Travel money guide: Canada

Use our travel money guide to prepare for your trip to the land of snow and the Northern Lights.

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Travelers to Canada will be glad to hear that you can use your cards in the same type of places as you would at home. There’s a similar number of ATMs and banks, and prices for accommodation and food are more or less the same — though it gets more expensive if you’re going skiing or snowboarding.

As you’ll be making transactions in Canadian dollars, there are some fees you’ll need to look out for. Here is we compare the different travel money products and strategies that will help you get the most out of your trip.

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases
$150
Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases. Rates & fees
20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1.25x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

How much should I budget for my vacation to Canada?

Canada and the US are similar countries when it comes to daily spending and vacation expenses. Like all places around the world, prices jump up significantly in ski resorts. So, you’re going to need more cash if you head up the slopes.

Whistler Budget Mid-range Expensive
accomodations-in-greece Motel (Whistler)
$90 per night
Hostel (Winnipeg)
$30 per night
3-star hotel (Whistler)
$200–$300 per night
3-star hotel (Winnipeg)
$100 per night
5-star hotel (Whistler)
$400–$500 per night
4-star hotel (Winnipeg)
$150 per night
eat Whistler’s best burgers
$10–$15
Drive in fast food (Winnipeg)
$4–$8
Mexican food (Whistler)
$20
Pub food (Winnipeg)
$10–$20
Araxi restaurant 10 oz. steak (Whistler)
$54
Angus Sirloin (Winnipeg)
$36
see Snowshoe walking tour (Whistler)
$80 per person
Manitoba Museum (Winnipeg)
$7 per person
10 days skiing (Whistler)
$750
WWII Historical Walking Tour (Westminster)
$80 per person
Sea to Sky Exotic Driving (Whistler)
$800
White water rafting (Winnipeg)
$120

*Prices are approximate and subject to change.

Exchange rate history

The Canadian dollar has become stronger than the US dollar in the past five years. That being said, when you exchange your money, it might not stretch as far when traveling in Canada

How to send money to Canada

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Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Don’t stress about using your card to make purchases and to withdraw cash — card acceptance and ATM availability are similar to the US. Canadian merchants accept Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit cards. Canada uses Interac Direct Payment (IDP) and you can use this system to get cash out over the counter if you’re paying with your debit or travel card. Travel cards, debit cards and credit cards are all worth comparing before you head out on your trip.
How to use a credit card in Canada

Travel money options for Canada at a glance

Travel money options Pros Cons
Travel prepaid cards
  • Multiple currencies
  • Avoid currency conversion fees
  • Supplementary card
  • ATM fees
  • Reloading time
Debit cards
  • No currency conversion fee
  • No international ATM fee
  • Unlimited free withdrawals at selected banks
  • International transaction fees may apply
Credit cards
  • Complimentary travel and purchase insurance
  • Interest-free days on purchases
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Benefits include rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks, complimentary travel insurance
  • Cash advance rates and fees
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
Traveler’s checks
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Can only be cashed at banks and selected merchants
  • Fee paid when buying traveler’s checks
Cash
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • Foreign exchange fee may apply on foreign currency orders
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

How travel cards, credit cards and debit cards work in Canada

Using a prepaid travel card

Travel cards let you spend Canadian dollars in Canada, helping you avoid the fee for currency conversion. While you can avoid currency conversion fees, look for international ATM that waive fees to save on withdrawal costs.

  • Tip: You might be able to miss ATM fees by taking cash out over the counter when you make a purchase.

Using a debit card

Look for a card that doesn’t charge for foreign exchange, international ATM fee and has no monthly or account keeping fees. If you want to take your everyday debit card with you, you’ll most likely pay $5 for international ATM withdrawals (plus the ATM operator fee) and a 3% currency conversion fee.

Using a credit card

Credit cards are a good way to make purchases, however, you should use your debit card when you want to make ATM withdrawals. Cash advance fees and interest can add up and give you a nasty surprise when you arrive home. Some of these charges can be avoided (look at the FAQs section of our travel money page), but it’s better just to keep your credit card for purchases and emergencies. If you plan on using the complimentary international travel insurance feature, double check that your planned activities are covered by the policy.

Using a traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks have become a thing of the past when compared to the other forms of travel money compared for the following reasons:

  • Your bank will give you your money back if you’re the victim of card fraud.
  • You can use your card in a wide number of places in Canada. Meanwhile, traveler’s checks can only be cashed at banks and a select number of merchants.
  • You’ll pay a fee to buy traveler’s checks.

Paying with cash in Canada

There are always going to be times when you need to pay with cash, especially if you’re buying something small — some merchants won’t accept a card for a small payment due to surcharge fees.

If you’re wondering the best way to exchange US dollars for Canadian dollars, you have these options:

  • Before you leave. Exchange cash using a foreign exchange service.
  • When you arrive. Visit a bank or a dedicated foreign exchange office, avoid exchanging cash at the airport as you can easily find a better rate elsewhere.
  • Withdraw from a Canadian ATM. The simplest way to get CAD is to make an ATM withdrawal when you arrive. There are multiple ATMs at Canadian airports which offer a true rate, just be conscious of ATM withdrawal fees.

Did you know?

The Canadian dollar is one of the most traded currencies in the world, it’s referred to as the “buck.” This can be traced back to the origins of Canada’s history, where the Hudson’s Bay Company created a coin worth the pelt of one male beaver, otherwise known as a buck.

canadian-dollar-banknotes

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Case Study

Michael spent a season skiing Canada’s famous peaks: Whistler and Blackcomb. The season lasts for approximately six months starting in November and ending around May.

Michael

What cards did you take with you?

Why did you take these cards to Canada?

Michael says that the low rate Simmons Visa® was his card of choice so he could save on purchases. Since he knew he was going to be in Canada for a while, he opened a local bank account instead of taking a travel friendly debit or credit card.

Any tips on how to go about getting a Canadian bank account?

He says that in order to get a Canadian bank account, you have to have two forms of ID – a passport, license or credit card with your name on it will do. Once you have that you can apply for a bank account. Michael says it’s something he definitely recommends for someone who is going to be doing a season in Whistler.

Were there any places where you had trouble using any of your cards?

He says more or less, no. Michael told us of one instance where Mastercard flagged a possible fraudulent purchase because of the location. He says make sure you tell your bank about your travel plans to avoid this situation.

Michael’s tips for managing travel money in Canada

Michael says he had savings in his US bank account, and he needed to transfer this money to his new Canadian account. He made a lump sum transfer every month or two. He recommends the services of OFX, a foreign exchange and international payments company.

  • International payments. He says it was very easy to create an account and make a payment to OFX. It only took a couple of days for the funds to clear in his Canadian account. A transfer fee of $25 was charged by OFX for each transaction.
  • Travel safety. He also says give fanny packs a chance. While they may not be coolest choice of apparel, it’s savvy nonetheless. Michael’s words: “A travel fanny pack is probably a good idea for people who are prone to losing things.”

If you’re planning on hitting the slopes while you’re in Canada, you will need to make sure that you have additional insurance. Make sure your trip is protected and compare travel insurance policies today.

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% foreign exchange fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.
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    Withdrawing from Canadian ATMs

    Look for the Visa, Visa PLUS or Mastercard logo on the front of the machine to see whether you can use your card to get cash. A local ATM operator fee applies each time you withdraw cash. This fee is comparable to the US where you’ll pay $2 to $3 each time your withdraw in addition to international ATM charges and currency conversion charges.

    Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

    Even though you can get away with making card payment a lot of the time, there are still instances when you’ll need cash. Take a combination of the travel money products and use the right card for the right situation so you can save on international transaction charges.

    Do your research before you leave so you can enjoy your trip to Canada with peace of mind that you’re spending your money smart and not giving it to your bank.

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    Find cheap travel insurance options for your next trip to Canada

    Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
    100%
    $15,000
    $500
    $500
    Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
    $10,000
    $1,000
    $100
    Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
    $50,000
    $2,000
    $1,000
    Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
    $20,000
    $1,000
    $600
    Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
    100%
    $15,000
    $750
    $500
    Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.

    Compare up to 4 providers

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