How to perform Norbert's Gambit on Questrade

EQ Bank Savings Plus Account

What is Norbert's gambit?

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

This isn't a big 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 equal to 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 is denominated in CAD and 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 it.  Your new ETF can then be sold for USD by following these steps.

Norbert's gambit on Questrade

Enter an order for DLR.TO in the trade window.  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.)

Next, head to chat support.

Select these options on the popup screen.

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, free of charge.  Now you can sell it for American dollars. Again, I recommend being patient and following the ask price.