How to perform Norbert's Gambit on Questrade

What is Norbert's Gambit?

If you convert currency at your bank or online brokerage you're almost certainly being ripped off by fees hidden in the exchange rate.  For example, if you're buying USD and the real exchange rate is $1.28 USD/CAD your financial institution will quote you something closer to $1.30 USD/CAD. 

This isn't a huge deal if you're buying something for $10 USD on Amazon, but these fees are painful if you're converting thousands of dollars for vacation or to invest in American stocks.

Thankfully there's a way to avoid these fees using a technique called Norbert's gambit. 

The general premise is this: if a stock is listed on both a Canadian exchange and an American exchange you can buy that stock in CAD and sell it in USD.  If the market is acting efficiently the ratio of the price on the American exchange to the price on the Canadian exchange will be exactly the current USD/CAD exchange rate.

The obvious problem here is that the price of the stock could change during the time it takes for you to buy and sell it in different currencies.

Thankfully there's a solution in the form of a wonderful ETF under the ticker DLR.TO.  This ETF tracks the USD/CAD exchange rate, so owning it is putting you at no more risk than if you had just purchased USD in the first place.  You are effectively locking in an exchange rate the moment you buy DLR.TO. 

Using Norbert's Gambit on Questrade

Enter an order for DLR.TO in Questrade.  I recommend being patient and following the bid price.  If you cross the spread buying and selling you're losing the benefits of this technique.  (Note the spread is usually just $0.01, I took this screenshot after the close.)

Head to chat support.

Select these options on the popup screen.

Fill in this information on the next screen and click Chat Now. Once you have a customer service rep chatting with you request that they journal DLR.TO to DLR.U.TO - they'll understand what you mean.

After a few days DLR.TO will be exchanged for DLR.U.TO in  your account, free of charge.  Now you can sell it for American dollars. I recommend being patient and following the ask price.