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Though snowbirds might spend the winter months lounging on Florida’s beaches, exploring the California coast, golfing in Arizona or even ranch hopping in Texas, there’s a lot of work they need to do before they can relax in the sun.
Banking and currency
“Your Canadian medical care does not travel with you,” says Evan Rachkovsky, the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA)’s director of research and communications. That means shop around for medical insurance and ask about coverage limits and the currency they’re calculated in before travelling.
After a medical emergency, he says, OHIP will reimburse you between $ 200 and $ 400 per day depending on your level of hospital care. But Alain Forget, RBC’s U.S. head of sales and business development, says American hospital stays for intense conditions can cost around $ 1,000 a day.
Aside from insurance, Ritchie recommends snowbirds pack a large supply of any medications they need because, while in the U.S., “you can’t just run over to Walgreens or CVS to get your prescription filled.”
And it’s not just your home in Canada to consider. Even though about $ 50 billion of U.S. real estate is owned by Canadians, Forget says snowbirds often don’t know about loopholes with insuring American homes they own.
They call it the Substantial Presence Test and the best way to calculate if you’ll be taxed is to add the days you spent in the U.S. in your latest year to a third of the number of days you spent there the year before and a sixth of the days you spent there the year before that.
If the total is above 183, then you should be prepared to pay up. “It applies to most snowbirds, when you run the numbers,” says Ritchie.
You’ll also be on the hook for U.S properties you own and will have to file a return on the net income if they’re rented out to others. Any taxes you pay in the U.S. have to be noted when you file Canadian taxes — a fact most are unaware of, says Ritchie.
Travel insurance is a good idea when heading across the border because it can save you when flights are cancelled or delayed, luggage is lost or your cruiseline, airline or other travel operator goes out of business. Insurance can also be handy when an unexpected medical emergency or illness hits.
When searching for travel insurance, you can sometimes save by departing before your birthday because it might land you in a lower price category for travel insurance rates based on age, says Rachkovsky.
Phone, Internet and cable plans can add up and when you’re in another country not using them, be wasteful. CSA suggests asking your provider if you can suspend services or put your services “on vacation” for a flat rate maintenance fee.