So, it has been a frustrating day in the financial world for me. It started with me trying to get a credit card in Canada and ending with me trying to pay a credit card bill in the US.
In Canada, you have to make an appointment to talk with one of the bank employees who is not just a teller at the counter, whereas in the US you can usually just walk in and wait until one becomes available. This past Friday I was trying to pay my cell phone bill through Telus online but realized that I wasn’t going to be able to because it had to be paid with a credit card that had the same billing address as the billing address on your Telus account. All of my US credit cards have my parents’ home address on them (where I was living for eight months before I came up here). So unfortunately, paying online was not an option. I went into the Telus store to pay in person and while they were very nice, I was told that they still can only accept credit cards as payment. I waited for a bit while they tried to get my US credit card set up on my account but as we were on hold with the Telus headquarters, the woman who was helping me told me that I could just have the bank pay my bill for me if I gave the bank my Telus account number. My US credit cards charge an international service fee if I use them here so this turned out to be a better option for me anyway. So I went to the bank, got that set up to be paid, and in the meantime got a roll of quarters so I could do laundry – did I mention how much I hate coin operated laundry? While I was there I also tried to see if I could set up an appointment for that day or the next to talk to someone about getting a credit card. There were no appointments available for either of those days so the earliest day I could get an appointment based on my work/school schedule was today.
I went in for my appointment this morning with all my documentation, only to be told that the only credit card they can offer international students (even if they are graduate students being paid a stipend) is a “secured” card. This means that if you want, for example, a $500 credit limit, you need to have $500 put aside in your savings account to keep on hold. Additionally I was told that even if I get my social insurance number (Canada’s version of a social security number), it is likely to begin with a “9” vs. a “1”, so then I am still designated as a foreigner and still am only eligible for the secured credit card. While I understand why they don’t want to offer me credit as a student with no credit history in Canada, it does seem a little strange since I have credit in the US and my TD accounts in Canada and the US are linked. I would think that for US-Canada foreigners it would be a little easier to check credit history from the country of origin. In fact, Telus looked up my credit history using my US SSN to approve me for my account through them and I was able to walk out of the store with a working phone that I didn’t have to pay for until the end of the month. Being that I just moved here and have had to pay a lot of moving costs, buy a new bed, etc., I am not exactly “rolling in the dough,” so to speak and do not have the money to put on hold in my savings account. Thus, no Canadian credit card for me yet. Why they couldn’t have just told me this when I explained why I wanted to make the appointment on Friday rather than having me come in again for an appointment on another day – I am not sure…very frustrating.
And….it gets better. This afternoon I wanted to pay my US credit card bill. I had been using it in January because again, I had moving costs, and did not get paid by Dalhousie until the end of the month (which is another story involving an “emergency check” because someone or someones forgot to tell me that the payroll office needed a copy of my student visa in order for me to get paid). Anyway, my US account only has a few hundred dollars in it and I wanted to make sure I didn’t get charged the “monthly service fees” for going below the minimum required balance so I thought I might be able to convert my convenience checking and savings accounts to student accounts to avoid fees for having a low balance after paying my credit card bill. Again, why they think charging service fees to people who have low balances (and obviously no money) is a good idea, I am not sure. That is sort of like saying people with low income should be charged higher taxes than those with high incomes. But back to the story…I was on hold with the automated TD phone system in the US when I read the fine print saying that you can no longer have a student account with them if you are over 24 years old. GREAAAAT! In Canada they don’t care how old you are – if you are a student then you are a student and you can have a student account. But in the US you need to keep a minimum of $100 in your checking account and $250 in your savings account. I was able to make a wire transfer from my account here in Canada to the US to pay my credit card bill but because of the fact the exchange rate switched (I have used all my US money to buy things in expensive Canadian dollars when I arrived and now need to use my Canadian money to buy things in expensive US dollars, of course that’s the case), I ended up having to pay about $30 more in Canadian dollars to get the amount I needed in US dollars to pay my bill. This leaves me with just over $100 in my Canadian account to last until the 27th when I get paid again. At least February is a short month. Also I luckily stocked up on frozen vegetables on one of my last trips to Sobey’s for groceries so scurvy is not too much of a threat.