RBC cross border banking in Canada: a complete guide

Fernando Figueiredo

RBC cross-border banking services are specifically designed for Canadians who spend their time and money in the USA. There’s a chance that RBC’s US branch, RBC Bank, could make the whole process of juggling your finances between Canada and the US a lot easier.

But how does it work? And what are the alternatives? In this guide, you’ll find out. You’ll also read about Wise and its low-cost and convenient option when it comes to managing your money in different currencies.

Wise: Save on currency exchange fees

What is RBC cross-border banking?

RBC offers what it calls a “bundle” of products to Canadians with ties across the border in the USA. The aim is to make life easier for anyone from Canada who spends serious time over there – whether they’re a snowbird – switching between the US and Canada as the seasons change –, a longer-term expat, or simply a frequent visitor.

What is RBC Bank U.S.?

This isn’t quite the easy question it looks like.

RBC, also known as RBC Royal Bank, refers to the major Canadian bank.¹ However, RBC Bank is a US outfit that’s specifically set up to help Canadians with their US banking needs. Its website is very clear about this: “It’s all we do,” it says.²

As you’d expect, there are connections between the two RBCs that could make cross-border banking less of a headache.

RBC Cross-Border Banking Bundle

As you’ll see, RBC Bank offers several products that could help you out as a Canadian in the US. But the main thing is the Cross-Border Banking Bundle, and that offers two options: a checking account, and a credit card.³

RBC Bank Direct Checking account

What is it?
First off, RBC Bank offers a Direct Checking account that’ll let you bank across the whole of the US, but doesn’t require you to have a US address.³

The first year, there’s no annual fee, but after that it’ll cost USD 3.95 monthly or USD 39.50 yearly, or more if you want paper statements. You get 10 debits each month for free, after which they cost USD 1 each.³ ⁴

International transfer
As many bank transfers as you want between RBC accounts in Canada and the US. Up to USD 25,000, there’s no fee.³ ⁴ The exchange rate is unlikely to be the best available, though, because – as we’ll explain later – Premium customers get a preferred rate.⁶

Cash withdrawals
Withdrawing money is free at a wide range of ATMs, which you can check with the RBC ATM locator.³ ⁴ The Direct Checking account comes with a Visa Debit card.⁴

RBC Bank Visa Signature Black

Alongside the checking account is RBC Bank’s Visa Signature Black. This is a no-annual-fee credit card, and you don’t need to have any US credit history to apply for it, as RBC will use your Canadian credit history instead.³ ⁵

You get points, too: 1 per dollar, which you can redeem via RBC Rewards for either travel or cash back. There’s travel and purchase insurance on offer, too, as well as a few travel bonuses, like a concierge service.³ ⁵

Other perks

RBC Bank also has a partnership with MyUS.com through which you can save on shipping costs to get stuff sent to Canada. You waive your first year membership and setup fees too.³

Meet Wise, and always get the mid-market rate in cross-border transactions.

Before moving on to other products offered by RBC cross border banking, a word. Wise might be just the solution you’re looking for, as it saves you money by applying the mid-market exchange rate whenever you convert money.

Send, receive or spend in different currencies - there’s only a minimum conversion fee, and no hidden foreign exchange rates. With Wise, you’ll get the exchange rate you see on Google.

There are no costs to open and maintain a Wise account, no minimum balances, and you can open your account online and in minutes - you just need a laptop, or a smartphone to download the app. Whether you’re in the U.S., Canada, or one of many other countries, all it takes is a few minutes until you can start using your account.

What you can do with Wise:

  • Low-cost international transfers: you can make international transfers between more than 40 currencies, always with the mid-market rate. There’s no hidden mark-ups or wire fees to send your money. You just pay a small transparent fee to send your money.
  • Spend abroad without hidden fees: you don’t have to, but you can also order your card (and you can receive it in the US or in Canada). There’s no maintenance fee either, and you can use it to pay and withdraw in 200 countries.
  • Receive payments like a local in 10 currencies: you’ll have banking details in many currencies, meaning that you can receive in USD, CAD, EUR, and many other currencies, just like if you had a local bank account. Say bye to fees when you receive in different currencies, and have them ready to spend when you want.
  • Convert and hold 40+ currencies: It’s free to hold the money in multiple currencies, and - again - Wise uses the real exchange rate to convert.

Get a Wise account online

What else does RBC Bank have for Canadians in the US?

The above is the basic bundle package, but there’s a lot more you can get, if you want it and qualify. Here are some of the additional products available from RBC for Canadians in the US.

RBC Bank Premium Checking

If you upgrade the Direct Checking account to Premium, you’ll get unlimited transactions for free and a better exchange rate than otherwise.⁶

It costs USD 99.50 yearly or USD 9.95 monthly.⁶ But if you’re transferring large amounts, a preferential exchange rate could make a big difference.

RBC Bank Visa Signature Black Plus

There’s an upgraded credit card, too. This one gives you 1.5 points per dollar at RBC Rewards, or 1.25% cash back if you prefer. It costs USD 75 per year.⁷

Mortgages and advice

Again, RBC Bank’s specific focus on Canadians in the US could prove highly useful if you’re looking to buy property over there. They have advisors who are versed in the finer details of cross-border property deals, and they also offer mortgages, refinancing, and so on.⁸

US home equity

If you already own a home in the US, it might be possible to capitalize on its equity, either through refinancing or opening up a line of credit.⁹

Making a major financial move like this can be particularly worrisome when multiple countries are involved, so having some cross-border specialists on call could be a useful thing.


RBC Bank offers loans, and – like with the credit card application – they use your Canadian credit history to review your application.

As well as home equity credit, you could qualify for an unsecured personal line of credit, borrowing USD 3,500 or more.¹⁰

RBC cross-border banking pros and cons


The major Canadian banks all offer cross-border solutions for people in the US, but RBC’s is still unusual. Its US arm, RBC Bank, focuses exclusively on Canadians in the US, not on US citizens – whether full-on Canadian expats, Canadians dividing their time between the two countries either seasonally or for work, or simply frequent travellers.

What’s more, the range of products available means that you’ve got a choice: either the basic or the premium options might appeal. And the advice on offer is likely to be well targeted to people in situations much like yours.


There are potential downsides, though. Because RBC Bank – the US one – is solely focused on Canadians in the US, it doesn’t offer the same vast range of products as a typical US bank. So if you want a higher-end option, or just something that’ll cater for a more specific set of needs in the US, you might find it’s not available here.

Although RBC’s products could end up saving you money if you’ll be transferring a lot between the two countries, having the wrong credit card or chequing account could mean either missing out on potential savings, or even costing you money.

There’s also the question of the exchange rate. Although the Direct Checking account doesn’t charge a specific transfer fee between the US and Canada, it does charge an exchange rate that is presumably marked up, because Premium Checking customers get a preferred rate. If you are going to be making a lot of these transfers, it could be worth looking into the specific question of the cheapest way to make those payments.

Want to avoid high mark-ups on the exchange rate? Open a Wise account. With it, you can send, receive and spend. Every time you need to convert money, you get the mid-market rate.

Alternatives to RBC cross-border banking

CIBC, BMO, and TD all offer cross-border banking packages along similar lines: TD cross-border banking, for instance, has a range of options available, some from its Canadian arm, some from its US one.

But there are likely to be many other potential solutions, depending on your circumstances. If you’ve more or less settled in the US, simply looking for a standard US bank might be the most sensible way forward, and then potentially transferring money using a cheap third party.

Or, if one of your feet is more firmly still in Canada, a Canadian travel credit card could be the way to go, especially if it has no FX fees.

For more occasional trips to the US, a prepaid card could be another good option: you can just keep it topped up with enough USD each time you travel there and avoid the hassle of getting a whole new bank account or credit card.The CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa is one possibility there, which has a few other currencies thrown in too.

All of that said, there’s a lot to be said for RBC’s cross-border banking package, especially thanks to its dedication to the cause of Canadians in the US.

Open a Wise account and start saving


  1. RBC Royal Bank
  2. RBC Bank: Why RBC Bank U.S.?
  3. RBC Royal Bank: Key Benefits for Canadians Banking in the U.S.
  4. RBC Bank: Direct Checking
  5. RBC Bank: Visa Signature Black
  6. RBC Bank: Premium Checking
  7. RBC Bank: Visa Signature Black Plus
  8. RBC Bank: U.S. Mortgage Options and Advice for Canadians
  9. RBC Bank: U.S. Home Equity Solutions for Canadians
  10. RBC Bank: U.S. Loans for Canadians

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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