. I don't believe I'm currently able to open a bank account here as a tourist (could be mistaken).
3. I want to switch to a Canadian mobile phone provider. This provider only accepts Canadian credit/debit cards for payment.
4. I have an amazing American bank (Schwab) through whom I have amazing perks that Canadian banks are lightyears away from offering (just for one example, unlimited ATM fee reimbursements worldwide — for me this is hundreds of dollars a year they refund me). I have not incurred a single fee with Schwab in 10+ years. I want to stick with them.
5. I have an American credit card through Schwab. I have a PayPal account with a confirmed American address and a PayPal account with a confirmed Canadian address. I also use Venmo.
6. I am trying to figure out how to, without incurring any fees, pay $50 CAD monthly to this mobile provider for my plan.
7. I've explored most every option. Debit accounts. Prepaid Visa cards. Virtual bank cards. Transferring to/from Schwab/PayPal/Venmo to Schwab/PayPal/Venmo/Canadian savings/chequing accounts.
8. Somewhere along the way, there's always a transaction fee, or a monthly fee, a currency conversion fee, or the like.

This all seems so complicated for a very simple idea: I am an American who wants to pay a Canadian bill without fees. If we're talking a one-time fee of a dollar or two, sure, I'll manage. But I'm going to be here for several years (1 year to find a job + 1 year to work under 1st visa + 1 more year to work under 2nd visa) at least and monthly fees for 3 years is something I'd like to avoid.

Thanks for your help!
Prepaid credit cards from stores should work if you register the card in your name and the registered address must match the address you provide to the mobile phone provider.

If you have a job in Canada, you can try applying for a no fee credit card.

You can also open a bank account with CIBC. With an account with CIBC, you can get their no fee reloadable prepaid credit card. You load funds into the reloadable prepaid credit card from the bank account. There is no fee if you use internet banking to transfer the funds from the bank account to the reloadable prepaid credit card.

* Free online transfer if using the CIBC eAdvantage Savings Account
Last edited by stack21 on Dec 9th, 2018 1:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
Deal Addict
Dec 16, 2017
1342 posts
506 upvotes
Raincouver
@stack21 What he seems to look for is a minimal use account (no fee account) that he might use once per month to pay Canadian cell phone bill.
The only account I could think of for him to open (regardless of his immigration status or residency in Canada) would be TDCT Savings account. 1 free transaction per month and he could either do a bill pay or VISA Debit to pay the phone bill.

Again this is still our assumption. We need more details to recommend
Member
Jan 17, 2013
489 posts
113 upvotes
dekvitaly wrote:
Dec 8th, 2018 11:59 pm
@stack21 What he seems to look for is a minimal use account (no fee account) that he might use once per month to pay Canadian cell phone bill.
The only account I could think of for him to open (regardless of his immigration status or residency in Canada) would be TDCT Savings account. 1 free transaction per month and he could either do a bill pay or VISA Debit to pay the phone bill.

Again this is still our assumption. We need more details to recommend
OP does not use the CIBC bank account to pay the Canadian cell phone bill. Instead OP uses the CIBC prepaid credit card to pay the Canadian cell phone bill. There is no fee in using the CIBC prepaid credit card. To get the CIBC prepaid credit card, OP needs to be a CIBC client and thus needs a CIBC bank account. This route is taken when OP is unable to get a regular Canadian credit card.

CIBC Prepaid Visa
https://www.cibc.com/en/personal-banking/prepaid.html

CIBC eAdvantage Savings Account - no monthly fee, free online transfer to other CIBC accounts including the prepaid VISA
https://www.cibc.com/en/personal-bankin ... lsrc=aw.ds

CIBC Bonus Savings Account - no monthly fee, 1 free transaction per month. $5 for each additional transaction
https://www.cibc.com/en/personal-bankin ... vings.html
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 7, 2018
4 posts
dekvitaly wrote:
Dec 8th, 2018 10:52 pm
hey yo. came to the right place!
First of all, please tell me where you live so we can perhaps introduce you certain options. Canadian banking scene sucks, no competition and you won't generally find a good option anywhere in Canada. You may open certain credit union stating you're new on a work VISA (you didn't say if you have SIN - Canadian version of SSN - you should have by now)

Charles Schwab is more of a brokerage. You might wanna be careful w/ how they operate as they don't like dealing with foreigners (non-US resident per se)

Canadian cell phone bill, is it a prepaid? or is it a post paid account? and what provider?
If a prepaid, visit either their store or a groceries store or London Drugs and buy voucher.
If a postpaid, they generally accept foreign issue card if you use the automated IVR phone.

And as an American, do you have American Express credit card (the one issued by American Express?) it's easy to do global transfer to a card in Canada then pay it off.
Sorry for the short reply, I typed a really thorough reply but the forum erased it when I clicked to add the other user's quote as well :(

I live in Montréal.

I don't have a SIN until I enter under the work visa.

Schwab thinks I still live in the States (I have a permanent mailing address at my mother's).

It's Fizz, the brand new super cheap carrier here. It's prepaid but they don't have topup cards in stores. (Good idea though!) I don't have an American Express card but my mother does and I'm sure I can get one under her. Can you explain a bit more how that would all work? Which Canadian card would I get that wouldn't incur any fees at any point through the international transfer/currency exchange/bill payment? (i.e. the bank transfer from Schwab to the Canadian card, the accompanying change from USD to CAD, and the act of a monthly payment to Fizz)
stack21 wrote:
Dec 8th, 2018 11:51 pm
Prepaid credit cards from stores should work if you register the card in your name and the registered address must match the address you provide to the mobile phone provider.

If you have a job in Canada, you can try applying for a no fee credit card.

You can also open a bank account with CIBC. With an account with CIBC, you can get their no fee reloadable prepaid credit card. You load funds into the reloadable prepaid credit card from the bank account. There is no fee if you use internet banking to transfer the funds from the bank account to the reloadable prepaid credit card.
No job yet as no work permit yet. Would the CIBC account have a monthly fee? And same question as above: would there be no fees incurred during any of the international transfer/currency exchange/bill payment?
dekvitaly wrote:
Dec 8th, 2018 11:59 pm
@stack21 What he seems to look for is a minimal use account (no fee account) that he might use once per month to pay Canadian cell phone bill.
The only account I could think of for him to open (regardless of his immigration status or residency in Canada) would be TDCT Savings account. 1 free transaction per month and he could either do a bill pay or VISA Debit to pay the phone bill.

Again this is still our assumption. We need more details to recommend
Thanks for the suggestion. Same question as above: would there be no fees incurred during any of the international transfer/currency exchange/bill payment?

Thanks again for all your help!
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 7, 2018
4 posts
stack21 wrote:
Dec 9th, 2018 1:02 am
OP does not use the CIBC bank account to pay the Canadian cell phone bill. Instead OP uses the CIBC prepaid credit card to pay the Canadian cell phone bill. There is no fee in using the CIBC prepaid credit card. To get the CIBC prepaid credit card, OP needs to be a CIBC client and thus needs a CIBC bank account. This route is taken when OP is unable to get a regular Canadian credit card.

CIBC Prepaid Visa
https://www.cibc.com/en/personal-banking/prepaid.html

CIBC eAdvantage Savings Account - no monthly fee, free online transfer to other CIBC accounts including the prepaid VISA
https://www.cibc.com/en/personal-bankin ... lsrc=aw.ds

CIBC Bonus Savings Account - no monthly fee, 1 free transaction per month. $5 for each additional transaction
https://www.cibc.com/en/personal-bankin ... vings.html
Oops, your reply was while I was typing mine.

This is all a bit over my head so I'm trying to understand.

Which savings account should I use? If I use the eAdvantage, it will be a $5 a month fee to transfer my American money into it, and then another $5 to transfer the money to my prepaid Visa, so $10 a month in fees, right? And if I do the Bonus Savings, it will be free to transfer my money into it (1 free transaction), and then $5 to transfer the money to my prepaid Visa, so $5 a month in fees?

EDIT: Also, it looks like there's a $5 fee for "Bill payments" (which is separate from the "Pre-authorized payments" fee) and a $5 fee for "Debit purchases." Would they know that my Fizz payment is a "bill payment?" And would my prepaid card be exempt from that $5 "Debit purchases" fee? (Even if the answer to all this is "no fees," it still looks like I'd have at least $5 in monthly fees from my paragraph above unless I'm mistaken)

Also, will there be any sort of additional fee or exchange rate penalty from (1) transferring internationally rather than domestically or relatedly (2) transferring from USD to CAD? I can't find that information on the relevant pages but it seems like even breathing in Canadian banks comes with a fee so I have a hunch that this won't be without some sort of penalty incurred.
Deal Addict
Dec 16, 2017
1342 posts
506 upvotes
Raincouver
@thejackson5 FYI, SIN isn't a requirement in Canada as SSN is in the US.
You guys use SSN as an ID, we in Canada do not have to provide SIN (however bank and CU here do try making it harder for you to do business without one)
Also some backward like VISA/MC Debit instead of Debit VISA/MC.

@stack21 recommendation was
CIBC Savings account (which has no monthly fee, branch visit to open) and can do self-transfer to a CIBC account at no cost.
His recommendation is to use CIBC Prepaid VISA to pay off Fizz (which I know this company yes)

My recommendation was to open a TD Canada Trust account (they have their US division called TD Bank America's Most Convenient Bank)
TD Canada Trust is the 2nd largest in Canada. Their savings account allow 1 monthly transaction (with their VISA Debit card).
I do not know Montreal well so I can't recommend any local credit union that doesn't charge you fee.
In Canada, VISA/MC Debit is still "prestigious" due to the domination of Interact as Debit processor (separate from VISA/MC credit)
As such, US Debit won't work at debit-only merchant in Canada while Canadian Debit works fine in the US. too far off hahaa.

For the American Express part, their global transfer program allows you to "transfer" an existing AMEX card (issued by AMEX like AMEX Blue, Cash Magnet, etc.) to another country.
They typically want minimum 3 months to do that. Idk if US AMEX supplementary card would work but US AMEX hands stuff out like candy anyway.
I suppose you do have some US credit histories? In the mean time, you can continue using US cards such as Chase Amazon.com, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Barclay's Uber, etc. those no forex fee card is the best and even Canadian residents (like me) desperately look at :P

In term of cross border money transfer, since you have Charles Schwab, free ATM withdrwal w/ VISA exchange rate (no foreign exchange fee) isn't bad.
If you'd like to do in like large amount, I can only recommend Transferwise. Again TW itself has a Debit MC for US residents. It works fine to use as an outlet to take out CAD cash from USD. Or you can always accept TW fee and move over a large amount.

You should, at all cost, AVOID currency exchange by a Canadian bank. In Canada, they hide the fee as a "foreign currency" at 2.5% rate, which adds up so much. In the US, you guys get to see that fee on a separate line. So.... again if no Transferwise above, you can try bringing some cash up here and exchange at some currency exchange place (wherever gives you the best rate). They may give you a cheque for a large amount tho. But again, I don't believe it'd be any better than using TW.

"Cross Border Banking" in my signature is unfortunately only available for Canadian looking south.... not American looking north.
Even the large Canadian banks have their own "cross border banking" program, they only do North to South, not another way around.
Perhaps if I know what state you're from, I might be able to advise something. Otherwise it's deadly a "start over"
[OP]
Newbie
Dec 7, 2018
4 posts
Wow, thanks for all the help!

All this seems pretty advanced. I think my best option is to get an American Express card under my mother and then use the Global Transfer. To confirm, that keeps all the same conditions of the American version of the card, right? As in, the things that would incur fees for an American American Express card still incur fees as a Canadian American Express card, and the things that wouldn't incur fees for an American American Express card still wouldn't incur fees as a Canadian American Express card, right?
Deal Addict
Dec 16, 2017
1342 posts
506 upvotes
Raincouver
@thejackson5 You can keep US AMEX and Canadian AMEX all together. However, you'd need to adopt the Canadian version of it. One of the most popular card is Simply Cash AMEX.
And Canadian credit card comes as Chip/PIN and RFID tapping (you guys USA only do chip/signature and no RFID tapping - but regular support for mobile payment).

I don't quite get the fee part and vice versa. Perhaps you should explain a bit for me. Again, I do not know if an authorized card would do the trick, please consult Canadian AMEX whether supplementary card holder can do GT.

However, in order to pay Canadian AMEX card, you still need to use a Canadian-based bank or credit union bank account. As such you can start off using American Express in Canada to build some Canadian credit line and pay it off once per month from TD Canada Trust (the free savings account one). As mentioned, Charles Schwab Debit VISA to take out CAD at ATM works just fine for low usage.

The CIBC route won't help much to build a credit history, which defeated the whole purpose of you trying to build up a Canadian credit profile.

You can feel free to PM me, I might be able to answer a couple of question as I do cross border banking :P
Deal Addict
Dec 16, 2017
1342 posts
506 upvotes
Raincouver
@thejackson5 completely forgot to mentioned the bill pay part.
In the US you're familiar w/ bill payment service at like Walmart, Kroger or USPS Western Union or their dirt cheap money order/draft.
In Canada, those services aren't available @ any affordable cost so it's a no go for long term or short term.

Also, for the TD Canada Trust way, we give you VISA debit card on the spot. You won't wait in the mail like how it is commonly done in the US.
Deal Addict
Feb 4, 2015
3745 posts
928 upvotes
Canada, Eh!!
This is probably not long term solution however until can get better solution get a large denominated prepaid card [some go up to $500], go online and register with address and can now use online as regular credit card or add to paypal.ca.

Will have initial loading fee and if use paypal then per transaction but gets you started in order to get phone. Can also consider prepaid phone especially one that takes vouchers you can buy in store.

Some US credit cards don't charge foreign exch fees like Capital 1, Discover, etc. so check what fees if any yours charge.

There is Tmobile in USA that has plans can use in both countries.

Prepaid cc thread prepaid-credit-cards-continuously-updated-532830/
Newbie
Mar 12, 2008
27 posts
4 upvotes
Toronto/Markham
CIBC offers 1 year free banking (SMART Account - unlimited usage) to people who are foreign workers. They also offer a Canadian credit card without any credit history, which will help establish Canadian Credit. After 1 year, you can convert to a E advantage savings account(free internet transfers to other accounts - does not allow bill payments) or Bonus Savings account(1 transaction for free, and $5 for any additional)

Also, with the SMART account, after the 1 year free, as long as your payroll is going into the account and you are able to keep a minimum balance it will continue to be free


Forgot to add - as an American - you can still open an account with CIBC - you do not have to have your work visa, but you will not get the free banking offer until you have your work visa

Top

Thread Information

There is currently 1 user viewing this thread. (0 members and 1 guest)