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Travel money guide: Canada

Use our travel money guide to prepare for your trip to our northern neighbors.

Travelers to Canada will be glad to hear that you can use your cards in the same types 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 in specific cities, or if you’re going skiing or snowboarding.

A credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is ideal to keep those pesky additional expenses away. Here’s a look at all of your purchasing options in Canada.

Our picks for traveling to Canada

Travel rewards with no annual fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 1.25 x miles

Annual fee

$0

All-around travel value

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Go to site
on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 5 x miles

Annual fee

$95

Cash back with no foreign fees

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Go to site
on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 1.5 % cash back

Annual fee

$0

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.

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.

These are your options for spending money in Canada

Using a credit card

Credit cards are a good way to make purchases, but it’s recommended you use your debit card when making ATM withdrawals. Cash-advance fees and interest can add up and give you a nasty surprise when you arrive home. You can avoid some unnecessary fees by picking up a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Some travel cards also come with additional benefits like rewards, statement credits and travel insurance. These perks can offer great value, so compare travel credit cards to find one that fits your travel needs.

Pros
  • Complimentary travel and purchase insurance
  • Interest-free days on purchases
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Protected by PIN and chip
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Benefits include rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks, complimentary travel insurance
Cons
  • Cash advance rates and fees
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)

Which credit card issuers are accepted in Canada?

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

Compare travel credit cards

Narrow down top travel credit cards by welcome offers, rewards and annual fees to find the best for your budget and financial goals. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.

1 - 3 of 43
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Up to 1.25x miles
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 6 months
Up to 4x points
$250

Rose Gold is here to stay. Card Members can choose between a Gold or Rose Gold Card.

Earn up to 4x points on select purchases and enjoy a bevy of travel perks with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Up to 5x miles
$95
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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, like one from Betterment Checking. 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.

Pros
  • No currency conversion fee
  • No international ATM fee
  • Unlimited free withdrawals at selected banks
Cons
  • International transaction fees may apply

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.
Pros
  • Multiple currencies
  • Avoid currency conversion fees
  • Supplementary card
Cons
  • ATM fees
  • Reloading time

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, but be conscious of ATM withdrawal fees.
Pros
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Foreign exchange fee may apply on foreign currency orders
  • Higher risk of theft

Using 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.
Pros
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
Cons
  • Can only be cashed at banks and selected merchants
  • Fee paid when buying traveler’s checks
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Exchange rate history

The Canadian dollar has become stronger against 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.

Live Rate

= CAD$ 1.3314

Refreshing in: 60s | Fri, Jan 27, 07:27PM GMT

Did you know?

The Canadian dollar is one of the most traded currencies in the world, it’s referred to as the “loonie.” This can be traced back to 1987 when Canada stopped minting paper currency for the $1 bill and turned to coins. The animal on the reverse side of the $1 coin is the loon.

Common Canadian dollar banknotes:

5 Canadian dollar banknote10 Canadian dollar banknote20 Canadian dollar banknote
50 Canadian dollar banknote100 Canadian dollar banknote

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.

However, some debit cards are more travel friendly and will waive international ATM charges, such as the one from Betterment Checking.

Find ATMs in Canada

Keeping your travel money safe

Pickpocketing can happen anywhere, although it isn’t a huge problem in Canada — certainly not as problematic as it is in Europe. Nevertheless, remain vigilant, especially in larger cities and always stay aware of your surroundings. Keep your belongings close, even if you’re in a supposedly safe place like a restaurant.

To decrease the chances your cards or cash getting stolen, consider keeping it in a money belt. This is a fabric pouch that you wear around your waist and hide under your shirt or in your pants. Also, consider neck pouches, hidden pockets or a belt with hidden pockets.

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. All prices are in US dollars.

WhistlerBudgetMid-rangeExpensive
AccommodationMotel (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
MealsWhistler’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
ActivitiesSnowshoe 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 are subject to change.

Case study: Michael's experience

Michael profile photo
Michael

Michael’s season in Whistler

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’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, make sure that you have additional insurance. Compare travel insurance policies and protect your trip today.

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