Using a Credit Card in the US in 2021 | Finder Canada

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Using a credit card in the US

You love using your credit card here in Canada — but can you use it in the States?

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A young man with a backpack walking the Brooklyn bridge

Good news: our southern neighbour loves credit cards as much as we do. Unlike in Europe — where you’ll sometimes rely on cash for transactions — in the States, you can often get by with just your card. Before taking your card to the US, however, there are a few things you should know: fees, how to keep your card safe, where to get cash and more.

Which credit cards are accepted in the US?

Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
Visacheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
Mastercardcheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
American Expressexclamation point iconFaircheck mark iconHigh

Compare credit cards for use in the US

A good benefit to look for in a credit card used for travel is a lack of foreign transaction fees. This means that you won’t have to worry about paying a fee every time you use your card while traveling. Although foreign transaction fees are often small, they can add up quickly over the course of a trip. Compare credit cards below.

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
American Express Cobalt Card
19.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible grocery stores, restaurants, bars, cafés and food delivery services, 2 points per $1 spent at eligible gas stations, and on transit and travel purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere.
Earn up to 45,000 bonus Membership Rewards points. In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, earn 2,500 points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 on your card (for a total of 30,000 points in a year). Plus, earn 15,000 points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months. Apply by May 5, 2021.
BMO World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
$80,000
Get 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible travel, dining and entertainment purchases (up to $50,000 spend annually), and 2 points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases (and once you reach the $50,000 annual spend).
Get up to 30,000 points – 25,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and 5,000 points on your first anniversary. Plus, get the $150 annual fee waived in the first year. Apply by October 31, 2021
American Express Aeroplan Card
30% annual interest rate applies to balances not paid in full each month
N/A
$120
N/A
Earn 2x the points on eligible purchases made directly with Air Canada and Air Canada vacations, 1.5x the points on eligible dining and food delivery purchases and 1x the points on everything else.
Earn up to 15,000 Welcome Bonus Aeroplan points and a bonus Buddy Pass as a new cardmember.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
19.95%
19.95%
$0
$12,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
19.99%
21.99%
$99
N/A
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
Earn 10% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $400 in cash back) for the first four months of Cardmembership.
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Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Balance Transfer Rate Balance Transfer Fee Annual Fee Minimum Income Reward Description
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
12.99%
3.99% for the first 9 months (then 12.99%)
1%
$20
$15,000
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
19.95%
1.95% for the first 6 months (then 19.95%)
3%
$0
$12,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
Tangerine World Mastercard
19.95%
1.95% for the first 6 months (then 19.95%)
3%
$0
$60,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
BMO Rewards Mastercard
19.99%
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
$0
$15,000
Get 1 BMO Reward point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases, and get 2 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car locations.
Get a bonus of 10,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Apply by October 31, 2021 . Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
19.99%
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
$0
$15,000
Get up to 5x the AIR MILES Reward Miles on groceries Valid until May 31, 2021.Plus, get 3x the AIR MILES for every $25 spent at eligible AIR MILES partners, and 1 AIR MILE for every $25 spent elsewhere.
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
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Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
American Express Cobalt Card
19.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Earn 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at eligible grocery stores, restaurants, bars, cafés and food delivery services, 2 points per $1 spent at eligible gas stations, and on transit and travel purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere.
Earn up to 45,000 bonus Membership Rewards points. In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, earn 2,500 points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 on your card (for a total of 30,000 points in a year). Plus, earn 15,000 points when you spend a total of $3,000 in purchases on your Card in your first 3 months. Apply by May 5, 2021.
American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
20.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Earn 1 AIR MILE for every $5 spent on eligible food, drink, gas and transit purchases (up to an annual spend of $30,000), and earn 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent on all other eligible purchases (and after the $30,000 annual spend)
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,000 AIR MILES when you spend at least $1,500 in eligible purchases within the first three months. That’s enough to redeem for $200 towards your purchases with AIR MILES Cash.
American Express Aeroplan Card
30% annual interest rate applies to balances not paid in full each month
N/A
$120
N/A
Earn 2x the points on eligible purchases made directly with Air Canada and Air Canada vacations, 1.5x the points on eligible dining and food delivery purchases and 1x the points on everything else.
Earn up to 15,000 Welcome Bonus Aeroplan points and a bonus Buddy Pass as a new cardmember.
BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
$80,000
Get topped up to 5x the AIR MILES Reward Miles on groceries until May 31, 2021 (when you use any BMO AIR MILES credit card with your AIR MILES Card when you shop at participating grocery stores). Plus, get 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent on eligible purchases.

Earn a bonus of up to 2,000 AIR MILES. Terms apply. Plus, get the annual fee of $120 waived in the first year.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
19.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Receive 5 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy™ properties and 2 points on all other spend. Terms apply
Receive 50,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you charge $1,500 in the first three months of card membership. Terms apply
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Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Cash Back Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Reward
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
19.99%
21.99%
2%
$99
N/A
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
Earn 10% cash back on all eligible purchases (up to $400 in cash back) for the first four months of Cardmembership.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
19.95%
19.95%
2%
$0
$12,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
SimplyCash Card from American Express
19.99%
21.99%
1.25%
$0
N/A
Earn 1.25% cash back on all eligible purchases.
Earn 2.5% cash back on all eligible purchases in your first three months (up to a maximum spend of $6,000, or $150 in cash back).
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
1.5%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
$80,000
Earn 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases.
Get up to 10% cash back in your first 3 months and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year.
Tangerine World Mastercard
19.95%
19.95%
2%
$0
$60,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
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Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
BMO CashBack Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to a maximum spend of $2,000, and earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases thereafter). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
19.95%
19.95%
$0
$12,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
Choice Card from American Express
19.99%
23.99%
$0
N/A
Earn 1 American Express Membership Point for every $1 you spend on purchases.
Earn 12,500 Bonus Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,250 in purchases to your card within the first 3 months as a new Cardmember. Apply by May 5, 2021.
Shell AIR MILES Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get up to 5x the AIR MILES Reward Miles on groceries Valid until May 31, 2021. Plus, get 3x the AIR MILES for every $25 spent at eligible AIR MILES partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $25 spent elsewhere.
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
Tangerine World Mastercard
19.95%
19.95%
$0
$60,000
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
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Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Reward
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
12.99%
12.99%
$20
$15,000
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®
11.9%
11.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($25 thereafter)
N/A
Earn 2x the rewards on eligible dining and entertainment.
Earn 30,000 Points ($150 travel value), plus get a full annual fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year ($25 value). Apply by March 29, 2021. Conditions Apply. This offer is only available to residents of Canada other than the province of Quebec (Quebec residents eligible for separate offer).
BMO Rewards Business Mastercard
14.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
N/A
Earn 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 you spend on gas, office supplies, cell phone bills and internet bills, and earn 1.5 BMO Rewards points for every $1 you spend elsewhere.
Get 35,000 points and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year (a total value of $295).
Home Trust Secured Visa
14.90% - 19.99%
19.80% - 19.99%
$0
N/A
Improve your credit score and make purchases with the Home Trust Secured Visa. Choose between paying no annual fee or low interest.
Choose from three card options: No Annual Fee ($0 annual fee, 19.99% purchase rate), Low Interest Rate ($59 annual fee, 14.90% purchase rate) or a Low Monthly Fee ($5 monthly fee, 14.90% purchase rate).
Business Platinum Card from American Express
N/A
N/A
$499
N/A
Earn 1.25 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible purchases
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $7,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership.
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card
N/A
N/A
$250
N/A
Earn 2 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible purchases at select American Express merchant suppliers in Canada (choose 3 suppliers), and earn 1 Membership Reward point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
12.99%
12.99%
$29
$12,000
Save on interest for 6 months by consolidating your higher-rate balances with the balance transfer offer, and get an on-going 12.99% interest rate on purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
Get a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 0% transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by July 1, 2021.
American Express Essential Credit Card
12.99%
12.99%
$0
N/A
Enjoy an ongoing low fixed interest rate including a range of insurance related benefits and exclusive entertainment deals.
Offers a 1.99% balance transfer rate in the first 6 months. No balance transfer fee upon application.
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A few credit card fees to avoid

Though the States is just a hop and a skip across the border, your spending there is still subject to international fees. In particular, you’ll want to avoid foreign transaction fees and currency conversion fees.

Foreign transaction fees

A foreign transaction fee is assessed when you use your card abroad, and it’s usually 3% of each transaction (though can be more, depending on your card).

Screenshot of foreign currency fees from credit card issuerExample of foreign currency fees from BMO Mastercard policy

Most credit cards have foreign transaction fees. However, all good travel cards come with no foreign transaction fees. For a few excellent cards, compare no foreign transaction fee credit cards here.

Currency conversion fees

A merchant may offer to convert your bill into CAD dollars instead of charging you in US dollars. This is called dynamic currency conversion, and it’s expensive because you’ll pay a currency conversion fee for it. If a merchant offers it, take a hard pass.

Should I use my credit card to get cash?

Though you can likely use your credit card everywhere you go in the States, you may need to get cash at some point. Unfortunately, it can be very expensive to get cash from your credit card. That’s because your card provider will charge you a cash advance fee as well as a higher interest rate for cash advances.

Check out this card’s pricing information table. As you can see, depending on the card you have, the cash advance APR can be as high 20.5% (or more). Sometimes this rate will be higher than your purchase or balance transfer APRs.

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Screen shot of a credit card cash advance fee policy exampleExample of cash advance APRs and fees from BMO Mastercard policy

Not only that, but you’ll see that a cash advances comes with a fee. At a minimum, you’ll pay $3.50 in Canada. But you’ll pay more when you’re outside of Canada and in the US. Of course, credit-card ATM withdrawals may also be subject to foreign transaction fees. The implication is clear: Don’t use your credit card at ATMs.

Pick up a no-fee debit or ATM card instead

Instead of relying on your credit card to get cash, look for a low-fee debit or ATM card.

Look for a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. That means you can avoid the 1% to 3% fee that credit and debit cards often charge.

Magnetic stripe and chip credit cards

Card providers in Canada upgraded your existing credit cards years ago to ones with a chip inside. These cards are called, unsurprisingly, chip cards.

In Canada, chip-and-PIN cards are standard. With this type of card, you enter a four-digit personal identification number to verify your identity. In the US, chip-and-signature cards are mostly still standard— you must provide a signature during a transaction to verify your identity.

Can I use my chip-and-PIN card in the States?

You’re not out of luck if you only have a chip-and-PIN card. If you don’t have a chip-and-signature card, US point-of-sale systems may ask you to provide a signature to complete each transaction or you may be not be required to enter a PIN or give a signature at all. You’ll simply insert your card and remove it for the transaction to be complete.

Is it safe to use my credit card in the US?

For the most part, you’re quite safe from credit card fraud in the States. You’ll rarely be on the hook for fraudulent transactions due to your card’s fraud protection policies.

As with all destinations, however, there’s the possibility your credit card information could be stolen. Here are a few ways to avoid it.

  • Keep your PIN safe. Whenever you enter your PIN, use your other hand to cover your inputs. This helps cut down on spying — both from hidden cameras and people looking over your shoulder.
  • Be careful about which ATMs you use. Avoid decrepit ATMs and ATMs in isolated locations. Instead, use ATMs attached to banks.
  • Cancel your ATM transaction if anything seems awry. Don’t use an ATM if your card doesn’t slide smoothly into the card slot, or if the keypad is difficult to press. The machine may be compromised by a credit card skimmer — a device that steals credit card information.

Credit card fraud, skimmers and keeping card information safe

Keeping your credit card (physically) safe

Thieves don’t just steal credit card information by recording your card number — they can also steal the card itself.

Pickpocketing isn’t a huge problem in the US — certainly not as big of a problem as it is in Europe. However, it’s still a good idea to remain vigilant, especially in larger cities. Keep your belongings close, even if you’re in a supposedly safe place like a restaurant. Never leave your wallet or purse un-attended and don’t give your card to anyone you don’t know or trust.

How should I prepare before my trip?

Before heading to the US, ensure that you can use your credit card with no problems.
1. Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees can be a downer on vacation, but they’re easy to avoid if you pick the right card.

2. Highly consider getting a Visa or Mastercard. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards globally. You can use American Express at some locations, but many other merchants won’t take it.

3. Give your card provider a heads-up. Your card company hates fraud because it loses them money. If they see a foreign transaction on your card, they may put a hold on your account for suspicious activity. To avoid this, let your provider know you’ll be traveling to the States.

4. Know who to call if you have a problem with your card while traveling. Your card might be stolen while you’re traveling, or you could lose it. In both cases, you’ll need the right number to call for a replacement card.

5. Know where you’ll get cash once you arrive. So you don’t waste time, plan out beforehand where you’ll get cash. See if your bank has international partnerships that allow you to use some ATMs for free.

Once you’ve made these arrangements, you’re all set to use your credit card on your next trip to the US. Safe travels!

See more guides on using a credit card in other countries.

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