Canadians are often surprised by how different banking is here in the U.S. Understanding
those differences, and how to manage them, can help make your time in the U.S. stress-free
and enjoyable.

Your U.S. debit card has more advantages. It can be used either with your signature or with your PIN, and it’s accepted worldwide.

No ATM nearby and you need cash? No need to worry. By using your PIN with your debit card, you can get cash back with your purchase at many larger retail merchants, such as grocery stores.Before you pay for your transaction at the store, use your debit card and PIN and select “cash back” on the card terminal. It’s that easy! Some merchants limit the amount of cash you can get at one time, so be sure to ask beforehand.

Post-dated checks are processed when received in the U.S. Typically, post-dated checks are not accepted in the U.S., but if they are, the checks will be processed immediately. As soon as they clear, the amount is deducted from your account.

U.S. utility company bills must be paid in U.S. dollars. Unlike in Canada, they can’t be paid at any bank offices in the U.S. or via telephone banking or ATMs. It’s easiest to pay your U.S. bills using your U.S. checking account through RBC Bank’s Online Bill Pay. 

U.S. bank account statements generally display two balances. The first, your available balance, is the amount of money in your account available for use. The second, your ledger balance, is calculated at the end of the day, and it includes deposits made by the bank cutoff time and checks that cleared. Your available balance may be lower than your ledger balance if some transactions, such as debit card transactions, haven’t yet posted. Also, some amounts will be reflected only when the entire transaction posts. Tips at restaurants, gas pump purchases, car rentals, and hotel deposits or reservations are examples.

Unlike in Canada, if your overdraft protection line of credit has automatically advanced funds, you must make payments on the interest and principal in a separate transaction, by either calling or transferring funds using Online Banking. 

Debit card purchases are deducted from the available balance in your checking account. Your available balance may not include checks or debit card purchases that haven’t posted to your account. An overdraft line of credit can help prevent accidentally overdrawing your account and help you avoid the fees associated with an overdraft.

In the U.S., transactions may take a few more days to post than you’re used to. Allow:

  • 1-3 days for ATM or debit card transactions 
  • 5-7 days for bill payments processed by merchants
  • Up to 5 days for a check

In the U.S. your deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The FDIC guarantees the safety of a depositor’s accounts in U.S. member banks up to $250,000 USD per depositor for each deposit ownership category in each insured bank. In comparison, the CDIC insures Canadians’ deposits held at Canadian banks up to $100,000 CAN.

To close a checking account, you must contact the bank. In the U.S., bringing your account balance to zero does not automatically close your account. This leaves you open to incur monthly service fees that could overdraw your account. To close your account, call 1-800 ROYAL 5-3 (1-800-769-2553).   

Most U.S. debit cards don’t have chip technology yet. Chip technology is coming to the U.S. over the next few years. For now, and in most cases, you’ll need to swipe your card through a card reader. 

U.S. debit cards can be used to make purchases with or without a PIN or a signature. When paying for purchases, pressing CREDIT on the card terminal allows you to sign for your transaction.  Some U.S. merchants don’t require signatures on small amounts. Pressing DEBIT requires you to enter your PIN. Some terminals don’t allow you to choose credit initially, and in many cases you’re automatically prompted for a PIN. If this happens, simply press CANCEL or ask the cashier to cancel the transaction and you will be able to sign for your purchase instead. For cash back with your purchase, you must use your PIN. Both types of transactions will result in the purchase amount being deducted from your checking account.

If you have an RBC Bank credit card, paying at the pump for your fuel will be no problem. 

When you see the Visa‡ logo, it means the merchant accepts both Visa Debit and Visa Credit cards. If your debit or credit card carries the Visa logo, it will be accepted for payment of purchases at all merchant types – physical stores or online, mail, and telephone orders.

RBC Bank has more than a decade of experience with Canadians who need top-flight U.S. banking services. The U.S. has thousands of banks and credit unions. But only RBC Bank has the expertise and commitment required to fulfill the unique cross-border banking needs of Canadians traveling or living in the U.S.

‡ All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All loans and lines of credit are subject to approval.