How to Exchange Money at the Canadian Border
Many visitors from the United States flock to Canada each year to do some outlet shopping and take in sights like the CN Tower or the Rocky Mountains. If you’re heading to Canada, you’ll need to be aware of the currency exchange rates between Canadian and U.S. dollars, and find out where you can exchange your funds.
Familiarize Yourself with Canadian Currency
Canada has its own currency: Canadian dollars and cents. While it’s very similar to the U.S. currency system and includes similar denominations of money, Canadian currency also has one- and two-dollar coins called the loonie and toonie. Paper currency starts at $5 bills. Unlike U.S. currency, Canadian bills are brightly colored, with a different color for each denomination. Pennies have been taken out of circulation, so cash transactions need to be rounded up or down to the closest five-cent increment.
Decide Where to Exchange Your Funds
If you’re exchanging U.S. dollars for Canadian ones, the process is pretty straightforward. The exchange rate between Canadian and U.S. dollars fluctuates often, so be sure to check the rate before your trip. If you didn’t get a chance to exchange your funds before your trip and need to exchange them as you enter Canada, there are a number of options. Some land border crossings, such as the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge in the Niagara Region, have currency exchange outlets. There may be some limitations on how much currency you can exchange, and large sums over $1,000 may not be allowed.
If you need to exchange funds after you’ve crossed the border, you can stop in at any bank or at an ATM. The bank is where you’ll be able to find the best exchange rates. Major banks in Canada include Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal and Toronto–Dominion Bank.
Beware of hidden fees if you’re withdrawing funds from an ATM using another bank’s card. For international transactions, the fee can be even higher than domestic ones. The bank which you withdraw the funds from may also impose an additional fee.
If you’ll be at the airport, you can find currency exchange booths there. Many large tourist attractions will also exchange currency, though they may not provide the best exchange rate.
Depending on where you’re heading, you may be able to pay in U.S. dollars. Many border towns and large tourist destinations close to the border will accept U.S. currency. Credit cards are another option, and most Canadian businesses accept Visa or MasterCard, and many also take American Express. Just keep in mind that you may need to pay foreign currency conversion or service fees.