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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.

Our picks for traveling to Canada

American Express® Gold Card logo

Our pick for travel credit card

American Express® Gold Card

★★★★★
TransferWise Borderless logo

Our pick for multi-currency debit card

TransferWise Borderless

★★★★★
SoFi Money logo

Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card

SoFi Money

Not yet rated

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, 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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Cash advance rates and fees
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)

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.

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, just 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

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
100,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 combined in the first 6 months, 15x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases. Starting January 1, 2021, your 15x points on flights will be capped on up to $500,000 annually (then 1x points).
$550
One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, plus earn 25,000 after the first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021)
6x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3x at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2x for all other purchases
$450
Earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 or more within your first 3 months, plus earn 25,000 after the first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021). Rates & fees
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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.

Live Rate

= CAD$ 1.2992

Refreshing in: 60s | Sat, Nov 28, 12:18PM GMT

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.

Common Canadian dollar banknotes:

5 Canadian dollar banknote 10 Canadian dollar banknote 20 Canadian dollar banknote
50 Canadian dollar banknote 100 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.

Find ATMs in Canada

Cash pickup services in Canada

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 1.293 CAD 1,288 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 8.00 1.27 CAD 1,260 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 1.267 CAD 1,241 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

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.

Whistler Budget Mid-range Expensive
Accommodation 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
Meals 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
Activities 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 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, you will need to make sure that you have additional insurance. Make sure your trip is protected and compare travel insurance policies today.

Find cheap travel insurance options for your next trip to Canada

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Our latest travel deals to Canada

Air CanadaAir Canada

Black Friday Sale: Up to 20% off airfare

Up to 20% off select Economy, Premium Economy, Business Class base fares on select destinations, for travel all the way through June 30, 2021. Book by November 29, 2020.

Last verified

Deal ends

MarriottMarriott

Up to 25% off US and Canada resort vacations

Explore our resort collection throughout the U.S. and Canada to find the perfect retreat and save up to 25%. Offer varies by hotel. T&Cs apply.

Last verified

Coupon code ends

StudentUniverseStudentUniverse

$20 discount on (1) international flight departing from the United States or Canada and arriving anywhere EXCEPT the United States, Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. New users only.

Last verified

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