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usf Jul 13th, 2008 04:49 PM

money in Canada
Does it make sense to buy Canadian dollars before we go to Canada? We are in the US. Also, what about Traveler's checks? I was in SF last summer and the only place that I could cash my traveler's checks was in a bank. Does it make any sense to take traveler's checks to Canada? Many thanks for your help.

Gavin Jul 13th, 2008 05:44 PM

You will have no trouble getting Canadian dollars from ATMs. Use ATMs belonging to major banks. Your US bank may have a link to Canadian one this might save you a bit on ATM fees. Travelers' cheques are an anachronism; don't bother with them. US dollars are accepted in many places but normally at a poor exchange rate. Change will be Canadian.

kodi Jul 13th, 2008 05:55 PM

IF you have a Bank of America account , you can withdraw money from an ATM at Scotiabank for no fee.
Any other bank will not be a problem, there will just be a fee charged by YOUR bank for using an out of country ATM. IT's still the best way to get money. FOrget the travellers cheques.

bob_brown Jul 13th, 2008 06:38 PM

The last time I was in a bank in Banff, there was a sign posted that stated the flat rate for cashing a travelers check.

I was amused at the wording:
so much for a foreign currency check, so much for an American dollar check, and so much for a Canadian dollar check. I guess Americans fit into a special category. We aren't foreign and we aren't Canadians. I guess we are odd wads.

As a general rule if you buy travelers checks denominated in Canadian dollars, you will pay about 5% over the wholesale bank rate of exchange, and then pay a flat fee to convert them to spending money.

A few places may accept them, but usually places that are overpriced to begin with.

If you use an ATM card you will pay about 1% over the wholesale bank rate of exchange, which is much better than walking into a Canadian bank with a fistful of American paper and converting it.

As Kodi says, Scotia Bank is an network affiliate of Bank of America. I am a B of A reluctant customer because it charges me $5.00 per card insertion for an offnet transaction.

Moreover if I use a debit card for a purchase, I get the pleasure of paying a conversion fee of 3% over the wholesale bank rate of exchange.

If I use my B of A credit card I get the same 3% add-on for no service rendered.

The result is that I got a Capital One credit card for use outside of the USA and a debit card based on a money market account at Fidelity Investments. That way I don't pay ATM fees and get only the normal 1% markup on cash withdrawals.

The bottom line is that you need to check with your bank and see what kind of bakshish it wants for using its money plastic outside of the USA.

I have played this international currency exchange game lots of times and I feel that now I have a good situation to avoid getting socked with various fees assessed by some of the banks.

Dukey Jul 14th, 2008 07:59 AM

The SIMPLE answer is:

use your ATM card to get Canadian dollars out of an ATM

even if you DO pay some sort of service charge it is better than the hassle of trying to use a traveler's check or paying the commission at some currency exchange counter.

AndrewDavid Jul 14th, 2008 05:30 PM

money in Canada?

yes we have money here


amelie Jul 14th, 2008 05:48 PM

We use ATMs to get Canadian cash.

MargrietVanderBanck Jul 15th, 2008 11:29 AM

Unlike banks in Europe, Canadian banks can charge a so-called "convenience fee," for the privilege of using their ATM, if you don't have an account with that bank. Typically the charge is $1.50 per transaction, and you are warned about it (and have the option to cancel) before the transaction goes through. The charge is added to your withdrawal, so instead of, say, $200, your slip will say $201.50. The Bank of America/Scotiabank agreement also waives this fee.

There might be other arrangements. My Canadian credit union has an agreement with HSBC, so there is no transaction fee/convenience fee when I use one of their machines.

Also, beware of non-bank ATMs, typically located in convenience stores and airports or stations. They charge even more.

Kostroma Jul 16th, 2008 11:42 AM

Before my trips to Canada, I usually get $20 Canadian from my Bank of America branch (which costs 60 cents) as "just in case" money and use Scotiabank ATMs to get cash without fees once I'm at my destination. For shopping, I use my Capital One card exclusively.

A couple of years ago, I found a website showing which Canadian banks had agreements with American banks, but of course I can't find it now. You should call your bank to find out if they have a Canadian "equivalent".

lmhornet Jul 19th, 2008 06:08 AM

"For shopping, I use my Capital One card exclusively."

Big mistake. American banks and credit card combines charge you 3% or more to use a US credit card in Canada. It's far better get cash from an ATM. Take out large amounts at a time to minimize any fees.

bob_brown Jul 20th, 2008 12:25 PM

I don't pay Capital One anything like a 3% fee if I use its credit card in Europe. Why should I pay it in Canada?

I just got back from almost 3 weeks in Europe with frequent credit card transactions. I checked the exchange rate and I paid very close to the wholesale bank rate of exchange for all of my transactions.

The one usage of a B of A debit card to buy gasoline resulted in a 3% fee tacked on.

That is an excellent point above by
MargrietVanderBanck about fees at non bank ATMs. I recall that the (a) machine at Lake Louise was a franchise deal and it had a fee above and beyond what my bank might charge me.

Fortunately I had been to the Scotia Bank in Banff and had obtained the cash I needed for a few days.

usf Jul 21st, 2008 04:38 AM

WOW.....great advice from one and all. I leave tomorrow so I will stop and get some 'just in case' $$$. I had planned to do that anyway. But I am confused about using a credit card in Canada. I'll call my card company to see if they can give me any advice. Thanks again....

Kostroma Jul 22nd, 2008 02:25 PM

My Capital One card does not charge a foreign transaction fee at all on my purchases. Maybe it's a feature of my particular card, but I don't pay even 1%, let alone 3%.

usf, you may want to check with your credit card company, but I believe 3%-5% is standard. Use your card as little as possible and you'll be fine.

neiljamieson Jul 31st, 2008 08:49 PM

It really depends on the particular credit card as to what the "foreign conversion fee" is. Many don't even have it and have just their own exchange rate. This applies to both Canadian and American cards.

Just some advice to visitors from the U.S.:

Unless you are staying in border towns/cities, you should always use Canadian currency in Canada when making cash payments. I don't go to Washington DC and expect everyone to gladly accept my Canadian dollars.

The above posts are very correct. ATMs are best and credit cards too. You can also see if your bank (ATM) debit card will work with the Canadian "Interac" system and then you can use that method too.

As for Travellers' Cheques (or American spelling: travelers' checks) They aren't really worth getting.

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