Currency exchange at border

Aug 6th, 2003, 09:54 AM
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Currency exchange at border

Please forgive my ignorance, but I have never driven to Canada before, so I need to ask a question. We'll be crossing from Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia on our way to Toronto for a four day visit. Are there places to exchange currency at the border crossings, or do we need to do it at a local bank before leaving?
TravelerGina is offline  
Aug 6th, 2003, 10:26 AM
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Your best bet is to wait until you get into Canada and use an ATM machine. There might be one right after the border crossing or wait until you get to Sarnia. The exchange rate is better using an ATM than going to your bank before hand.
Cruiseryyc is offline  
Aug 6th, 2003, 12:59 PM
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I normally wait until I get to an ATM machine at a bank in a Canadian town or city. Some of the free lance ATM machines located in stores charge a fee regardless.

Also, some of the free lance machines are restricted to only Plus or to only Cirrus networks cards.

I see no reason to exchange inside a bank because you always seem to pay more.

You do know to have documents with you that prove US citizenship don't you?
A driver's license is proof of nothing.

Some of the border officials upon returning can be hard to please.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 6th, 2003, 01:20 PM
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yes, defiantely use an ATM for the best way of getting cash. But remember if you use your credit card, as opposed to a bank or debit card, the cash you receive will be treated as a loan and attract the userous c.c. interest rate. Also if your bank card charges a fee for each withdrawl, (check with your bank), then you should make a maximum withdrawl right at the begining. Otherwise just take what you figure you need for a day or two. You shouldn't need too much considering that most purchases, hotel & resteraunt bills, etc. you should pay for with your credit card.
GaryA is offline  
Aug 6th, 2003, 04:54 PM
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Amen to what Gary said about credit cards. I discovered to my horror that even educated folks (Ph. D.) don't know the difference between an ATM card, a debit card, and a credit card.

A friend of mine went to Europe. I told him to use his ATM card for his daily cash needs and to use a credit card where he could. I explained that some issuing banks, like Bank of America sock you with an extra 2% for doing nothing whereas MBNA does not add on the extra 2%. Well, he did not know the difference among the different types of plastic and used his credit card for EVERYTHING. He got socked with cash advance fees, balance fees, etc. He then thought I should pay the extra fees because I had mislead him and caused him to incur the added

I suggested someone who taught in a College of Business should be embarrassed to admit that he did not know any better. And things went downhill from there.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 6th, 2003, 05:16 PM
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Cruiseryyc: Thanks for the suggestion - I will wait until we get to Canada.

Bob_Brown: I have my passport, so don't expect to have any problems.

GaryA: I plan to take my ATM card for withdrawls and credit card for hotel, restaurants, etc.

Thanks to all of you for your help!
TravelerGina is offline  
Aug 6th, 2003, 07:27 PM
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You know, I thought having my passport would be sufficient and get me through customs/passport control without out any harrassment. Wrong.

On this last trip, we visited for a week in Canada and then drove to Yellowstone National Park. When I crossed the border into the US south of Calgary at Sweetgrass, Montana I got more than I expected. I presented my passport to Horatio with the Pistol, the staunch guardian of the gate, and then got the 3rd degree.

The questions were, I am sure, intended to make sure I was not stealing the car. You know, I might be one of those smart thieves who drives up with his passport and Herz rental contract at the ready trying to con the customs oficials.

I knew I was in for it when he looked at my passport and then said "Where do you live?" (Like if it was a phony passport I would not know what it said.)

Then the guy wearing the pistol proceeded to ask me where I got the car, where I would return the car, and whether or not Herz knew I was taking the car into the United States. When I had answers for all those questions, he then felt compelled to tell me that my insurance on the car was no good in the USA.

I made a mistake when I told him that I had discussed that matter before leaving with the top claims agent with in the southeastern region employed by my insurance company. The guy with the pistol told me I was wrong etc and that the senior claims guy did not know what he was talking about.
(Well it so happens that the claims agent is someone whom I know very well and he handles big stuff for his company. His wife has specialized in automobile insurance claims for 15 years with the same company and has rented cars in Canada herself. I think they both are suffiently informed.)

When the red flush started up the back of my neck, I got a nudge in the ribs from my wife to shut up, which was the correct behavior, and we were allowed to go on our way after a barrage of questions about other items like did we have any beef, fruit, etc.

After we returned to Calgary, and went to the airport to fly home, I cleared passport control with no problem. The immigration officer glanced at my passpsort and said "Have a good trip."
But the customs guys have all this fancy dan xray equipment that evidently is the latest and greatest. They evidently have fun looking for peanuts, literally. They ended up taking an apple away from my wife when it showed up in her carry-on luggage. I wish I could see those images; they must be razor sharp.

So don't smuggle any apples in your carry-on luggage. Those guys with the xray equipment can see everything!!
bob_brown is offline  
Aug 7th, 2003, 05:29 AM
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Bob: What a horrible experience!

I will make sure I have my drivers license, passport, car registration, proof of insurance, and anything else I can think of that might help in case I happen to get one of those unpleasant pistol-totin' custom guys!
TravelerGina is offline  
Aug 7th, 2003, 11:10 AM
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No joke. Ask your rental car company for a statement saying that you have discussed crossing the border.
I would hand the whole wad to Horatio at the Gate.

This experience was at Sweet Grass Montana. When we returned to Calgary from Yellowstone for our flight home, we crossed at the same place.
The traffic waiting to enter the USA was considerable -- a very long line of cars and trucks.

I can see why if the pistol toters give everybody the same going over.

I have crossed at Chief Mount and the Port of Piegan in years past with less interrogation.

The car, with an American at the wheel, seemed to be the major stumbling block.
So if you have a Canadian rental car and go into the US, be prepared.
bob_brown is offline  
Aug 7th, 2003, 12:04 PM
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Given the US/Candian border has been criticized for its "sieve-like" apperance and lax control in light of terrorism, I am glad that they were being that conscientious and questioning you. You seem to feel insulted that "you" were questioned, as if it was beneath you. That's too bad.
MikeT is offline  
Aug 7th, 2003, 03:16 PM
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I was offended. I am American citizen simply trying to return to his own country with all of the proper documentation.

There was no question about my identity, nor was there any question about my driving a rental car that was fully identified with me in possession of a legal and obvious rental contract.

Now what's the question? A thief would have all the answers anyhow as to where he got it, where he was taking it, and where he was dropping it off. Those silly questions provided zero valid information.

Do I need an lecture on insurance from some guy who knows little about the subject? My source of information was the Senior Claims Specialist for the company in the southeast whose first task on any claim is to verify the validity of the insurance contract.
This bozo at the gate knows more than a man who handles and settles claims involving many millions of dollars in court and out of cours and has been doing his job for 16 years? Like h he does!!

What is the point in looking at someone's passport and then asking Where do you live? What kind of answer would you expect? An imposter would have sense enough to memorize the passport!! I doubt very much if any border guard is psychic enough to detect an imposter with those tactics.

As for the ease of crossing the border if someone had evil intentions, the procedure is very easy. Steal or rent a four wheel drive vehicle and cross just about anywhere by driving through wheat fields. You might need a set of good wire cutters to get through farm fences, but no big deal. Snip and go. The Montana border is several hundred miles long between two sparsely populated provinces. People cross that way all the time along the border.

After all the population of the whole state of 140,000 square miles is about that of DeKalb County Georgia -- or about a million people spread out very thinly.

And taking apples from old ladies shores up the holes? Nonsense!!
People smuggling contraband are not going to run it through an x-ray machine that has state of the art resolution.

So if you think acting like a bully shores up the holes in crossing the border between the US and Canada, you are dead sure wrong.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 9th, 2003, 02:04 PM
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Several quick thoughts -

Never never never give the border guards a hard time - even if you're right. It's easier for you Americans. No matter what, they can't deny you entry. They can, however, make life difficult for you, up to and including stripping the car. "There you go sir, now if you want to put it together, please feel free to call the rental company and ask for some tools." If I were to argue with the US guards, there is a good chance they could refuse me entry arbitrarily - and all the paperwork it would take to eventually get that reversed a few months later. And I don't have a congressman to complain to. I would urge you to complain - I'm sure they consider the general level of complaints in straightening out the civil serice...

Border guards WILL ask you some questions, just to get a feel for your general story and what your business is; after all, this is how they try to tell the smugglers (more so than terrorists). For example, if you're a tourist from NYC going Calgary to Yellowstone, that would raise fewer eyebrows than someone FROM Montana or Wyoming going to Canada, renting a car, and driving back... That would get me very curious too. Of course, maybe he was giving you a hard time to see how you would react. More likely, he just liked throwing his wait around...

The border guards are somewhat right - some car rental companies forbid taking cars into the USA or apply different rental rates. I never looked into it, and I don't try to lie about it. But they are entitled to verify the situation. It's just a pity they aren't more polite and informed.
MD is offline  
Aug 10th, 2003, 08:36 AM
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>More likely, he just liked throwing his wait around...

Wonderful pun!

Keith is offline  
Aug 10th, 2003, 10:46 AM
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Oops, an embarrassing typo, actually. I try to be correct, but the darn keyboard keeps messing up if I type too fast.

I did rent a car in Vancouver once - unlimited kilometers. That offer did not apply if you took it into the US - different rate. I asked "how would you know, anyway, if I did?" and they said that the US customs people would check the agreement.

Ditto, we rented a car in Winnipeg, but the counter people said we couldn't take it to the USA. When my wife returned it after a few days to get a car that was allowed (from a competitor) the counter person said "Oh, why didn't you say so? We would have let you take it there...".

The rental companies seem to have bizarre and arbitrary rules. I'm sure there's a reason but I don't understand. Perhaps they're worried how many more kilometers you could put on if the USA was included.
MD is offline  
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