Travelling south for the winter months is a dream come true for many of us northerners. To be able to escape the harsh winter storms is truly a blessing. Going south for the winter may not be for everyone but for those of us who live for warm and sunny days, it just lifts our spirits to no end. To be able to say, “it’s just another glorious day in paradise” is truly an amazing feeling. When you meet others on the street during your warm morning walks, you just can’t wipe the smile off their faces. If you can manage it, I seriously recommend it!
I have been spending our winter months in Florida for the past 6 years and I have a few hints and tips to pass along to anyone else who is thinking about making the trip south for an extended period of time. The obvious thing, you most likely already know is, as a non-American, you need a valid passport and in some cases a specific travel visa. As a Canadian, I would pass along these tips:
- You should set up a US bank account at your Canadian bank branch. You can then obtain a US Credit Card with your local Canadian bank e.g. Visa or MasterCard. This will allow you to purchase goods in the USA with your US credit card without any problems. Then you can simply pay off your US credit card balance online through your bank with your US bank account. This avoids taking out cash and paying ATM fees. Not to mention paying for increased exchange rates when compared to converting Canadian funds to American funds online.
- Having a US bank account in Canada also allows you to pay off US based credit card company balances with a check. For example, large retailers in the US offer better discounts for purchases made with their own credit cards. Retailers like Kohls often offer 15%-30% discounts if you use their Kohls credit card. Why not secure a Kohls credit card, use it when discounts are being offered and then pay off the Kohls credit card balance before the due date with a check from your Canadian based US checking account. Please note it takes at least 2-3 weeks for the check to clear in your bank account.
- You should always purchase Travel/Medical insurance as our Canadian Health Insurance plan will not cover the massive costs of health care in the USA.
- You should also be aware if you have an automobile accident in a parking lot, Florida laws are that each individual is responsible to pay 50% of the overall damages. It doesn’t seem fair when someone else is totally at fault and damages their vehicle and you don’t have any damage. It certainly makes you appreciate no-fault insurance a little more.
- If you would like to rent a DVD at a Redbox vending machine, they require a US Zipcode. To get around this, you can set up your account online with Redbox and simply enter a 99999 code for your Zipcode and this will pass the test with your Canadian based US credit card.
- Another trick I learned is how to get around the Zipcode request when paying for gas at the pump, with your Canadian bank US Credit Card. How annoying is that when you have to go inside with your credit card while you pump your gas outside? Well, thankfully both Master Card and Visa have now fixed this. All you need to do is enter, at the gas pump, the numerical digits from your Canadian Postal Code and add 2 zeroes at the end. For example, if your Canadian Postal Code was N2P 4S6, then the Zipcode to enter would be 24600. Please note that some gas stations have totally disabled this capability for international credit cards, so you would need to go inside to prepay for your gas.
- If you are into retirement magazines, like www.goodtimes.ca, there is an excellent article in the Nov 2014 issue which talks at length about the “New Rules for Snowbirds” and how much time Canadians can spend in the USA.
These are just a few hints and tips I have learned and I am sure you might have even more to share. Please do so and share them as comments to this post.