A guide to foreign currency accounts in BMO Bank of Montreal

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There are plenty of reasons why you may want to open a multi-currency account with a bank. If you're a frequent traveller who's often crossing borders, it's convenient to be able to bank in local currency without needing to open an account in that country. You can also help to keep yourself protected from major changes in exchange rates.

BMO Bank of Montreal foreign currency account basics

Currencies available US dollars only
Free banking Yes, subject to minimum account balance¹
Card BMO Debit Card, Maestro network
Transaction limits Unlimited with BMO, 1 per month using Interac
Overdraft services Yes
Cheque services Write and view images online

A bank will happily sell you foreign currency - but you won't get the best rate for it. And that can really add up. So you’ll always want to consider where to get the best rate from. Banks set their own currency selling rates. The real exchange rate, the one you'll see if you look it up on Google, is often called the mid-market rate. That simply means the mid-point between the rate banks are using to buy a specific currency, and the rate they're using to sell that same currency.
A service more suited for the new global world, like Wise, uses the mid-market rate for all conversions and only passes a fair transparent fee to the users. No monthly fees and no account opening fees either.

BMO Bank of Montreal US dollar account (USD)

BMO Bank of Montreal offers a US dollar chequing account for personal customers who want to manage their transactions in that currency. It's aimed at people who often visit the United States, and offers access to free banking, though a minimum balance is required for this.
To get a US dollar account with BMO, you need to have a plan with them. Every plan has a different range of features included. You’ll find a summary in the account fees section.
The bank also offers a US dollar savings account. This has no minimum savings requirement, and it also pays interest. The trouble is that the interest rate is can be considered quite low. It's only 0.05%. On top of this, you'll need to open a chequing account to get the savings account. This means plan-based fees, that range from $4.00 to $30.00 per month.

As we said above, BMO doesn't have any foreign currency accounts apart from US dollar. That's a shame, but you have other options. We'll cover those in a minute, so keep reading.

Pound sterling account (GBP) with Wise

BMO doesn't offer a pound sterling account to personal customers. However, Wise is there with an alternative. The account is not a bank account, but it just might be an even better option for most people.

Wise was born out of frustration with bank fees and other hidden charges. Banks often claim that their transfers cost you a small fee, but that's not the whole story. Wise takes away these hidden charges, and charges very low fees that aren't hidden in the fine print.

With a Wise pound sterling account, you get a UK account number and a UK sort code. That means you can pay and get paid in pounds, just like a local. International transfer fees go out the window. If you want your money to go into your Canadian account, you can do that too. Wise will let you use the mid-market rate - that's the real one - and withdraw to your Canadian account. You can hold money in over 40 currencies, too. On top of that, coming to Canada soon is a multi-currency pound sterling debit card, to make things even smoother.

You're probably asking where the catch is. There's good news: Wise has very few fees, and is totally open about them. In fact, they're shown in a simple table.

Monthly fees $0 /month No set-up cost for getting started
Adding money $0 /transfer No extra cost for adding new currencies
Receiving fees $0 /transfer You receive the exact amount, that you expect
Free bank details $0 /month GBP,EUR,AUD and USD - with more coming
Converting money Transparent fee of 0.65% - 3% Converted at mid-market rate, no hidden charges
Withdraw to bank Low fixed fee

Euro denominated account (EUR) with Wise

If you're looking for a euro account, have a look at the Wise EUR account for the information you'll need. Opening an account will give you bank account details within the Eurozone and let you use more than 40 currencies. You'll also get the benefit of the true exchange rate. Fees are just the same as those in the table above.

Indian rupee account (INR) multi-currency account

Wise's multi-currency account includes support for the Indian rupee. You won’t have local details, but you can easily convert money to your INR balance from your Canadian one, for instance. And from there pay to an Indian bank account or in the future use the multi-currency debit card - available in Canada from 2019.

BMO Bank of Montreal foreign currency account fees

The bank charges various fees for its account. We'll focus on the US chequing accounts rather than savings ones here. Service charges include:

Bank Plan fee Additional transfers
Varies - see below $5.00

BMO's fee structure means you'll pay different amounts depending on the plan you choose. Here's how the plan fees break down²:

Performance Premium Plus Airmiles Practical
Pricing
$15.95 monthly fee $30.00 monthly fee $10.95 monthly fee $15.95 monthly fee $4.00 monthly fee
$4,000 minimum balance to waive plan fee $6,000 minimum balance to waive plan fee $3,000 minimum balance to waive plan fee N/A $2,000 minimum balance to waive plan fee
Transactions
Unlimited Unlimited 30 per month; $1.25 per for each additional transaction Unlimited 12 per month; $1.25 per for each additional transaction
Number of non-BMO ATM withdrawals included per month
1 10 0 0 0
Monthly Statements
Free eStatement; $2 for paper statement Free eStatement; $2 for paper statement Free eStatement; $2 for paper statement Free eStatement; $2 for paper statement One paper statement included

BMO Bank of Montreal multi-currency account for business

The banks Global Solutions offer allows businesses to:

  • Choose from major currencies including US dollars, pounds sterling, euros, Japanese yen, Hong Kong dollars and others
  • Use wire transfer to send and receive foreign currency payments
  • See updates online on transactions
  • Manage your account with the help of the bank's treasury management team

There are several plans available, and fees vary depending on which you pick. With the basic eBusiness plan, you pay each time you need to do something like deposit items or cash. With the Business Start and Business Builder plans, there's a monthly fee, and the more you pay, the more is included. You get what you pay for!

You still might be paying more in exchange fees than you need, though. For an alternative way to bank, try Wise Business. With no monthly nor opening fees and access to the mid-market rate, they are a worthy contender. Add to that their integration to the Xero accounting software, the option to make bulk payments and access to an open APi and the deal becomes quite sweet!

Foreign currency basics for BMO Bank of Montreal

How much does BMO Bank of Montreal charge my account to receive foreign currency?

BMO Bank of Montreal's Agreements, Bank Plans, and Fees document states that you'll be charged for foreign currency transactions. The rate will be Mastercard International's standard rate at the time of transaction, with a 2.5% extra fee - added for purchases and subtracted for refunds. If you're receiving any currency except US dollars, the bank will make two conversions: first from your original currency into USD, and then from there into CAD. Even if you don't need the money straight away, this will cost you extra, as you're paying for two conversions and not just the one!

Do I need an account in BMO Bank of Montreal for foreign currency exchange?

Yes, you do. According to the bank, you'll need to sign up for BMO Online Banking to order foreign currency.³

Can I deposit or send another currency to my BMO Bank of Montreal account?

Yes, you can, but there's a snag. If you're not using US dollars, amounts will be converted twice - once into US dollars, and then again into Canadian dollars, if you’re sending to your Canadian dollar account.

As a summary - BMO Bank of Montreal offers a US dollar account to its personal customers, plus options in a number of other currencies for business users. These can undoubtedly make things quicker and easier if you do need to do a lot of cross-border banking. Even so, the bank's fees need to be taken into account when judging whether it's right for you. In particular, the rate you're offered when switching currencies won't be the best you could get. With Wise Borderless Balances, you can unlock the real rate and wave goodbye to high bank fees, in countries all around the world. Whichever option is the right one for you - best of luck!


Sources:

  1. https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/bank-accounts/us-prem-chequing (25. November 2018)
  2. https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/bank-accounts/compare-bank-plans/ (25. November 2018)
  3. https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/ways-to-bank/foreign-exchange/ (26. November)

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