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Going to Canada. Spend cash or credit?


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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   Vlad D

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Posted March 31 2003 - 11:29 AM

I'm going to Canada in 2 weeks with my wife and I'm wondering if it's better to spend cash or use my credit cards for purchases while we're there. I remember reading something once about using credit cards when abroad but can't remember if it was better to use them or not; something to do with the exchange rates.

Anybody know?

Thanks,

Vlad

#2 of 9 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted March 31 2003 - 12:35 PM

Things to watch out for with cash:

- Don't assume your American money will be accepted everywhere. Unlike some foreign countries where the local currency has become a joke, Canadians still prefer to use Canadian money for their purchases. However, many places will change American currency to Canadian currency for you, but watch out for that all important exchange rate plus hidden service charges.

- Your best bet may be to bring along travelers cheques in Canadian funds and exchange them whenever you need cash. Major hotels and points of interest will exchange them for you usually at no cost. You will also avoid the ridiculous service charges and possibly the poor exchange rates one normally encounters whenever you use a bank machine in a foreign country.

- There are no longer $1 or $2 bills in Canada. They've been replaced with coins. The dollar is a golden color while the two dollar is a silver color ring with a golden color center core. The remaining Canadian coins are about the same size and denomination as American money.

- Our bills are different colors making it easy to know what you have in your pocket without having to read the numbers. $5 are blue, $10 are purple, $20 are green, $50 are red and $100 are brown. Please note that new $5 and $10 bills have been issued recently. The design is radically different from the old bills, but the color scheme remains the same.

Now what about credit cards?

- SERVICE CHARGES AND EXCHANGE RATES!!! Check with the bank who issued the card. They should be in a position to inform you on the current exchange rate and any extra service fees you may encounter when using the card in a foreign country. Just about every card issuer charges extra for cash advances at a bank machine. However, purchases usually don't include any extra service fees and if you have a decent bank, the exchange rate will actually be reasonable.

- If the exchange rate IS reasonable, don't be afraid to use your card in stores, hotels, sites and for car rentals. Just remember that you can't lend out your card to someone else since this practice is normally not permitted in Canada.

An extra bonus:

- Whichever method you use to pay for your purchases, ask the shopping center information booths if they have a sales tax refund kiosque for foreign visitors. Hold on to your receipts and present them to the kiosque for an instant refund of all the sales taxes you've paid. You will not need to surrender your receipts, but you will be required to provide proof of your American residency such as a valid driver's license.

Enjoy your trip! Where are you heading?

#3 of 9 OFFLINE   wayne p

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Posted March 31 2003 - 02:14 PM

I would bring some cash to have pocket money. You can get an accurate exchange of your money at any Canadian. I would use credit cards for shopping, hotel, meals etc. The credit card company will not usually have as accurate or favorable exchange rate as a Canadian bank, but for a couple of points the convenience is worth it.

As mentioned in the previous post, don't forget to recover your taxes.

Have a good trip.

Wayne

#4 of 9 OFFLINE   Shane Bos

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Posted March 31 2003 - 07:55 PM

Where abouts in Canada are you going?

Quote:
As mentioned in the previous post, don't forget to recover your taxes.

All/Most airports in Canada should have a brochure in the terminal area telling youhow to recover the taxes (Federal and Provincial). The Federal tax GST is 7% and is on just about everything you buy. The Provincial tax PST will range depending on the province from 0 in Alberta to I think about 8% is the highest but not sure.

Cash vs. Credit
It doesn't really matter. There are 2 sides to this 1 being convenience the 2nd being cost.

1. Convenience - What do you prefer to use at home? Use it here.

2. Cost - with credit you get the exchange rate on the day that you use the card so everyday it will be different. This can work in your favour or not depending on trends. With cash you get the exchange rate on the day you do the exchange. If the Canadian dollar continues to rise then cash may be the best option as far as cost goes.

#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Vlad D

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Posted April 02 2003 - 11:11 AM

Thanks guys. I guess for the convenience factor only I'll probably use a credit card. Here in the US I hardly ever use my credit card, unless it's a major purchase, but instead use my debit card. It's the same as cash and as convenient as a credit card. I'm not sure if I'll be able to use my debit card in Canada though.

We are going to Laval to visit my wife's sister. She works for a travel agency so we got a good rate plus a discount on the airfare. I believe she mentioned she'd be able to exchange our American currency to Canadian currency for us.

Looking forward to the trip. I'll be there for 10 days and my wife is actually going 4 days before me, she has more time off than I do and hasn't seen her sister in a while. She has only been living there for a year and a half, so she may not know of all the "must visit" places. Can you guys recommend some. Also she mentioned some organized tours, and I'm not big on those and would much rather go out on my own. What do you guys think? Is it difficult to get around?

BTW, how is the weather up there now? My brother-in-law said it's warmer but he's forgeting that I live in South Florida.

EDIT: I didn't know about the tax refund. Does that apply to all purchases?

#6 of 9 OFFLINE   Steven K

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Posted April 02 2003 - 01:35 PM

I was in Montreal last week on business... when I travel to Canada (usually for 2-3 days at a time), I convert ~$200 US into Canadian (last week, at the airport Currency Exchange, it converted to $280 Canadian). Note that the airport currency exchanges will give you horrible rates, but, I get a cash refund from my company so the convenience pays off.

I use the cash for things such as taxi's, fast food, and most importantly, the Casino de Montreal Posted Image, etc... when I go out to a restaraunt, and for hotels, I use my credit card.

Where are you travelling to? If you are travelling to Montreal, be aware that there is now an "airport improvement tax" that you are forced to pay when leaving the Dorval Airport. The fee is $15. Don't bother with the duty-free shop in Montreal, even duty free, the prices are outrageous. Also, be sure to eat BEFORE you go through customs and then into the international terminal... there is a severe lack of food in the international terminal.

#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Michael Pakula

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Posted April 02 2003 - 02:58 PM

I think it should also be noted that most
stores now don't accept $50 and $100 doaller
bills, so keep that in mind when using cash.


-Mike

#8 of 9 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted April 03 2003 - 04:58 AM

Be prepared to eat only hot dogs unless you want a big PST/GST/et al levied on a real meal in Canada. Posted Image
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#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Mark Philp

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Posted April 03 2003 - 04:50 PM

If you're going to use a credit card, call its customer service number and ask if there is a foreign exchange surcharge on purchases in a foreign country. (Yes, Canada is a foreign country.) some cards add as much as 4 or 5 percent in addition to the 1 percent Visa or MasterCard add. Some don't add anything. Also if you exchange U.S. money into Canadian money only exchange what you think you'll spend otherwise you'll take a real hit when you re-exchange it back here. I don't mind getting stuck with a few bucks, but I wouldn't weant to come back with a couple of hundred.