The basic unit of U.S. currency is the dollar, which is subdivided into 100 cents. Coins are the copper penny (1 cent) and four silver coins: the nickel (5 cents), the dime (10 cents), the quarter (25 cents), and the half-dollar (50 cents). Silver $1 coins are rarely seen in circulation; a "golden" dollar coin was introduced in 2000. Paper money comes in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. All these bills are the same size and green in color; they are distinguishable only by the dollar amount indicated on them and by pictures of various famous American people and monuments.

U.S. dollars are accepted in much of Canada (especially in communities near the border such as Windsor). The Canadian units of currency are the Canadian dollar (C$) and the cent, in almost the same denominations as U.S. currency ($5, $10, $20, 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, etc.) The $1 and $2 bill are no longer used; they have been replaced by $1 and $2 coins (known as a "loonie," because of the loon that appears on the coin, and a "toonie," respectively).

Exchanging Money

For the most favorable rates, change money through banks. Although fees charged for ATM transactions may be higher abroad than at home, Cirrus and Plus exchange rates are excellent, because they are based on wholesale rates offered only by major banks. You won't do as well at exchange booths in airports or rail and bus stations, in hotels, in restaurants, or in stores, although you may find their hours more convenient.

In general, U.S. banks will not cash a personal check for you unless you have an account at that bank (it doesn't have to be at that branch). Only in major cities are large bank branches equipped to exchange foreign currencies. Therefore, it's best to rely on credit cards, cash machines, and traveler's checks to handle expenses while you're traveling.

To get the most favorable exchange rate for Canadian dollars, exchange at least some of your money into Canadian funds at a bank or other financial institution. Traveler's checks (some are available in Canadian dollars) and major U.S. credit cards are accepted in most areas.

Money Orders, Funds Transfers

Any U.S. bank is equipped to accept transfers of funds from foreign banks. It helps if you can plan dates to pick up money at specific bank branches. Your home bank can supply you with a list of its correspondent banks in the United States.

If you have more time, and you have a U.S. address where you can receive mail, you can have someone send you a certified check, which you can cash at any bank, or a postal money order (for as much as $700, obtained for a fee of up to 85¢ at any U.S. post office and redeemable at any other post office). From overseas, you can have someone go to a bank to send you an international money order (also called a bank draft), which will cost a $15–$20 commission plus airmail postage. Always bring two valid pieces of identification, preferably with photos, to claim your money.


The sales tax in Michigan is 6%. Lodging is taxed at 15%. In Canada, a goods and services tax of 7% (GST) applies on virtually every transaction, except for the purchase of basic groceries. In addition, Ontario levies a sales tax from 6% to 12% on most items purchased in shops, on restaurant meals, and sometimes on hotel rooms.

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