Currency – What Is Good To Know Before Arriving In Canada

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As a savvy traveller, one should understand the local currency of the country that one plans to visit. When we move from one country to another, the currency used changes. Suddenly we find ourselves dealing in currency notes or coins that we have never seen before. It sure can be a bit overwhelming if you have little idea about the currency and how it works. Knowledge and information about the currency of the country where you plan to go is an essential part of travel. If you are planning to travel to Canada for a business or a holiday trip, it would be useful as well as helpful if you know about the currency used in Canada.

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Currency in Canada

Canadian Dollar is the currency used in Canada, and it is referred to as CAD or C$. All Canadians make use of Canadian dollars, and when compared to one U.S. dollar, its value stands at about 70 or 80 cents. Canadian banknotes are commonly available in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. The $1 and $2 bills have been switched with coins. Canadian coins comprise of Loonie, Toonie, 25¢ quarter, 10¢ dime, 5¢ nickel, and 1¢ penny. However, pennies are gradually being edged out of circulation.

Canadian banknotes are brightly coloured, and thus it is easy to distinguish them from another currency. Canadians take pride in the colourful side of their money. In 2011, the Canadian government replaced paper bills with polymer bank notes to curb counterfeiting. The polymer banknotes are sturdier and more slippery when compared to the paper bills.

While you can always carry cash, you should be aware that credit cards and debit cards are easily accepted in Canada. Thus, there is no need to bring loads of cash, but do carry some Canadian dollars that you can use when you arrive for odd expenses and small purchases. One can use debit and credit cards for purchases or withdraw Canadian money. The currency exchange rates can vary and can fall between $2 and $5.

Traveling to Canada and your money

Before you leave for Canada, it is essential to know about the country as well as the currency so as to avoid any problems. Always buy travel insurance and carry a backup source of funds for any unexpected emergency.

  • Carrying Cash Check with the Canadian embassy in your country on how much cash you are allowed to carry. You should carry whatever limited amount you feel comfortable for your trip and keep the money safe in different pockets or secure in a money belt.
  • Credit cards – It is recommended to carry a credit card for the major expenses of your trip, such as the restaurant and hotel bills or the flight tickets. Make use of the credit card wherever possible and look for the best exchange rate and fees for the international transactions.
  • Pre-paid cards – Many banks and financial institutions provide pre-paid travel cards for traveling abroad. These paid travel cards are loaded with money from your bank account and can be used as a credit or debit card. However, the transaction fee may be higher than the credit and debit cards.
  • Debit cards – Check with your bank if it has international branches in Canada. If so, then you may be able to use your debit card. Always use the bank-affiliated ATMs as the debit card may not work in any other ATM of the destination country.
  • Travelers’ cheques -Travelers’ cheques are another option in case you do not want to carry cash or use credit or debit cards. You can always carry multiple cheques in small denominations.

Places to Exchange Foreign Currency

It is easy to exchange any foreign currencies into Canadian dollars at currency exchange kiosks. You can easily locate them at airports, shopping malls, border crossings and banks. Several banks in Canada have been there for a long time and are reputable because of their longstanding services. Some of these banks are Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, TD Canada Trust, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Montreal.

ATMs are commonly found near the banks, in malls, stores, bars, and restaurants. When you withdraw money through an ATM, you will get Canadian currency based on the conversion rate.  It is better to stick to the ATMs in banks and avoid those random ones you come across on the streets. Watch out for scammers. Look for another ATM if you feel that card slot is not as smooth as it should be. Keep your credit card safe and stay alert at all times, whoever using the card.

Learn about the conversion rate from your bank before you leave for Canada. It is a good idea to discuss which travel cards or credit cards will work the best for travel. Find your about some ATM networks that do not charge any fee from their visitors when they withdraw money.

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How to get the best Exchange Rates?

Most likely, you will get the best exchange rate at a bank, especially when you use their credit card for your expenses and shopping. There may be a small bank fee per transaction, but the exchange rate will be at par with the current exchange rate. So, check ahead with your bank as there are some banks that may charge a surcharge for foreign currency. Some Citi cards do not charge a foreign exchange fee. Other places where you can get good exchange rates are the American Express offices and post offices. You can always try some hotels to get decent exchange rates.

 How to avoid worst Exchange Rates?

Although there are many locations and spots where you can exchange your currency for Canadian dollars, there are some areas that should be evaded. These include tourist areas, airports, train stations as they typically offer the worst exchange rates. If you do need to exchange your currency at these sites, do only for a small amount of money.

Common Pitfalls When Exchanging Money

Tourists and travelers often end up making some mistakes when exchanging money. It is essential to know about those common pitfalls and avoid those mistakes to get the best possible exchange rates.

  • Travelers do not look around: Do not make this mistake and spend some time looking around and get information on how and where you can get the best possible exchange rates.
  • Travelers do not find about exchange rates: Get information on the best possible exchange rates and read the posted exchange rates. Inquire about the net rate after commissions and if the fees are per transaction or on a percentage basis.
  • Travelers do not read the fine print: Always read between the fine lines as you can be easily misled into thinking that you are indeed getting the best exchange rates. There may be certain conditions that apply and that you should be aware of.


Debit Cards And Credit Cards

Debit cards and credit cards are commonly used and accepted across Canada. However, a lot relies on how you plan to use the foreign-issued cards and the transaction fees applied by the card company. As a trailer, one must talk to their banks about the best options and how to use their credit and debit cards when making withdrawals at the Canadian banks.  Keep in mind that any currency exchange will cost an additional fee whether at a foreign bank or at an ATM. Every traveler should call their bank or credit card companies in advance to inform them of future use out of the country.

  • When using Debit Cards in Canada
    A debit card differs from credit cards as one is making a withdrawal on money in their bank account in their home country. One has to either wither swipe or insert or tap to get the funds withdrawn, In Canada, as these terminals run on the Interac network, which is a network specific to Canada, it means you cannot access information of your account in real-time. So, if you are using debit cards issued by non-Canadian banks, they will probably not work. However, they might work at point-of-purchase terminals. However, there is a foreign transaction fee for each purchase. Still, one can use their debit cards to withdraw Canadian currency from ATMs in Canada. Depending on your bank, the exchange rate fees will vary and apply every time you withdraw.  The fee per transaction can be higher at small ATMs at stores and restaurants and be around three-to-five-dollar per transaction. So, go for withdrawals at major banks where the fee per transaction is not so hefty. If you are a frequent traveler to Canada, it is a good idea to check with your bank if you can set up an extra account where you will not have to pay any currency exchange fees when out of the country.
  • When using Credit Cards in Canada
    Credit card fees can leave a leave a major dent in your pocket when traveling overseas. Hence, before you travel to Canada, ensure that you are using the right card and with minimum transaction fees. Most major retailers across Canada accept all the major credit cards such as the Visa and MasterCard. There are some exceptions where the retailers wither accept only cash or MasterCard. It is best to call your credit card company and inform them about your travel plans to Canada.  Canadians prefer chip-and-PIN and contactless cards as they are easy fast and convenient to use. What adds to the advantage are that these are the most secure and safe ways to pay! If you don’t have the PIN, don’t fret as the point-of-sale systems in Canada will ask you to run a signature to complete each transaction. Many card machines permit swiping, but one should consider getting chip cards it is looked upon to be more secure. Just keep your financial details and pin number safe and you will enjoy a trouble-free experience when using your credit card in Canada.

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Using the US currency in Canada

Canada and the United States have enjoyed a longstanding relationship based on trade and tourist activity. Still, Canada is its own laws, and currency. When one reviews the past couple of years, the CAD hovers slightly below the U.S. dollar. During the early years of the 21st century, it was almost on par with the US dollar. When shopping in Canada with American currency, you can enjoy some really good bargains.

Although the U.S. currency is readily acceptable with significant retailers and hotels, you may not be able to do so if in rural destinations and far-flung areas. At the popular destinations and border towns, you can probably get a decent exchange for the U.S. currency. It is always better to travel with the local currency i.e. the Canadian dollars. Although the major U.S. credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Canada, it is better to do your homework before handing over the US dollars to a Canadian cashier.

Canadian banks usually offer better exchange rates. But the easiest way to get Canadian dollars is by using an ATM. Most machines will charge a user fee of about $5. You can use your US dollars at tourist destinations and in border areas. However, you may need to use Canadian dollars in rural areas and smaller cities. Keep in mind that most of the coin-operated machines at laundromats and parking meters will accept only Canadian currency.

As a good rule of thumb, carry a mix of all options. For example, you can carry a little cash, debit and credit cards and some traveller’s checks. As the cards are accepted at most ATMs across Canada, it would be easy to get cash anytime and anywhere. Just look for the best possible exchange rates so as to make the most out of the Canadian dollars for each transaction.  With complete information on Canadian dollars, the exchange rates and the safest and most practical way of using the money, you would feel confident when handling money in Canada.

Of course, be sure to get your Canada Eta visa before travelling!