Show Me the Money

This is what is rattling around inside my head on this New Years Eve…..

Money. It really is important to have access to it when you are living in a different country. I am not planning on working right away because I’m going there to figure that stuff out. But I am planning on renting a place to live. And I would like to open a foreigners bank account to give me a little in-country security. But its not so simple.

You see Morocco has a closed currency. Its called the Dirham (MAD) and the largest bill is essentially $20. You can go to the bank machines, as you can anywhere in the world, and take out cash in local currency. But thats about where the convenience of your convenience card stops. You can not take money out of the country because dh are worthless outside Morocco. Which means that you don’t want to be left with too many dh when the music stops. You want to make sure you are getting that stuff out. It also, I have heard, costs a lot to transfer money back to Canada. Because of bank fees. Those crazy fees. Speaking of which, everytime I take dh out of the ATM there is a $5 charge back in Canada.

So after scratching my head and assigning Power of Attorney where required, I march my butt into CIBC, my bank of choice, and they send me in to see someone from Imperial Service, and that someone had the personality of….well….uh…um….a banker.

Here’s what I learned from that experience. There is no International transfer agreement between CIBC and Morocco. Now keep in mind, I am entrenched with CIBC and have been for years. And I have one business week left in Canada. Shit. So no transfers between countries.

Can my Power of Attorney come in and transfer money to me? Well, not really. Most power of attorney is written to say “to my benefit only” and they can’t prove that sending me money in a foreign country is to my advantage. (insert deep sigh).

So I need to go outside CIBC to do this. I need to open an account with BMO or Scotiabank. I need to open an account with Western Union. (My CIBC representative was adamant that I do that before I leave) (It was the only change of cadence in his voice during our entire conversation).

Oh, and I can’t have two bank cards on one account. So I have one card to use in the bank machine. One. One card that can be read and voided in an RFID incident. Lost, stolen, bent, wetted. One card. ONE CARD. Can they get me a replacement card? No. No they can’t.

So here are some options at this point.

I can take a sizeable amount of back up cash in Travellers Cheques. (OMG remember those?)

I can transfer money to a trusted local, and that person can take money out. Well don’t even try to talk to a Berber about money. They want nothing to do with it. (Oh I can’t wait to get back to those lovely Berbers).

I can email a trusted friend in Canada some money. They can then go into a bank here and wire me that money. Not ideal but something.

I can email my friend in Casablanca who has a Moroccan account and get money from her.

Worst case I can order a replacement bank card to my Canadian address and then just wait and hope that someone from 4S corporate is going to Casa or Marrakech and can hand carry it to me.

I can open an account at BMO and utitlize International wire transfer by moving money from CIBC to Manulife to BMO to Morocco. Sounds expensive but doable.

And to add to this confusion, let’s remember that not only do I need to work in CDN to DH. I also need to factor in the Euro and the USD because those come into play too. HAS ANYONE SEEN ME DO MATH? No, no one has because it doesn’t happen. Thank goodness for

So off I go. Me and my bank card. And my iPhone. May the luck of the Irish remain on our good side.




  1. Sue Somers

    CIBC are not very user friendly! I don’t understand why Manulife has to come into the equation, but I expect there are factors I don’t need to know. I would want to dump CIBC and take up with BMO! Good luck. We love to complain about banking here, but honestly I think we have it pretty good. Ever tried the UK banking system? Don’t, just don’t.

  2. In fact, as a Canadian who lives in the UK, and has for 30 years, I actually find the system here quite good. We can get cash from any bank’s ATM on the High Street for no charge. Our online system works well. I am a CIBC dyed-in-the-wool person too and there are days when I want to scream loudly across the Atlantic as Natwest does it better every time. But when reading about Moroccan options I know that anything has got to be better than that. And CSD and GBP are internationally recognised currencies and we can trade them anywhere. BMO may be better – I don’t know, don’t need to know as you say. Just hope it all works out in your favour when you get there.

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