Tapas Forever

Helping make the dream of moving to Spain a reality

Tag: Europe

Moving Money From Canada To Europe Cheaply

One of the challenges with bouncing between Canada and Europe is having to deal with money in two different currencies. If you find yourself in the scenario where you routinely need to move money from Canada to Europe, here are some of the best options.

If You Don’t Have A Bank Account In Europe

If you don’t have a bank account in Europe, then some combination of cash and credit is likely your best bet.

If you pull out money from an ATM machine once you land in Europe, you’ll likely be hit with 5-7 Euros in fees per transaction, plus a currency charge from your bank in Canada, usually 2-4%. So while using an ATM in Europe is manageable, often the best deal you will get for cash is back in Canada from a dedicated currency broker. Usually you can exchange money for around 1-1.5% of the spot value, which is better than what the banks usually give you. The absolute worst places to exchange money though is via traditional banks (such as TD, Scotiabank, etc.) and at airports, so avoid those like the plague. What you want is a dedicated currency exchange broker, and often if you Google that you will find one near you.

There are currency exchange kiosks all over Europe as well, but in my experience they typically prefer the British Pound and the US Dollar, since those are relatively popular currencies, compared to the Canadian dollar. So it’s best to obtain cash back in Canada if you have the chance.

If you pay directly with your credit card locally, you’ll often pay the same 2-4% in currency exchange fees, but usually without any per-transaction fees. So if that’s all you have, it’s better than nothing.

If You Do Have A Bank Account In Europe

Opening a bank account in Europe, even as a non-resident, isn’t very difficult. I first opened bank account in Spain at BBVA as a non-resident and it only took me a few days. If you have some form of residency as well (a class-D, or long duration, visa) then you can even open a Revolut account and use that as your bank account.

Right now Revolut isn’t available in Canada though, so I’m not going to focus too much on that. But assuming you do have some type of bank account in Europe and have an IBAN number representing that account, I’ll tell what I think is the best method.

First, you’ll need a TransferWise account. TransferWise is a very well known financial company that facilities easy currency exchanges all across the world. TransferWise is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in Europe so they are totally safe.

Second, you’ll need an account at EQ Bank in Canada. It’s free to open an account there, and it’s fully protected under the Canadian financial laws. Why I recommend EQ Bank is because they are one of the few banks to allow you to pay TransferWise directly using a bill payment for up to $25,000 CAD. The other methods of getting money into TransferWise from other banks, such as TD, are more cumbersome and have higher fees.

Once you set up both of those, add your bank details into EQ Bank for whatever primary bank you use in Canada. Then you can simply initiate a transfer within EQ Bank and pull money directly, for free, from your primary account. For me I added my TD Bank account information into EQ Bank. One caveat here is that EQ Bank places a one week hold on all funds that are moved this way, so you need to start this process 7-10 days ahead of when you actually need the money.

Once the money is in EQ Bank, go ahead and initiate a payment from TransferWise to your European account. If the fees look good to you and you give the go-ahead, select the bill payment option since it is how you’ll move the money there. If you read the directions for the bill payment, you will see your personal reference number for the transaction – write that down as you’ll need it on EQ Bank.

Next, head on over to EQ Bank and add a new bill payee for TransferWise. Use the reference number they gave you for your account number. Once that is done, go ahead and initiate a bill payment from EQ Bank to TransferWise for whatever amount TransferWise is expecting. It normally takes 1-2 business days for it to hit TransferWise after the bill payment, and you’ll receive an email from them as soon as it does arrive.

If you do all these together, you can often move money from Canada to Europe for approximately 0.5% of the spot price. That’s the exact same method I recently used to move approximately $100,000 CAD for an upcoming property purchase. So while I still paid roughly $500 in currency exchange fees, it sure beats the roughly $3,000 or so TD Bank probably would have charged me if I tried to do it through them.

If you have any questions, just let me know. But I’ve investigated lots of options, and this flow (Primary Bank -> EQ Bank -> TransferWise -> Spanish Bank) is the cheapest that I’ve found so far for moving money between Canada and Europe.

An Ode To Europe

I’ve been living in Spain, and consequently Europe now, for about ten months. While I’ve always enjoyed the time I’ve spent in ‘the old world’, I’ve really come to appreciate it much more now than I’m an actual resident here in Spain. So I thought I’d make a post about some of the aspects of living in Europe I really enjoy.

Freedom of Travel

Previously as a Canadian resident I was allowed up to a 90 day visit in a rolling 180 day window in any of the Schengen countries. That may sound like a lot, but there are 26 countries in the region and those 90 days can go by pretty quick if you are bouncing between them. In many countries when your visa expires you can simply leave for a few hours and then come back (popularly called a ‘visa run’ amongst digital nomads), but that’s not possible in the Schengen region due the rolling 180 day window – basically if you are here for 90 days, you have to leave for 90 days in order to be able to come back.

Now I don’t have completely unrestricted travel in Europe compared to an actual EU citizen: while I can stay in Spain indefinitely, the 90 day clock starts ticking when I leave Spain and visit other countries in the Schengen region. But when that time expires I can simply come back to Spain and regroup, since I am a bonafide resident here whereas before I’d have to leave the Schengen region completely. Even still it’s a huge advantage being able to reside where I want in Europe and do various trips from here.

Affordability of Travel

While Valencia does have a pretty decent airport, it certainly isn’t as large a hub as Madrid or Barcelona. That said, I can pretty much get anywhere in Europe from Valencia for less than the cost of a one way ticket to Calgary back in Canada. Back in December I flew to Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands for approximately 27 Euros ($40 CAD) – that’s a three hour flight. So other than the odd road trip to Seattle back in Canada, the options for doing a weekend adventure back home are pretty limited. Whereas here in Valencia I can easily visit other parts of Europe whenever I want.

Of course, many people here in Europe think the low-cost carriers are evil. Some of them probably are. But it’s pretty hard to resist the temptation to visit another part of Europe for €20-€30 Euros, and I’ve taken advantage of it a few times, often with just a carry-on bag.

Prevalence of Trains

For whatever reason train travel isn’t very popular in North America. In fact, other than a few distinct routes along the rocky mountains and to and from Seattle, I don’t know of many passenger routes in Canada – I’m sure they exist, but they certainly aren’t popular. Here in Europe train travel is extremely prevalent, and in many cases the preferred means of travel.

Madrid is about 360km away from Valencia, but thanks to the high speed Ave train that travels at up to 300km/hr, is only takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. It’s not a super cheap route (about $50 CAD each way), but there’s something to be said for just walking on and off the train without a whole pile of security, and also being able to watch the world casually float by from a window seat.

Whenever I have the chance to visit someone by train here in Spain, I usually jump at it. Usually there is a bar car at the back of the train with drinks and food, Wi-Fi available, and often a table in front of my chair that I can set my laptop on. So I can easily get in a full work day while chatting it up with various other passengers along the way. It’s a very enjoyable experience that I wish we had more of back in Canada.

Ease of Banking

One thing Europeans have figured out is their banking system. After using the banking applications here and also moving money to and from Canada for the last ten months, I can say with certainly just how behind we are on most things in the banking world. While we applaud ourselves in Canada for being able to send a $3,000 transfer using an email address (Interact e-Transfer), I can send money to anyone in the European union, usually instantaneously, using their IBAN number. Sure, it’s a 16-20 digit number which is a bit of a pain to type in, but thanks to internal error checking within the algorithm it’s essentially impossible to make a mistake when typing it. That means once it’s typed in, and accepted, you can be sure it’s valid since there are various check-digits along the way.

For example, to pay the €5,000 Euro deposit on the flat I am going to buy, I simply punched in the seller’s IBAN number into my BBVA (Spanish Bank) application, clicked “Send”, typed in €5,000 for the amount, and boom, it was there pretty much instantaneously. And of course you get detailed receipts of any transaction you do, so you can easily prove receipt of funds for legal purposes and more.

Quality of Life

This isn’t a European benefit per se, but the quality of life I enjoy in Spain is pretty fantastic. First, there are roughly 300 days of sunshine every year in my area (not to be confused with Vancouver’s “300+ days of sunshine per year”, where they count each time the sun peaks out from a cloud for 30 seconds a day to get counted). A day of sunshine here is basically a full day of sunshine, so imagine 300 or more days without any clouds or rain.

In fact when I first arrived it seemed strange to me to go for so long without seeing any rain. It’s amazing how much better your mood and well-being is when the weather is almost always nice.

I also had to make use of the medical system here in Spain a few months ago, and it was a great experience. Of course I have private insurance, and many locals just have public insurance, so my experience likely isn’t the norm. But I was able to get diagnosed by a specialist, complete an MRI on my knee, and have the results back, all within about two weeks. In Canada that would take 3 – 6 months at the minimum, and you’d likely have to fight your doctor along the way just to get you in front of a specialist. I can actually book an appointment myself directly with a specialist here as well – no need to waste my general practitioner’s time if I know exactly who the best person is to deal with the issue is.

In Short

So as I sit here in the Valencia airport getting ready to board a flight to Germany (which is essentially a domestic flight since I’m traveling to and from the EU), I can’t help but feel a bit privileged to have spent most of the last ten months living and enjoying Europe. As my cottage back home is rented until at least January at this point, I’ll likely continue staying here for the foreseeable future, and likely will be spending the next few months renovating a flat in Valencia.

But without a doubt I’ve definitely enjoyed my time here, and encourage other people looking to try living in Spain or Europe to jump at the chance.

© 2020 Tapas Forever