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US Cash in Canada

San Luis Obispo, CA
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18 posts
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US Cash in Canada

Any advice on how best to deal with cash on an upcoming trip? Is it likely that we will be able to make purchases easily with US dollars for the present 2-3% loss of US-->CAD exchange rate? or should be plan on exchanging money at banks? We will, of course, have credit cards, but for small purchases we will want some small amount of pocket change...

Thanks

KK

West Grey, Ontario
Destination Expert
for Toronto
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76,284 posts
95 reviews
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1. Re: US Cash in Canada

Hi KK;

To be respectful to your host country, when in Rome...

Many businesses will accept American currency as a courtesy to American tourists. Businesses that choose to accept US dollars set their own exchange rate, so you may find the rate different from store to store, and the rate will NOT be in your favour. You will receive your change in Canadian funds. Coins, as a general rule, are accepted at face value…at par.

Automated equipment, i.e. vending machines, public transit machines, parking meters, etc - basically anything where you insert coins / bills... will only accept Canadian currency.

Most places will take credit cards, however there may be fees over and above the exchange rate charged by the credit card issuer. Some credit cards have a Foreign Usage Fee tacked on for usage outside of the issuing country. Check with your card issuer for exact details.

You could always use your bank card to withdraw money from an ATM. Check with your bank to find which Canadian banks they have an agreement with and then utilize that Canadian bank’s ATM for the fewest / cheapest fees & surcharges.

For some money saving tips, have a look at the traveller article “Canada – Banks & Money” here on TA.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-s601/Canada:B…

Best Regards

Massachusetts
Destination Expert
for Quebec City, Block Island
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4,778 posts
41 reviews
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2. Re: US Cash in Canada

We go quite often to Canada, and I never use US. First, as RescueTeam politely indicated, out of respect. We might be on par with out respective currencies, but Canadians can't use their dollar/loonie down here.

Second, use your ATm and you do get a better deal when getting cash. What we always do is first, convert cash at the duty free just before we drive over for tips, small purchases, etc. After that, I'll use the ATM to get some cash each day, and for any larger purchases a credit card.

Again, besides simply being polite, you do get a better deal when you convert or use a credit card.

Enjoy!!

JDP

Ottawa, Canada
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47 reviews
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3. Re: US Cash in Canada

Hi Kdkrone,

Welcome to the QUEBEC CITY TRAVEL FORUM.

Well the obvious has already been stated… the currency for Canada is the Canadian Dollar plain & simple.

Using US Dollars in Canada has some risk involved… and the mistakes are typically made by Travellers who haven’t taken the time to inform themselves about how actual Foreign Exchange works.

Example…My favourite story from earlier this year...

Traveller takes a cab ride that came to $ 20 CDN. Traveller told the Cab Driver they only had US Funds or a Credit Card… Cab Driver said he didn’t take credit, and the Traveller could pay in US Funds… cost would be $ 25.

Lol, always SHOCKS the Traveller if they have to pay more when their own US Dollar is perhaps worth a few cents more than the Canadian at the time !!

A quick bit of math and you can easily see that that works out to be about 25% Difference ($ 25 vs $ 20). That is a lot to pay for Exchange and Convenience. Needles to say the Traveller posted that he learned his lesson and would heed the info that is distributed on Foreign Exchange in the FORUMS for future visits.

There are of course lots of other stories... but this one stands out because the cost of convenience was sooo high... and the Traveller thought for sure before he arrived that he'd do just fine with US Dollars.

So how did this happen?

ONLY Canadian Currency is legal tender in Canada… US Money is not regulated outside of a Bank (FAIR EXCHANGE)… which is why Merchants can charge whatever they please. Most US Tourists don’t realize this until it is too late… they somehow believe that Merchants are charging them FAIR EXCHANGE (they may even have a sign up saying US CASH TODAY’s RATE ___% … But the truth is that is THEIR Rate and NOT the Banks). Merchants typically charge anywhere from a 5% to 25% “Convenience Fee” on top of the actual FAIR EXCHANGE RATE.

As my esteemed colleague JDP112456 has already said getting Canadian Currency is easy enough in these day of ATMs… You put in your card and out comes Canadian Currency… all the calculations are done behind the scenes, and will be printed out on your Bank / Credit Card Statements back home.

Using Plastic will get you the Best Rates… Credit Cards for large purchases and an ATM to get cash for smaller purchases. And as pointed out by my buddy RESCUE TEAM be sure and have some change on hand as well… Twoonies, Loonies & Silver as Canadian Coins are different in weight & metallic properties from US coins so US coins won’t work in things like Vending Machines, Parking Meters, Tolls etc.

When you use Plastic you get the best possible rates… all the details go on behind the scenes and appear on your Statements when you get home. Companies like Visa buy huge amounts of Foreign Currency and can sell it to you for a low cost… FAIR EXCHANGE Plus a Foreign Usage Fee (which is how Visa, a Bank or Exchange Kiosk makes their money… exchanging money costs money). Foreign Usage Fees range from typically 0% to about 5% (they tell us that Capital One offers Exchange without Foreign Usage Fees).

When you use an ATM you’ll also be subjected to Transaction Fees… these are a flat rate per transaction, so always best to take out a bigger withdrawal than a series of little ones (you’ll pay the same cost for taking out $ 20 vs $ 200). Lowest Transaction Fees will be when you use an ATM that is either affiliated with your bank back home, or on the same network (those logos on the back of your ATM card).

Always a good idea to chat with your Bank / Credit Card Company before you travel... so you can find out who they are affilitated with and get the best rates. Also let them know you'll be out of the country on vacation... sucks to have your card "red flagged" for unusual usage... and having to call in to clear it for use / make purchases. Happens often enough... can be a bit embarassing to some.

Anyhow, as we've said save yourself a ton of hassles, and the risk of being ripped off by Merchants who legally can charge whatever they wish to take your US Money... stick with plastic.

Fortunately you are a TripAdvisor Member and have taken the time find all this out BEFORE you travel… so you should be well prepared (and all-in-all will have saved some money in the long run).

Have a great trip.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Edited: 06 October 2010, 18:41
Calgary, Canada
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19,696 posts
2 reviews
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4. Re: US Cash in Canada

The short answer is very simple: When you visit a foreign country make your cash purchases with the locally accepted currency. Period.

Have fun.

Cheers,

Terry

Boston
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3,121 posts
24 reviews
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5. Re: US Cash in Canada

Normally I'd exchange to CAD. But I'll be there really late Sat and whole Sunday so not sure if any place open and I have no ATM card!:( The contact bars and dancers accept them but where to get some CAD?

Quebec City
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700 posts
7 reviews
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6. Re: US Cash in Canada

Not sure about your last line... What about your own bank to get some foreign currency? It is usually a service that is provided to clients, at least in Canada.

Montreal, Canada
Destination Expert
for Quebec, Montreal, Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, Miami, Miami Beach
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7. Re: US Cash in Canada

Well exchange of US funds in Canadian $ is always a contentious issue on these province of Quebec forums.

Once we got close to 30 replies, which is very rare here, and people were mostly just reiterating their positions.

So now instead of that whole shebang I prefer to post a preexisting text that, of course, gives you my point of view but in a cooler and level headed approach, not to say also also user friendly.

So let’s say that Canadian $ is the legal tender in this country but that almost everybody will take your US $ when needed, particularly in the Province of Qc where a good part of our population goes “en masse” to Florida every year and thus are happy to have a stash of US $.

At the moment both currencies are almost on par so that should not be a problem upon arrival to use some U$, before you can get some Canadian currency. Just as a matter of courtesy and also to make sure that you don’t get a bad surprise prior to the transaction you should always state that you have only U$ at the moment and ask if they will take it on par. If it is not the case, just move on to another more accommodating business. Anyways most commercial ventures in touristy area will have a sign near the cash stating their exchange rate (and this exchange will include fees as well). If the Canadian dollar slips under $0.92 then it can become useful to try to get some Cnd funds asap, but not necessarily at the airport where exchange rates and fees are notoriously bad.

When arriving in the province you will really need some Cnd funds only if you take the 737 bus from the airport or if you have a sudden need to get something from a vending machine. Otherwise ,arriving by car, all of highways are toll free so no worries there. Also at the airport all the cabs are supposed to take credit cards so that rules out the problem but just in case ask the controller/dispatcher to get you a car that accepts credit cards. Finally at the hotel the bellman or other employees that you must tip early in your visit will not even blink if you tip them with U$.

Then, when finally settled in your hotel you can ask for the nearest bank teller. Never change money at your hotel since they charge out of synch exchange fees, same for most money changers (bureau de change). As per the ATMs that you will find in hotel lobbies, convenience stores and bars, plain and simple avoid them since they have outrageous user fees and they might limit you to $ 200 while at a bank (ATM or real person teller) it is usually $ 500. Since fees are charged for every transaction, even when withdrawing only $ 20, try to withdraw what you figure will be needed at once.

But the best advice is to use plastic as much as possible. Credit cards have some of the best exchange rates and fees and so does many debit cards.

Some people on the province of Québec forums seems not to understand that if we can get U$ in every banks around and change money at those places without hassle it is not, alas, the same in the US where banks usually don’t have Cnd funds on hand and must order it which means extra fees for you. Also upon your return the fees to exchange back in U$ will be quite steep. I have lived in the US so I know on how unfair it can seems sometimes but it is just a question of offer and demand, in fact there is much more U$ money exchanged in Canada then Canadian $ changed in the US. Also we don’t have paper bills for one and two dollars, just coins and those will not be accepted by any banks or money changers in the US. So try to withdraw only what you think you will need as cash, pay as much as you can using credit and debit cards (just check that the business is affiliated with Cirrus) and try to get rid of your Cnd $ as much as possible before departing; particularly the loonies and twoonies (that’s how we call our $1 and $2)

Hope this help.

As per Wine-4-2 anecdote about being charged $25 on a $20, in fact it has never happen to me, and I have a US account and used U$ a lot when back in Canada. In fact this example for me is more the exception that confirm the rule.

As for "when in Rome"... well they don't use lira any more in Italy and I can give you a list of places where the U$ is accepted without any problem: Bahamas, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Bermuda (which is far from a third world country), Monaco (not a third world country by any means), many nations in the Caribbean, that including Saint-Martin / Saint Marteen where they deal with 3 different currencies without problems. Also U$ will be gladly accepted at all resorts in Mexico, but not necessarely in the interior of the country.

What is strange here is that people from other provinces get all flustered about Cnd money while for Québécois it is not a problem. But, as I already stated, you should always ask politely if any business will accept U$ on par. Otherwise forget it.

Ottawa, Canada
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8. Re: US Cash in Canada

Hi Kdkrone,

As stated, plain and simple Canadian Currency is the ONLY Legal Tender in Canada. Anything else and you will be at the mercy of the merchant (lol, and he is most certainly in the business of making money).

RICKB for some reason likes to put on his “rose coloured glasses” and continues to believe that Travellers to Canada don’t get ripped off by merchants on UNFAIR Exchange Rates… if only that was true.

There are certainly lots of stories throughout the various CANADA TRAVEL FORUMS to the contrary.

Here is another one…

Traveller stops for gas (earlier this summer in the Province of Quebec it just so happens). He was charged $ 41.00 US for $ 38.50 CDN worth of gas. And was surprised that he was being asked to pay MORE than the amount on the pump considering that at the time FAIR EXCHANGE was $ 1.00 US = $ 1.04 CDN

So the $ 38.50 worth of Gas that the Traveller bought at FAIR EXCHANGE (Before any fees) he should have been able to “ideally” buy for $ 36.95 a difference of $ 1.55 a GAIN in his favour.

Instead the Traveller was charged $ 41.00 a difference of ($ 41.00 - $ 36.95) so instead of seeing about a 4% GAIN in his US Dollar, he actually saw a 11% LOSS

This is why we tell Travellers… Change to Canadian Currency (either by using a Credit Card or an ATM) even with Bank Processing Fees you won’t be subject to this much of a “discount” on your US Dollars and being taken advantage of.

Sure you’ll pay some Fees for converting your Currency via a Bank or CC Company… but at 0% (Capital One) thru to about 3% you would still be in a GAIN Situation (in this case the $ 1 US would still be worth aprox $ 1.01 CDN after Exchange & Fees).

In the above scenario, the Travellers Money in the end was worth much less than the Canadian Dollar… and the cost of Convenience… cost him dearly. As said before, Canadian Merchants charge 5 to 25% as a “Convenience” Fee for taking US Currency.

Foreign Currency Exchange, can certainly be a complicated issue… especially for Travellers who are not used to dealing with it… and many unfortunately just hand over money without really thinking it all thru… and only afterwards realize they’ve been ripped off by a Merchant.

As one of the many TripAdvisor Destination Experts for Canada, I don’t want to see this happen to people who come here for a visit… which is why I and others DEs compiled the CANADA – TRAVELLER ARTICLE entitled *Banks & Money* = tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-s601/Canada:B… at this current time the BEST choice for seeing one’s US Dollars go the furthest is to convert by using plastic (Credit Cards or ATM).

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

PS… RICKB… Your idea of Canadians / Quebecois stowing away their American Dollars for a trip to Florida is pretty funny… lol, when it comes to a business which is what we are talking about here… and Revenue Canada… one reports their income in Canadian Dollars (so at some point in time those Dollars have to be converted)… and one has to keep their "personal / vacation finances" certainly seperate from their corporate finances... again factual.

Calgary, Canada
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19,696 posts
2 reviews
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9. Re: US Cash in Canada

I nominate these, "USDs in Canada" as the most boring threads on this forum.

Cheers,

Terry

whitestone, ny
Destination Expert
for Quebec City
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10. Re: US Cash in Canada

I agree with rickb, in Old Quebec everybody will accept one to one, or for a little %, US$. And yes my brother in law who works in a hotel, keep is US$ for trips!

I never had been charged in Old Quebec more than a normal exchange or even better it was change at par.

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