Norbert Gambit: How to Convert CAD to USD in Questrade for $6

Convert Norbert Gambit Questrade

With the Canadian dollar at a three year high (as of writing), I’ve been converting some of my Canadian dollars in my investing account to US Dollars so that I have some money ready to buy US dollar equities when the next recession hits.  Here’s how to do Norbert Gambit: How to Convert CAD to USD in Questrade for $6.  It also never hurts to have US Dollars especially if I’m planning to go south of the border to travel or stay in Hawaii for a few weeks.

I’ve always wanted to try converting Canadian dollars to US Dollars through using Norbert’s Gambit because it will save you the foreign exchange fee that is hidden when you convert your Canadian to US Dollars (and vice versa).  These hidden currency conversion fees are about 1.5-2% each conversion with Questrade.

If you are converting $2000 CAD to US Dollars, the 2% currency conversion fee equates to about $40.  So with a 1.20 exchange rate, that $2000 not only becomes $1666.67, it will actually be $1626.67 (or something like that).  With Norbert’s Gambit, the fee amounts to about 0.2% or less.

Norbert Gambit: How to Convert CAD to USD in Questrade


With the strategy of Norbert’s Gambit, you can avoid that hidden currency conversion fee and save on purchasing US dollars.  Here’s how exchanging $2000 CAD to US dollars cost me around $6.

who is norbert?

Norbert’s Gambit was developed by Norbert Schlenker, a fee for service financial planner in 2001 of Libra Investment Management, according to Finiki.

He lives on Salt Spring Island, who knew someone so influential to many could be living on a small remote-ish island near Vancouver?  I have yet to go to a gulf island, hopefully soon!

what is norbert’s gambit

Basically, Norbert’s Gambit boils down to buying a Canadian listed ETF and then calling the discount brokerage to covert it to a US dollar ETF and then selling it to cash out US dollars.

The Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) involved is called:

Horizons U.S. Dollar Currency ETF

DLR.TO (on TSX) and DLR.U (on TSX, in US Dollars)

step by step guide on how to do norbert’s gambit

  1. Let’s say you want to exchange $1000 Canadian dollars to US dollars and the exchange rate is around 1.21 Canadian dollars to buy $1 US dollar.
  2. Click on Questrade’s ‘order entry’ and enter DLR.TO
  3. Let’s say current DLR.TO ask price is $12.04
  4. $1000/12.04= 83 shares
  5. Questrade charges ECN fees, for 83 shares it is $0.2905 CAD.  Of course they may be higher if you are ordering a larger amount of DLR (for example, if you are trading $10,000 it will cost you $5 for the ECN fees even though the commission for buying the actual ETF is $0.  There is ZERO FEE to PURCHASE ETFs in Questrade
  6. Click buy
  7. Wait for the trade to settle, which is 2 business days
  8. Once you see the DLR.TO in your account, contact Questrade (you can ‘instant chat’ or email them if you don’t want to call them)
  9. Ask them to convert or journal over the DLR.TO in your account to DLR.U (US dollars) (let’s say the DLR.U bid price is $9.93)
  10. Once you see DLR.U in your account, place an order to sell the number of shares, which will cost ECN fees + Questrade’s selling fee, which is roughly $5.55 USD
  11. Voila, then you will have US dollar cash in your account and you will have $818.64 US dollars.
  12. Using Norbit’s Gambit, you will save $6.71 compared to exchanging it through the discount brokerage.

Of course, the more Canadian dollars you exchange, the more you save since the commission fee is a flat fee.  So if you exchanged $10,000 Canadian dollars through Norbert’s Gambit, you will save $130+ compared to exchanging it with the brokerage.

double checking the numbers

  • You can double check the exact amounts to buy/sell with this handy website called Norberts Gambit (I’m not sure who created it but it’s super handy!).
  • It calculates the values for you and helps you convert Canadian to US dollars and vice versa, from US dollars to Canadian dollars.
  • You can also see how much you will save using Norbert’s Gambit on the foreign exchange transaction fees.
  • It even shows you the current bid and ask price of DLR.

I just tried doing Norbert’s Gambit recently and it worked seamlessly!  It was easy to do and contacting customer service through Questrade was also very straightforward.  They must journal over the DLR to DLR.U fairly often because they knew what they were doing!

If you’d like a Questrade account (no commissions to buy Exchange Traded Funds and around $4.95 to sell Exchange Traded Funds) sign up through the banner below and you can get $50 in free trades! I’ve been using Questrade for over 9 years and have loved the low commissions and free ETF purchases.

Get $50 in free trades.

Readers: Have you tried Norbert’s Gambit?  I wonder what he’s up to now and if he’s enjoying all the cheaply converted US dollars that he came up with!

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About genymoney

GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle.

4 comments on “Norbert Gambit: How to Convert CAD to USD in Questrade for $6

  1. I have heard of this method to save money on Des when you convert your money. Depending on your investment goal and risk tolerance, there is also currency risk when you convert your Canadian dollars to U.S. dollars. The value of the Canadian dollar increased more than 10% the last few months, which means people who converted their money to USD lost the same percentage.

    Since I borrow to invest, I use a margin account and buy my U.S. stocks to minimize my currency risk. I tried to time my currency conversion when the exchange rate is in my favour.
    Leo T. Ly recently posted…12 Personal Financial Questions That Everyone Should KnowMy Profile

    • @Leo- Thanks for visiting Leo, yes there’s always the risk of trying to time the currency. I just bought some USD recently since we were dealing with 1.35 exchange rate just a few months ago!

  2. Hi GYM,

    Great overview and explanation. I’ve been looking to do NG with questrade–looks pretty straightforward. There’s a great video tutorial that Dan Bortolotti posted on how to perform NG with nunneries discount brokerages.

    What account did you use to make the conversion(e.g.RRSP, TFSA)? Any pros or cons to doing this in different accounts?


    • @Riada- I tried it with both my RRSP and my non-registered and it was the same. It’s pretty straightforward and I wish I did this earlier! Thanks for the heads up about Dan Bortolotti’s video on NG! Thanks for visiting 🙂

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