This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series How To Get US Credit Cards

So you’ve passed through the gauntlet and have your first US credit card.  Congratulations!  Now you face another challenge, meeting your minimum spend requirements in order to get your sign-up bonus.  Luckily the American Express Premium Reward Gold Card that I recommended earlier does not have any foreign currency charges so you basically pay the average daily rate for USD–>CAD.  And once you meet the minimum spend of $2,000 in the first 3 months, you would receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points!

I have no doubt if you’ve gotten this far, you should have no problems meeting the spend requirements but once you do, how do you get USD to make your payment?  Or more specifically, how do you get USD without breaking the bank?  Well, that’s what we’ll discuss today.

PointsNerd’s Method

When I first got my US cards I did a lot of research on how to best exchange Canadian dollars to US dollars in order to make my credit card payments.  There were a lot of options out there but most had high fees, making it fairly unattractive.  Bank rates were usually preposterous as well as they included a hidden 2.5% uplift on the daily foreign currency exchange rates.  What was sneaky about this was that they wouldn’t tell that you were paying a premium.  If Google told you the CAD-USD exchange rate was 0.8, you would get something like 0.78 from the bank and that rate gets passed onto you as if it is the daily exchange rate.   Unless you were paying attention, you wouldn’t even know.

The one very fair way to do the FX I have found was through a company called TransferWise.   Now I’m sure there are others but this is a method I have used successfully and I have 100% trust in the company.

What Is TransferWise?

TransferWise is a foreign currency exchange that has transparent pricing for their exchanges.  You don’t have to be a math wiz to reverse engineer your actual cost for the exchanges, as is the case with the banks.  I have found the fees to be incredibly reasonable and the process is dead simple.  Below is a quick video from TransferWise that gives you a better understanding of what they do:

What Are The Fees?

Pricing is dependent on the amount transferred but it’s roughly 1% with a minimum fee of $3.00.  The more you transfer, the lower the rate becomes but it’s not substantial until you get into the 6 figure transfers.  The easiest rule of thumb is that you get the market rate and the fee will be 1%.

Here’s an example.  Say you want to transfer $1,000 CAD.  The first thing they do for the calculations is take their fee (of roughly 1%) and then exchange the amount left over at the market rate.

Seems reasonable.  But let’s make sure via Google, which has the exchange rate of the day.

What the what????  TransferWise is actually providing a better rate than what Google shows.  How this is likely because TransferWise has yesterday’s mid-market rate whereas Google has the current exchange but as you can see from the above example, you are getting the actual exchange, not some marketed up hidden rate.

What’s the Process to Transfer CAD-USD?

It’s actually pretty simple.  When you create a TransferWise account, you will need to confirm your identity, address, and banking information but the process is pretty straightforward and easy.  This is a necessary step because monetary transactions are met with a lot of scrutiny.  Once everything is confirmed here’s what you do to complete your transfer.

First, you decide how much you want to transfer.  

Then you need to decide where to send the money.  Typically this would be to yourself.  Don’t worry about Step 2 from the image … that’s just to verify that you are sending the money.

Then you review your transfer one last time.

Now for the very cool part … at least I find it cool.  The actual transfer.

As you can see, you can choose to do a Direct Debit from your chequing account, a wire transfer, a Visa or Mastercard Debit card payment or a Visa or Mastercard credit card payment.  The debit/credit card payment methods have fees associated with them but if you are willing to pay it, it’s not a bad option.

I use the Direct Debit option because there are no fees.  If you choose this method, you actually log into your bank account and authorize the Direct Debit and the money is immediately taken from your bank account.

It should be noted that even though the money is taken right away from your chequing account, TransferWise doesn’t receive it for a few days after that.  Once the funds are received, the money is exchanged (at the rate that you had when you initiated the transfer) and is deposited into your US account.

My Latest Transfer

In my latest TransferWise transfer, I sent $6,200 CAD to make payment against my new US American Express Platinum Business Card.  The minimum spend on this card is $10,000 USD in the first 3 months so I’ve been concentrating all my spend on this card.  I wouldn’t recommend this card as your first US card but as a second or third, it’s a great option.

Onto the transfer!

I made the request on July 4th with TransferWise.

The funds were withdrawn from my Canadian chequing account on the same day.

And received in my US chequing account two days later.

As you can see, the process is very straightforward and fast.  What I love about the whole process is the transparency … something you don’t get with banks.

Sign Up Bonus

If you sign up for TransferWise and use my referral link, you will receive a £500 (~$815 CAD /  ~$650 USD) transfer fee free!  If you get the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold, that means that of the $2,000 minimum spend required to get your sign-up bonus, you would only pay TransferWise fees on $1,350 USD ($2,000 USD – $650 USD)!

To sign up for TransferWise, you can use the URL below:

Up Next

I don’t think there will be a follow-up part to this series unless you have additional questions that warrant another post.  If the questions are specific to an area of the series, feel free to leave a comment in that series post.  I do my best to respond to every comment.  I hope you enjoyed this series because it took a lot of trial and error for me to figure this out on my own.  Hopefully, it makes the path for you easier.






Series Navigation<< How To Get US Credit Cards – Part 6 – Getting Your First Card
Jayce is the founder of PointsNerd, and avid traveller and a teacher by nature. He prides himself on flattening the learning curve through step-by-step guides because everyone needs to start somewhere.


  1. Can you provide some steps or comments around how to handle US tax returns? Which sections do you fill out when filing so that you can maintain your ITIN beyond the initial 5 years? Thanks in advance.

    • No. Sorry. I cannot. It’s not an area I have any experience in. I would suggest you consult a US tax expert. Cheers


  2. What do you recommend for checking your credit score? I know Amex provides your FICO score, but what about Experian?

    Also, what’s your experience applying for US credit cards outside of Amex? How long did you wait to build up your credit history before applying for these? I find I am having difficulty getting approved for BoA cards.

    • Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your question.

      For my credit score, I use the FICO score provided by AMEX on my dashboard which is from Experian. I also use as my secondary source of my credit score. also uses Experian but uses a different scoring system. A word of warning though … it does take up to 4 months of billing before either method allows you to pull up your score. The reason there is because you need some time to build enough history to have a credit score generated.

      As far as applying for cards outside of AMEX, I am focusing my strategy around Chase cards and as such, I don’t want to jeopardize my 5/24 status by applying and being approved for other cards. I have read that getting a Chase card can sometimes take up to a year of credit history before getting approved, while other have reported success after 6 months. I am currently at about 7 months and I’m in no hurry to get additional cards so I will likely be waiting till about the 1 year point to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Sapphire Preferred.

      Hope that helps.


      • This has been an amazing adventure – and thank you for being so generous in sharing it! I just read that they’re only letting people have one of the Sapphire card from now on – but the Chase Ink Card is looking good to me, and maybe there will be even better options soon enough. Keep going the way you are and I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up with a Centurion Black Card yet. <3

  3. Thoughts on the RBC Signature Black Visa to build a US credit history? It’s another one where RBC will use your Canadian credit history, but its a US card run by RBC Bank in the States, so it reports to US credit bureaus.

    It’s no-fee, so you could keep it beyond the first year (unlike Amex where you’ll have to cancel after the first year to avoid the annual fee), so could help with average age as well.

    • Hey John,

      Thanks for your contribution! Hadn’t heard of that card before but it might be a great option for some. I still like the Amex because if the power of the points but if you’re looking to build pure credit history, this sounds great.


      • I signed up for one of the free American Express cards through Global Transfer… that way I do not have to cancel the card ever, the goal is to keep it long term to keep a strong credit history. The sign-up bonus is only 10000 Delta Skymiles with a small 500$ spend and no annual fee, the point is to keep my oldest card around forever and Delta Skymiles with their current policy never expire

        For my banking and transfer set up here’s how I do it. In Canada, I am banking for free with BMO, TD, and Tangerine. For my USA bank account, I decided to go with TD as it’s the most affordable option when compared to RBC and BMO on the US side of the border. For the basic USA bank account with TD, you just have to keep a minimum 100 USD in the account and it waives all the monthly bank fees. If you want an almost instant but more expensive transfer and have Canadian bank account with TD you can exchange and wire transfer through TD cross-border banking for free from the Canadian dollar TD to your US dollar USA TD account. It’s about 2 – 5% the fee markup when compared to searching on Google.

        If you have more time for a transfer than I also recommend Transferwise as the pretty much free way to transfer. At this time you can pay into your Transferwise account as if you’re paying a bill, I was told that Transferwise banks with BMO in Canada and that it’s the quickest for doing bill pay… the only other bank I know that works with the bill pay to Transferwise is Tangerine, I recall someone mentioning another but it was slower to process. The other Canadian banks as far as I am aware do not currently have Transferwise as a bill pay option. It’s a free transfer but it can take about 2 – 4 business days. Once the money is in the Transferwise account you can wait for a suitable exchange rate and exchange to any of your US$ bank accounts, in my case my TD USA bank account.

    • Thanks for all the info everyone! Very generous of you to share. Will the RBC visa require my ITIN number as well to set up the account or will my canadian credit history be enough for RBC to open this account?

  4. VBCE’s rates are quite a bit better than Transferwise, and they support ACH to US-based accounts and EFT to Canada-based accounts (USD and CAD).

      • Thanks Jayce !

        I’m hoping that I can start something in January with Amex USA..

        Do you know which Amex USA cards won’t count towards Chase 5/24 rule ?

        I usually spend 30-35k a year which I can spend through plastiq …so wondering with which cards I should go to have US File n still able to get SUB and don’t impact my 5/24…

          • So Amex Business Plat… Amex Business SpG .. Amex Business Delta ?

            With Business Plat can you refer Delta or Spg cards or only Gold or Plat ?

          • Tom,

            All those cards are fine to get and not violate 5/24. I don’t think you can refer outside the card like you can in Canada.


    • Hi Tom,

      Just starting to talk about it now but we don’t gave a location or date yet. Keep a watch on the blog as I’ll be sure to announce any news. Cheers


  5. US credit cards using ITIN #: : I just spoke to supervisors in the US for applying for a personal[consumer] credit card at Capital One and Barclays about using an ITIN, if I don’t have a social security number. In both banks, they said that I could not receive a personal credit card, even if I attained all the other criteria. I mentioned that I resided in USA 4 months of year, had US bank account,etc, had a US based AMEX cc, but they said that the ‘Patriot act’ would not allow the bank to issue personal credit cards to anyone who did not have a social security number.
    Outside of AMEX, what other US based banks issue credit cards to persons without a social security number, if they have an ITIN, US address,tel#,US credit history, etc. ??

    • Hi Gordon,

      I don’t have first-hand experience with Capital One or Barclays so I can’t speak to whether or not they would allow for ITIN holders to get the card but I would expect it to be difficult. The fact that they cite the Patriot Act is hilarious to me.

      As far as banks that do allow for ITINs in their applications, I know for a fact that Chase does and that’s the bank that I am targetting as my next card … most likely the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Hope that helps.


    • Hi Andy,

      The 5/24 only applies to Chase Credit Cards. Chase has created a rule that says that if you have been approved for 5 cards within the last 24 months, you will not be eligible for the majority of Chase credit cards. They have put that rule in place to dissuade churners from getting their cards. Hope that helps.


      • How much of a credit history do you need to get a Chase card (the CSR for example)? Is it based on rating alone? Or do they have a minimum credit history duration (e.g. 6 months) too?

  6. Hi Jayce:

    thanks for the in depth review. I am in the process of applying for a us card. Does the bank branch location need to match the home address? (I plan to use TD but my relatives are in CA).

    If you have time, would you consider doing a post on how to use these points (Amex/Chase/Citi) for Canadians?

    • Hi Brian,

      I would provide your US bank the same address as the one you use for your mail forwarding and what you tell AMEX but that’s really to keep things straight. Your address shouldn’t make that much of a difference but to be safe, try to use the same one as everything else.

  7. if you find you’re having trouble spending the amount just buy visa gift cards then pay your cards back. you’ll be out a bit of interest but its worth it for the price of the reward you’ll get in return

  8. Thanks for the treasure trove of info. I was on an allegiant air flight last week and they offered credit card applications to Canadians as long as they had an ITIN number and owned property in the USA. Was quite informative. I am fairly certain Jet Blue and Delta offer them as well

    Thanks again for the fantastic post


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