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Dear Bird Talk,
I have been unable to complete an ap-
plication to get aWal-Mart credit card
because the computer insists on a social
security number and, of course, I only have
a Canadian social insurance number. Two
weeks of trying to find some way around
the computer and talking to senior staff at
the local store have been useless. Are other
Canadian citizens able to get a credit card
while here in Florida, as I am for five months
a year?
Bruce McLellan
Lakeside, ON
Ed: It is quite bizarre how, when youmake a
purchase at a store in the U.S., they often offer
an immediate discount if you get their credit
card. Usually, this comes to a grinding halt
and wasted time when the credit department
determines that you are a Canadian. I have
applied for credit cards at three different banks
and have been turned down three times. Oh,
they say that they will fix it if I get a U.S. tax
ID#, but I just have not bothered to do so. What
I did do was to get a debit card fromWells
Fargo. This was quick and easy. I then use CSA’s
Currency Exchange program to transfer money
fromCanada intomy U.S. account. Everything I
do goes on that debit card. The best part is that
I have detailed access tomy account balances
and expenditures on both paper and online.
This is far better than any cheque record that
I would keep and I can easily see where every
dime has gone. There are negligible fees, excel-
lent currency exchange rates and no two-week
or sometimes even two-month holds onmy
Dear Bird Talk,
We currently have a U.S.$ account with Bank
of Montreal and now are being told by our
camp owner in Edinburg, TX that, effec-
tive January 1, 2012, all cheques issued on
Canadian banks will be subject to a handling
fee of $20. We previously spent our winters
in Arizona and have not encountered this
before. Have you heard of this?
John Maunder
Sheguiandah, ON
Ed: This is a widespread practice and it is
becomingmore prevalent as banks look for
newways to recoup the money which they lost
in the financial meltdown. We are also starting
to see some businesses charging these fees and
adding a percentage for themselves. The other
thing to watch out for is the exchange rate that
your bank will give you, in Canada, when trans-
ferringmoney between your two accounts.
This rate is often “padded” and could attract
an extra fee. Try to transfer only large amounts,
ask for a special exchange rate, and certainly
request that they waive any fees.
Dear Bird Talk,
Re: Canada-U.S. Border Deal
How is this deal going to affect us as snow-
birds? Are we going to have to apply for
a Nexus Card, or will it be pretty much as
Nanticoke, ON
Ed: Things, so far, have been pretty normal at
the border crossings as long as you have your
passport. The Nexus card is more of a conve-
nience if you cross the border a few times each
year. If you fly, it can save you a great deal of
time in the endless lineups at the airports, and
we use it regularly.
Dear Bird Talk,
I find Bird Talk enjoyable and useful. Thought
you might like to hear what our border
guard at Sarnia, ON said last September
when we entered Michigan for a week of
camping with friends. After he asked if we
had fruit, etc. he waved us on with, “Thank
you for coming.”That was a ‘Wow’moment.
Pat Holloway
Cameron, ON
Ed: There must be a virus going around. We
had exactly the same comment and experience
at the border when clearing U.S. customs at
the Toronto airport (are they listening to us?).
We have also had several people comment in
restaurants and at events which we attended
that they were pleased to see us and everyone
has been very welcoming this year.
Dear Bird Talk,
As I am a homeowner in Florida, I read with
interest the article by Dave Hunter about
his purchase in the Sunshine state. As he
attests, there is a large number of “bargains”
to be had during these times of economic
uncertainty. It’s almost like the saying, “if it
seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”
One of the major problems with trying to
sell “double-wides” in Florida is the monthly
rental on the leased property. These can
range from the $500 a month Dave pays, to
upwards of $1,000. In his case, that amounts
to about 3/5ths of the total price of the unit
each year. I personally know of owners who
would actually give their unit away. Since the
owner must pay this amount as long as his
unit is on the property, he is stuck with that
yearly expense, even though he may for any
number of reasons be unable to make use of
it (age, illness, etc.). It doesn’t take a math-
ematician to see that after a few years of
paying and not using, the actual value of the
unit lessens dramatically. The rates can in-
crease and some unscrupulous park owners
hope that they can force people out so they
can build a more profitable development.
A safer investment is to purchase a unit in a
park where you also own the land on which
the unit sits. You then pay only association
fees to the park.
Robert Leatham
Ilderton, ON
Ed: This is excellent advice – heed it. There are
many owners who have just abandoned their
units and park owners are very, very interested
in finding someone to “pay the rent.” Like any-
thing else, there are good parks and there are
bad parks and there are also some great parks.
Try to visit before making a purchase. Some
people have rented for one month in several
different parks to get a feel for each of them
before making a decision.
Dear Bird Talk,
If we go home to Alberta for two or three
weeks, are we allowed to deduct this time
from the amount of days we are allowed
to be in the U.S.? People are telling us that
nothing under 30 days is allowed.
St. Albert, AB
Ed: We have been advised, in writing, that an
absence of less than 30 days will be considered
as part of the same trip, even if you were not
in the U.S. A border guard has a great deal of
discretion, so there are often stories which say
that this does not apply. The people advising
you are correct.