Weekend Reading: Low Canadian Dollar Edition

We’re getting ready for our 32-day trip to the Scotland and Ireland this summer and our family could not be more excited about the itinerary we have planned. One thing that does concern me about the trip is the low Canadian dollar. The loonie hit an 11-day low on Friday, sinking to 74.53 cents USD.

We don’t need American dollars for our trip. Scotland takes the British Pound while Ireland is on the Euro. Unfortunately our Canadian dollar does not go very far in either country. We’ll only get 56 cents on the dollar in Scotland, and a slight uptick in Ireland at 66 cents per Canadian dollar.

Luckily our biggest ticket items will be paid up in advance, with our flights paid for courtesy of Aeroplan miles, and our hotels in Dublin and Edinburgh covered through Marriott rewards points. We’ve booked Airbnb’s for our other two major destinations, paying half in advance when we booked last summer and the remaining half due 30 days before arrival.

But let’s be honest: Food, drink, and attractions will make up a huge chunk of our travel budget while we’re abroad. I plan to use the Scotia Passport Visa Infinite whenever possible to take advantage of the card’s no foreign transaction fees (other cards charge 2.5 percent to convert your foreign purchases back to Canadian dollars).

Of course, there are other options to exchange currency when travelling. The first that comes to mind is your local bank, but they typically charge excessive fees on the foreign currency conversion. The spread might be better at a foreign exchange office at the airport or in the tourism district at your destination, but your mileage may vary.

A new option called STACK looks like it could be the ticket to withdrawing cash at ATMs around the world without any fees. STACK is a prepaid MasterCard that you can use world-wide wherever MasterCard is accepted. You can access your cash anywhere without paying ATM withdrawal fees (you may incur a fee from the machine itself), and you won’t pay a transaction fee when making purchases outside of Canada.

Get $20 when you download and activate your STACK card through my referral link <— (note that you’ll need to click the link via your mobile device for it to work, since it’s an app and only available via the App Store and Google Play). Sign up through my link and I’ll get $5 too, which might get me half a pint of Guinness in Dublin 🙂

This Week(s) Recap:

Last week I wrote about CarGurus vs. Unhaggle in a battle of online car buying websites.

And this past Tuesday I opened up the Money Bag to answer reader questions about investing a lump sum and about finding the best credit card for everyday spending.

Thanks so much for sending in your questions for the Money Bag segment. I read every one and promise to get back to you by email or answer the question in a future post.

Weekend Reading:

The federal government put forth its 2019 budget this week and Rob Carrick breaks down the eight ways it will affect your personal finances.

One of those budget items is a proposed shared equity mortgage for first time home buyers in partnership with the government-backed Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Collaborative Fund’s Morgan Housel muses on death, taxes, and a few other life guarantees.

Here are four reasons why you might not get that great mortgage rate you found online:

“Mortgage lenders offer better rates on high-ratio mortgages because of mortgage-default insurance. Lenders know they’re protected if you stop paying your mortgage, and that means they’re more willing to offer a good rate.”

A former industry executive reveals how badly customers are being ripped off on eyewear. The Italian optical behemoth, Luxottica, gobbled up dozens of luxury brands along with store fronts such as LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut. The mark-up for lenses and frames is approaching 1000 percent.

When I shared the article on my Facebook page, a few commenters suggested looking at Clearly.ca and a U.S.-based site called Zenni Optical to save big on eyewear.

Nick Magguilli explains why even the greatest investors are not immune from error.

The Irrelevant Investor Michael Batnick lists the twenty craziest investing facts ever. My favourite:

“Since 1916, the Dow has made new all-time highs less than 5% of all days, but over that time it’s up 25,568%.
95% of the time you’re underwater. The less you look the better off you’ll be.”

The deferred sales charge structure was created to preserve generous commissions for mutual fund sales. Dan Hallett explains why it’s time for DSCs to be banned.

Robo-advisors are catching on with a reported 1 in 3 Canadians who intended to open an RRSP account choosing to “go robo”.

He’s 65, his mortgage is paid off and he has $370,000 in savings, so why is he still worried about money?

Barry Choi has seen a large increase in income over the years, but here he explains why he still embraces frugal living.

Here’s what it costs to live in a retirement home – and the bottom line is less than you might think.

What the heck are ‘liquid alts’ and why are there so many of them, all of a sudden?

My Own Advisor Mark Seed explains just how and why to ditch your expensive mutual funds. I couldn’t agree more. I just finished looking at a client’s portfolio – $650,000 invested in a mishmash of high fee mutual funds and segregated funds costing him $13,000 per year in fees. Yikes!

Finally, Preet Banerjee on the emerging threat to personal finances in a cashless world. Paying with plastic doesn’t feel as painful as cash:

“There are two components to a transaction. Not only do you have the pain of payment, but you also have the pleasure of consumption. The tighter these two components are coupled, the more you feel that pain.”

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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15 Comments

  1. Marcel Coulombe on March 23, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Wait ’till may 22nd to buy your pounds. The pound will plundge due to brexit problems.

    • Robb Engen on March 23, 2019 at 8:16 pm

      Good point! Maybe the timing isn’t so bad, after all…

  2. Marc on March 23, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Re: Passport Visa, if the cards fee is $139 is it fair to say you need to spend C$5500 before the fee is paid, assuming other credit cards charge 2.5%?

    • Robb Engen on March 23, 2019 at 8:19 pm

      Hi Marc, not quite. Don’t forget you’ll receive 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months – equal to $300 in travel. If you factor in that offset, you’re up $161 at the start and then save the 2.5% on every foreign purchase.

  3. littleleftie on March 23, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    The question I have, regarding ditching high-cost mutual funds/advisors’ fees, is how, as a retiree, do I actually DO this? Do I then have to take on the responsibility of arranging my own RIFs? Do I have to arrange all of my portfolio’s new investments? If I haven’t a clue as to how to go about this, am I going to get screwed?

    The idea of saving thousands in fees has appeal, great appeal. But the scariness of being uncertain in which direction I am supposed to turn is making me extremely hesitant.

    Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Robb Engen on March 23, 2019 at 8:22 pm

      Hi littleleftie, I would take a serious look at a robo-advisor such as Nest Wealth. These online services will manage your portfolio so you’re not buying and selling, or rebalancing, your ETFs. They do have a human element if you have questions about your investments. Best of all, you can open an account and initiate a transfer of your existing investments all through Nest Wealth without having an uncomfortable talk with your current advisor: https://www.nestwealth.com/funding/

      • Cheryl on March 23, 2019 at 11:29 pm

        Did a family trip to UK last summer. Highlight in Edinburgh was the Edinburgh Tattoo at the castle. Tickets sometimes hard to get, so become a society member to get member tickets A “must” if your dates line up.

  4. herb kruizenga on March 23, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Been using Stack for the last 7 weeks in Mexico Europe Vietnam and Thailand. Super convenient and working flawlessly.

    • Robb Engen on March 23, 2019 at 8:23 pm

      Herb, this is great to hear – thanks for sharing your experience!

  5. herb kruizenga on March 23, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Also using Brim as my no fee no exchange fee credit card. Also working flawlessly.

  6. Dale Roberts on March 23, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks Robb, your trip is going to be amazing. I went to back to England in 2017 and it was such an incredible trip, I think about it often. I went back to my old neighbourhood almost 50 years later. The rolling hills, farmland for miles. Incredible cycling ending at pubs that are hundreds of years old.

    Scotland and Ireland are on the list. My wife is of Irish descent. I may take my daughter in the Fall as a University grad present.

    As for currency and such, I would imagine you have some US investments that crushed the Euro over the last several years. It certainly just comes down to the currency conversion charges as well, from there. Great tips on the cards and such.

    Many predict a very weak Canadian dollar for a while. That’s why Canadians need to hold US and likely some International investments.

    Great post and thanks for the mention.

    Dale

  7. littleleftie on March 27, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks Robb–I have touched base with the fine gentlemen at Nest Wealth and I thank you so much for the referral.

  8. Carolyn Davey on April 8, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Based on your recommendation, I now use KOHO. Is there any advantage to using Stack?

    • Robb Engen on April 8, 2019 at 8:45 am

      Hi Carolyn, the reason STACK caught my attention is for the no-fee withdrawals from ATMs around the world. Since we’ll be spending a month in Scotland and Ireland I thought I’d give it a try.

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