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Travel money guide: Canada

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

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 cards for Canada

Rates last updated June 18th, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
0% of transaction value
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™
0% of transaction value
$495
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
0% of transaction value
$995
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
0% of transaction value
$0
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening, and an additional 30,000 points when you spend a total of $30,000 on purchases within the first year of your account opening.
Venture® from Capital One®
0% of transaction value
$$0 intro for the first year, $95 after
Earn 50000 bonus miles once after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
$0 per transaction
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
$0 per transaction
$95
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Uber Visa Card
0% of transaction value
$0
Get 4% points back on dining, 3% on travel, 2% on Uber rides and online shopping and 1% on other purchases, and redeem points for Uber credits, gift cards or cash back.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
0% of transaction value
$450
Earn 50000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
0% of transaction value
$550
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
United℠ Explorer Card
0% of transaction value
$$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.* Plus a $100 statement credit after your first purchase.

Compare up to 4 providers

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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.
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  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    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.

    WhistlerBudgetMid-rangeExpensive
    accomodations-in-greeceMotel (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
    eatWhistler’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
    seeSnowshoe 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

    USD to CAD for the last 10 days

    Jun 08 Jun 09 Jun 10 Jun 11 Jun 12 Jun 13 Jun 14 Jun 15 Jun 16 Jun 17
    1 USD = 1.2934 Inverse: 0.7732 1.2934 Inverse: 0.7732 1.2968 Inverse: 0.7711 1.2987 Inverse: 0.7700 1.3015 Inverse: 0.7683 1.2975 Inverse: 0.7707 1.3117 Inverse: 0.7624 1.3206 Inverse: 0.7573 1.3206 Inverse: 0.7573 1.3201 Inverse: 0.7575

    USD to CAD for the last 10 months

    Aug 2017 Sep 2017 Oct 2017 Nov 2017 Dec 2017 Jan 2018 Feb 2018 Mar 2018 Apr 2018 May 2018
    1 USD = 1.2585 Inverse: 0.7946 1.2199 Inverse: 0.8197 1.2498 Inverse: 0.8001 1.2758 Inverse: 0.7838 1.2867 Inverse: 0.7772 1.2429 Inverse: 0.8046 1.2485 Inverse: 0.8009 1.3102 Inverse: 0.7633 1.2606 Inverse: 0.7933 1.2873 Inverse: 0.7768

    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 optionsProsCons
    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.

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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

    Details Features
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Travel with a smile - protect your trip cost, your medical expenses, & your belongings.
    • Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses up to $250,000
    • Trip Cancellation – 100% of Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption – up to 150% of Trip Cost
    • Political Evacuation - $20,000
    • Lost, Stolen or Damaged Baggage – up to $2,500
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation – up to $1 million
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    TravelEx's most comprehensive protection plan for the comprehensive traveler. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip Cancellation - 100% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption - 150% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Delay - $1000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $100,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight’s Essential travel insurance package can be broken down into three critical parts: Trip Cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance, and baggage insurance.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Medical Expenses - $15,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $150,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects Cover - $750
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Get affordable cover for the essentials of options with STA's mid-level cover policy. This option will still provide up to $1500 in luggage cover and up to $100,000 in medical cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - 100% of trip cost insured up to $10,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $1,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $500
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    As the name implies, the Preferred package provides coverage for most trips and vacations.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Accident & Medical Expenses - $50,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $500,000
    • Accidental Death and Dismemberment - $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Cancel For Any reason upgrade available with the Travel Max plan. Cancel for any reason - no questions asked.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • 100% cover if delayed to departure and loose at least 30%
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Provides customizable coverage for specific losses. Cover can be tailored to provide a balance between the basic essentials and premium cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $1 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $500
    • Travel Delay - $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Provides quality cover for a range of benefits with higher cover limits. Premium plan is perfect for travellers with health concerns looking for total protective cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $2 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $1,000
    • Travel Delay - $200/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Provides option to choose between different levels of flight insurance protection.
    • Flight Accident AD&D - Up to $1 Million
    • Baggage - $2,000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $2,500
    • Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - $25,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Get premiere cover for a whole range of options with STA's premium policy. This option will still provide up to $100,000 in medical expense cover and up to $3,000 in cancellation cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - $3,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $2,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance makes sure you are covered incase your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $500,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    If you frequently travel abroad and want extra coverage in case you get sick, injured, or need to cancel your trip, Allianz International Travel Insurance is the perfect solution.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $1,000,000
    Go to site More info
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    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a writer and editor for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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