Here’s a step-by-step how to guide on doing Norbert Gambit for Questrade… and how to Convert CAD to USD in Questrade for $6 instead of paying the hidden Questrade currency conversion fee. In this post, I’ll go over who Norbert is, what Norbert’s Gambit is, and give you a step-by-step guide on how to do the Norbert’s Gambit in your Questrade brokerage.
This is so that when you convert Canadian dollars to US Dollars, it will save you the foreign exchange fee that is hidden when you convert your Canadian to US Dollars (and vice versa).
This guide will be useful if you’re planning on buying US listed ETFs or stocks, like for example, VTI in Canada.
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Questrade Currency Conversion Fee
What’s the Questrade exchange rate to convert CAD to USD?
How much do these hidden currency charges with Questrade cost? Well, these hidden Questrade currency conversion fees are about 1.5-2% for each conversion with Questrade.
In 2021 however, Questrade reduced their foreign exchange rate to 1.45%.
I contacted Questrade to inquire, and Questrade confirmed with me that they use the end of day market rates with a spread of 1.99%.
So, if you are converting $2000 CAD to US Dollars, the 1.45% currency conversion fee equates to about $29.
So with a 1.25 exchange rate, that $2000 not only becomes $1600, it will actually be $1571 (or something like that).
With Norbert’s Gambit however, the fee amounts to about 0.2% or less.
The currency exchange fees and costs can add up to a lot, even if you are DIY investing.
I’ve been converting some of my Canadian dollars in my investing account to US Dollars so that I have some money ready to buy US dollar equities when the next recession or correction hits.
It also never hurts to have US Dollars in an account ready especially if you are planning to go south of the border to travel when things open up.
Last Updated May 2023.
With the strategy of Norbert’s Gambit, you can avoid that hidden Questrade currency conversion fee and save on purchasing US dollars.
Here’s how exchanging $2000 CAD to US dollars cost me around $6. It takes a bit of time but if you are exchanging a large amount it is definitely worth it compared to paying for the Questrade currency conversion fee.
It seems sneaky and you may wondering whether Norbert’s Gambit is legal. Yes it is perfectly fine to do and doing Norbert’s Gambit is worth it.
Who is Norbert?
Norbert’s Gambit was developed by Norbert Schlenker, a fee for service financial planner in 2001 of Libra Investment Management, according to Finiki.
He lives on Salt Spring Island (one of the Gulf Islands in Vancouver), who knew someone so influential to many investors in Canada could be living on a small remote-ish island near Vancouver?
What is Norbert’s Gambit
I know, it really seems that Norbert’s Gambit sounds very fancy and complicated, but it’s not really. It just takes some time and contact with your discount brokerage (in this case for me, Questrade).
Basically, Norbert’s Gambit boils down to buying a Canadian listed ETF and then calling the discount brokerage to convert it to a US dollar ETF and then selling it to cash out your prized US dollars.
You can also do it the other way around, by calling the discount brokerage to convert your US dollar ETF to a Canadian listed ETF and selling it to cash out Canadian dollars.
What is the Canadian listed ETF and the US Dollar ETF in question?
The Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) involved is called:
Horizons U.S. Dollar Currency ETF
DLR.TO (on TSX) and DLR.U (on TSX, in US Dollars)
Still think it sounds complicated? It’s not really.
Here’s the step-by-step guide on how to complete Norbert Gambit for Questrade.
How to Fund your Questrade Account with US Dollars
If you’re lucky enough to have US dollars available (let’s say you earn US dollars directly even though you live in Canada), you can fund it directly from a US dollar bank account.
If you get paid via Paypal, there are a select number of Canadian based US dollar accounts that accept US dollars.
For example, I use the Royal Bank US Dollar Account and just set up the transfers as a pre-authorized deposit in Questrade.
Alternatively, you can exchange your Canadian dollars for US dollars by journaling over shares using Norbert’s Gambit.
How to do Norbert’s Gambit on Questrade To Avoid the Questrade Currency Fee
Let’s say you want to exchange $1000 Canadian dollars to US dollars and the exchange rate is around 1.21 Canadian dollars to buy $1 US dollar.
Click on Questrade’s ‘order entry’ and enter DLR.TO
Let’s say current DLR.TO ask price is $12.04
$1000/12.04= 83 shares
Questrade charges ECN fees, for 83 shares it is $0.2905 CAD. Of course, they may be higher if you are ordering a larger amount of DLR (for example, if you are trading $10,000 it will cost you $5 for the ECN fees even though the commission for buying the actual ETF is $0. In June 2021, I recently traded $39,000 CAD and the fees were around $11.
There is ZERO Commission to PURCHASE ETFs in Questrade
Wait for the trade to settle, which can take up to 2 business days but for me I saw the DLR.TO in my account right away
Once you see the DLR.TO in your account, contact Questrade (you can ‘instant chat’ or email them if you don’t want to call them and wait 45 minutes to speak to someone — I’m kidding).
Ask them to convert or journal over the DLR.TO in your account to DLR.U (US dollars) (let’s say the DLR.U bid price is $9.93)
This process can take up to 5 business days to journal over your DLR.TO to DLR.U
Once you see DLR.U in your account, place an order to sell the number of shares, which will cost ECN fees + Questrade’s selling fee, which is roughly $5.55 USD
Voila, then you will have US dollar cash in your account and you will have $818.64 US dollars.
Using Norbert’s Gambit, you will save $6.71 compared to exchanging it through the discount brokerage.
Of course, the more Canadian dollars you exchange, the more you save since the commission fee is a flat fee. So if you exchanged $10,000 Canadian dollars through Norbert’s Gambit, you will save $130+ compared to exchanging it with the brokerage at the aforementioned exchange rate.
Yes it is as easy as this, contacting Questrade chat to journal over the shares.
Excuse the typo of DLR.UN! The only problem with doing it on my phone was the chat box kept crashing and when I refreshed I had to speak to a different agent.
I would recommend you do the chat request to journal over the shares on your computer.
That’s it, that’s how you can avoid the Questrade currency conversion fee.
Pros and Cons to Questrade Norbert Gambit
The positive part about using Norbert’s Gambit to exchange the currency from USD to Canadian dollars is that it doesn’t cost very much since ETFs are FREE to purchase with Questrade, but you do have to pay a commission when you sell.
The negative part about journaling over your shares using DLR.TO to DLR.U is that the ETF is very thinly traded.
There isn’t very much volume and there can be settlement delay (T+2 days to settle).
It can take a while to reach the target price and a get a buyer for your shares that you want so that you don’t lose more money with the exchange rate changing around (exchange rate risk).
You can do Norbert’s Gambit with any stock that is cross listed on both the TSX and the NYSE, actually.
Alternatively, you can journal over something that has much higher volume and much more traded, for example, you can journal over TD.TO (Ticker symbol TD.TO traded on the TSX) to TD (Ticker Symbol TD on NYSE). This has a much higher volume but you would have to pay commission to buy and sell both of these (ETFs are free to purchase but individual stocks are not, they are at least $4.95 per trade).
Journal requests are free with Questrade and all it takes is to open up a chat request.
TD bank is just an example of a stock that you can journal over, this is not investment advice. You could do the same with many other equities that are traded on both markets.
Here’s a how-to guide from Questrade on how to journal shares over.
Personally I would just stick with the DLR and DLR.U because I don’t want to get involved with paying capital gains taxes if I’m selling something like TD in US dollars just to get US dollars to buy something else, do you get what I mean?
Double Checking the Numbers
- You can double check the exact amounts to buy/sell with this handy website called Norberts Gambit (I’m not sure who created it but it’s super handy!).
- It calculates the values for you and helps you convert Canadian to US dollars and vice versa, from US dollars to Canadian dollars.
- You can also see how much you will save using Norbert’s Gambit on the foreign exchange transaction fees.
- It even shows you the current bid and ask price of DLR.
Here’s an example of exchanging $10,000 cash to US dollars, this will net $7716. Note the $0 for the buy commission since DLR is an ETF and in Questrade you don’t have to pay fees to buy ETF (except for the ECN commissions, it can be about under $0.50 or so). Note that I will save $128!
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MY Experience with Norberts Gambit Questrade
I just tried doing Norbert Gambit for Questrade recently and it worked seamlessly!
It was easy to do and contacting customer service through Questrade via the chat option was also very straightforward, however it took about a week for me to see my US dollars in the account.
Yes, I was anxiously checking every day.
I used the chat option with Questrade as I don’t like talking to people on the phone if I can help it.
Questrade must journal over the DLR to DLR.U fairly often because they really knew what they were doing! It took a bit of time for the whole process to be completed, but it eventually completed within one week even with my obsessive compulsive checking to see if my US dollars were in my account.
In addition to saving money on the Questrade currency conversion fee, another way to be efficient and save money on your Questrade portfolio, Passiv is a great way to automate the rebalancing process especially for ETFs (e.g. so you can skip on robo advisor fees).
Questrade users can get the Passiv Elite membership for free. Here’s my Passiv review.
As of June 2021, EQ Bank has new EQ Bank US Dollar Account with a high interest rate of 3.00% and zero monthly fees and CDIC protection. This rate was recently increased in May 2023.
t would be a good place to stash your US cash. Here’s more information from my EQ Bank review.
If you’d like a free dividend income tracker spreadsheet download (you know, to keep track of all your US dollar dividend income you’ll be getting once you buy US dividend-paying blue chips with these prized US dollars you just converted), click here!
If you’d like to see a glimpse of what it looks like, you’re welcome to check out my dividend income updates.
You may also be interested in:
- How to Use a Dividend Yield Spreadsheet
- How are Dividends Taxed in Canada?
- The 5 Best Dividend Stocks in Canada to Buy and Hold
- How to Invest your TFSA with Questrade
- How to Transfer TD e-Serises to Questrade
- Scotia iTrade vs Questrade
If you’d like a Questrade account (no commissions to buy Exchange Traded Funds and around $4.95 to sell Exchange Traded Funds) sign up and you can get $50 in free trades. I’ve been using Questrade for over 10 years and have loved the low commissions and free ETF purchases.
If you’re interested in tracking your US dividends and (also Canadian dividends) and tracking your portfolio performance, Wealthica is the best net worth and investment tracker out there– best of all it’s free. Here’s my review of Wealthica.
Also, if you are interested in saving money on commission, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up a Questrade Drip. It is a synthetic drip but at least you can get your USD equities working harder for you when you get paid out a dividend!
If you are a dividend investor, here are five books that will continue to inspire you with regards to dividend investing.
Readers, have you tried Norbert Gambit for Questrade?
I wonder what he’s up to now and if he’s enjoying all the cheaply converted US dollars that he came up with!
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GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.