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Old 30-08-2016, 12:15   #1
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Spending money in Canada

Ahoy,

I am planning on spending time north of the border in Canada, particularly in the Inland Passage during the next year or two.

Does anyone have any general recommendations about how to pay for things.

I already have a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.

Any other issues?

I do not have a debit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees, though, and am hesitant to open a new account at a new institution for that purpose.

Could I expect to use the credit card for everything?

I guess I could go to my local bank branch and obtain an amount of Canadian dollars to have a stash of cash.
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Old 30-08-2016, 12:37   #2
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Re: Spending money in Canada

While your credit card may charge foreign transaction fees, their exchange rates are often not very favourable. Debit card rates seem more favourable.

Cash always works.

One thing to which you could pay attention is debit cards is will charge to exact amount. Cash transactions are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. Pennies (1 cent pieces) are no longer legal tender. I use both cash and debit, whichever is more advantageous.
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Old 30-08-2016, 12:40   #3
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Yes, our retailers accept all major credit cards up here in the Great White North.

The foreign transaction fees may be built into the exchange rate, so be cautious of that. You may pay 2 - 2.5% exchange rate on every transaction, so using cash would likely be more cost effective. You'll have to pay exchange rates one way or the other but credit card rates are usually higher than the bank rates.

If you're planning on spending considerable time up here, consider opening a bank account in Canada and funding it with funds exchanged by your US bank. Then get a CAD credit card from the Canadian bank. And, if you're a clever financial type with a discount brokerage account, google Norbit's Gambit. It can be done in reverse too.

Have a great time, but don't bring your firearms without thorough research before hand.
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Old 30-08-2016, 12:43   #4
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Be careful, my card from a major international bank slid in a 4% exchange fee. Check credit and debit providers for the exchange rate fee. Also, some foreign banks also charge their own fee, which in some cases can be over 5%.
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Old 30-08-2016, 14:51   #5
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Re: Spending money in Canada

TD bank has a simple cross border system where you can have a Cdn Account in Canada and a US account in US and transfer funds between them via phone or internet.
You will end up with two Debit cards.
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:54   #6
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Many gas stations do not let you pay at the pump with a US credit card. Although I doubt you will spend much time on the highway!
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Old 31-08-2016, 08:58   #7
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Most Canadian businesses will also accept US cash - although often at atrocious exchange rates. I've noticed all over the world how irate Americans can get if and when their greenbacks are not accepted locally. And yet just try to use Canadian or any other currency anywhere in the US except a few shopping centres right along the border who cater to Canadian shoppers. Even Canadian pennies (when we still had them) were carefully picked out and rejected.
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Old 31-08-2016, 09:16   #8
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scorpius99eh View Post
Most Canadian businesses will also accept US cash
US 50's and 100's may not be accepted.
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Old 31-08-2016, 09:38   #9
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Re: Spending money in Canada

As others have said, most business accept most major CCs. VISA and MC are your best bets. Debit cards will work in most ATMs as long as your bank is part of one of the major international networks. There will be user fees to use ATMs, sometimes ridiculous ones, so taking large sums of cash out at a time is your best bet.

And this for my Canadian friends: Regarding foreign transaction fees, the VISA I have through Chase (Amazon VISA) has no such fees, nor does it hide them in the exchange rate charged. I've tested this by using two different VISAs in side-by-side foreign purchases. I paid exactly what they promise: No fee on the Chase card, fee on the other, exact same exchange rate.
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Old 31-08-2016, 09:39   #10
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Quote:
Originally Posted by muttskie View Post
Ahoy,

I am planning on spending time north of the border in Canada, particularly in the Inland Passage during the next year or two.

Does anyone have any general recommendations about how to pay for things.

I already have a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.

Any other issues?

I do not have a debit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees, though, and am hesitant to open a new account at a new institution for that purpose.

Could I expect to use the credit card for everything?

I guess I could go to my local bank branch and obtain an amount of Canadian dollars to have a stash of cash.
Hi Bill,

As US citizens we visit Canada by boat and car at least once each year. Our transit times vary from days if we are passing through by car, to weeks or months when on the boat.

When we first arrive [or beforehand if possible] we typically hit an ATM with our US debit card and get some cash for casual expenditures, and absorb the minor fees charge by all involved. We do this because we pay for everything we can with a credit card that charges no currency exchange fees nor transaction fees- thus amortizing any ATM fees paid over the travel period.

We have found that cards with chips are more widely accepted in Canada- even at the unattended fuel stations on land.

And don't forget to notify any relevant, non-Canadian financial institutions of your travel plans- unless you want your cards shut down after the 1st transaction... [Ask me how I know this... For our cards travel notification is easily done online... ]

I'll risk a bit of thread drift in case the following topics are of interest:

Cell phone and/or cell data considerations. Plans are always changing, so always approach it as if it is the first time...

For the last few years we have kept an unlocked smartphone with a prepaid Canadian SIM card that works well for our needs. We find Bell Canada has the best coverage along the BC coast. This is substantiated by the local boaters often borrowing our cell to make calls because their Rogers (and other Canadian plans) had no signal when ours did... Of course, this may change over time as well, but as of last year, this was still the case.

Sometimes our US AT&T plan offers us a better roaming deal for a set period of time, and we might activate that for the duration of our stay instead.

And be very cautious about roaming blindly with your US cell phone; some very close boating friends racked up a US$2,400 bill in 3 weeks not realizing the ramifications of surfing the web with their US cell phone plan [Verizon if I recall correctly...] while anchored in Canadian cell territory...

The bottom line in Canada [as of our last experience fall 2015] is that cell data is very precious compared to what you might be used to in the US. [We live on cell data most of the time, so perhaps are overly sensitive to this.]

Entry: The other thing to keep an eye on is the ever changing lists of what you can and cannot bring into Canada [and into the US...] A bit of research and planning as you approach the time of entry will save you from having to discard what was otherwise perfectly good food and/or beverages...

I'll stop now since I drifted into areas you didn't inquire about.

Best wishes on your journey. British Columbia is definitely world class cruising and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Cheers! Bill
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Old 31-08-2016, 09:45   #11
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Re: Spending money in Canada

You'll be able to use the card ( Visa?) for the big majority of transactions but I always carry some cash, even cruising in the northern Strait of Georgia, to deal with smaller vendors who don't take cards. Less are geared for debit cards so I wouldn't bother if you're not already set up. The Inside Passage is an even more remote area so cash will be handy, especially if you need some boat services along the way.
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Old 31-08-2016, 10:03   #12
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Why the apparent assumption that Canadian fiscal arrangements are either primitive or hostile to Americans? Canada is not Gujarat or Sierra Leone.

Canadian sellers of goods and services almost without exception accept credit and debit cards. Also CANADIAN cash of course, and that is easily obtainable through both Canadian and American banks.

The reason Canadians are loath to take American currency for trivial purchases is that the hassle and administrative bugger-about is the SAME regardless of whether you are depositing twenty bux or twenty THOUSAND bux, and business accounts are charged a service fee by the banks for handling "foreign" currency. IMO businesses are therefore perfectly justified in charging either a commensurate"service fee" or an apparently unfavourable exchange rate for doing so.

There are five "charter banks" in Canada. They are joined at the hip with the American banking system and are therefore, IMO, NOT to be patronized.

The alternative is our Credit Union system that offers to private individuals every conceivable financial service Joe Citizen could possibly need or desire. If you meet the principal membership criteria - "domicile", even if temporary, in Canada, and a sponsorship by an existing Credit Union member in good standing, and providing your Credit Rating is acceptable - open a Credit Union account. A debit card is automatically issued as part of the "membership privileges". The initial deposit can be in US dollars that will be converted at the day's published exchange rate. From there on, everything will be in Canadian dollars and totally hassle free.

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Old 31-08-2016, 10:05   #13
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Cash is king! That said the use of TD Bank is a great suggestion.

Now with regard to making major purchases this is much ado about nothing in my opinion. The CDN $ is at $0.76 today as is normal of late. Any minor fees will shorten you buying power but your US$ is strong.

Happy travels.
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Old 31-08-2016, 11:32   #14
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Re: Spending money in Canada

A couple of things to add to the good advice above:

- We used a credit card from Citizens Bank, because they didn't add fees to the exchange rate. But they declined us three times even though we'd notified them of the travel. The second time, they claimed they had no record of us notifying them. The third time they declined they claimed "there's a lot of fraud in Canada" and the computers were programmed to decline "suspicious" transactions (like groceries??) even if they'd been notified.

Lesson learned: Have the direct line to the fraud dept. ready on your cell phone. Apparently three transactions in the same day is considered suspicious.

- TD bank offers a no-fee ATM card, but we only used it once. We also got our Canadian cash from them before leaving. However, they charged us a fee AND knocked three percent off the exchange rate when we changed our leftover cash back to US currency. We'd sat with one of the bankers before leaving and explained our whole trip, and this never came up. I'm closing my account there as soon as I get the chance.

Lesson learned: Ask specific questions about fees and rates, don't believe the advertising hype.

- Some places take checks, but they've got to be written for the currency the account was set up in. In other words, you can't pay by check in CA dollars if you opened the account in the US. TD also didn't explain this to us.

Overall, a credit card is the easiest way to go, but have enough cash to cover those few places that still don't take credit cards. We found a couple of marinas and fuel stops who didn't.
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Old 31-08-2016, 11:47   #15
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Re: Spending money in Canada

Wow! Great information from everyone. Thank you all very much.
I think I'll open a TD Bank account and take advantage of their cross-border banking set-up.
And thanks Bill for the addendum about cell phones and data usage. Very helpful!
Looking forward to experiencing B.C. in all it's glory!
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