Heading to Canada? As you'll be making transactions in Canadian dollars, there are some fees and charges you'll need to look out for. In this guide we help you compare the different travel money products available, and strategies you can use to get the most out of your money in Canada while avoiding fees.
Canada and Australia are similar countries when it comes to daily prices and holiday expenses. Like all places around the world, prices jump up significantly in ski resorts such as Whistler. So, you're going to need more cash if you head to the slopes.
Motel (Whistler) AU$90 per night Hostel (Winnipeg) AU$30 per night
3 star hotel (Whistler) AU$200 - AU$300 per night 3 star hotel (Winnipeg) AU$100 per night
5 star hotel (Whistler) AU$400 - AU$500 per night 4 Star hotel (Winnipeg) $150 per night
Whistler's best burgers AU$10 - AU$15 Drive in fast food (Winnipeg) AU$4 - AU$8
Snowshoe walking tour (Whistler) AU$80 per person Manitoba Museum (Winnipeg) $7 per person
10 days skiing (Whistler) AU$750 WWII Historical Walking Tour (Westminster) AU$80 per person
Sea to Sky Exotic Driving (Whistler) AU$800 White water rafting (Winnipeg) AU$120
*Prices are approximate and subject to change.
Exchange rate history
The Australian and Canadian dollar have been pretty much on par the past few years, which makes it pretty easy when you're trying to figure out the real cost of spending in Canadian dollars. Canada is a stable economy like Australia and you shouldn't need to worry too much about the movements between the currency pair on your travels.
Average exchange rate
*Exchange rates are accurate as of 3 September 2017
Don't stress about using your card to make purchases and to withdraw cash — card acceptance and ATM availability are similar to Australia. Canadian merchants accept Visa and Mastercard, and American Express credit cards are accepted in more places than in Australia. Canada uses an EFTPOS system similar to our own called (Interac Direct Payment) IDP, and it's available all across the nation. 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 leave Australia.
Travel money options for Canada at a glance
Travel money options
Travel prepaid cards
Avoid currency conversion fees
Look out for ATM fees
Debit cards (Transaction accounts)
No currency conversion fee
No international ATM fee
$0 account keeping fees when you deposit at least $2,000 into your account each month
Unlimited free withdrawals at selected banks
International transaction fees may apply
Complimentary travel and purchase insurance
Interest-free days on purchases
Protected by PIN & chip
Emergency card replacement
Benefits including 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)
Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
Can only be cashed at banks and selected merchants
Need to pay commission on buying traveller's cheques
Foreign exchange fee or commission 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. This avoids the fee for currency conversion. A travel card lets you hold multiple foreign currencies at a time, which may be helpful if you're visiting neighbouring United States. If you've transferred your funds to Canadian dollars, you can avoid currency conversion fees when spending in Canada. Travel cards also come with a supplementary card, which can come in handy if your primary card is lost, damaged or stolen. While you can avoid currency conversion fees, there are some other costs you'll need to look out for. For example, look for international ATM fee waivers to save on cash withdrawal costs.
Tip: You might be able to give ATM fees a miss by taking cash out over the counter when you make a purchase.
Using a debit card
It's hard to look past the Citibank Plus Transaction Account. It's the product of the moment for travellers: no charges for currency conversion, no international ATM fee (operator fees of a couple of dollars apply) and no monthly or account keeping fees make this account from Citibank a traveller's best friend. If you just 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.
Tip: Citibank do not have any standalone ATMs in Canada. The only Citibank ATMs are attached to branches in Canada's major cities.
Using a credit card
A credit card can give you interest free days on your purchases, complimentary travel, purchase insurance, worldwide acceptance and additional financial security. If you have a credit card, and you plan on using the complimentary international travel insurance feature, double check your planned activities are covered by the policy. For example, some winter sports like snowboarding require additional cover. Credit cards are a good way to make purchases; however, you should supplement your credit card use with a debit card when you want to make ATM withdrawals. Cash advance fees and interest can compound and give you a nasty surprise when you arrive back in Australia. Some of these charges can be avoided (have a look at the FAQs section of our travel money page for information about credit cards with a positive balance and cash advance changes), but it's better just to keep your credit card for purchases and emergencies.
Tip: Some merchants may question Australian issued credit cards. Make sure you have photo identification to show just in case.
Using a traveller's cheques
Traveller's cheques have been made redundant by the other forms of travel money compared on this page 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, traveller's cheques can only be cashed at banks and a select number of merchants.
You'll pay a commission to buy traveller's cheques.
Paying with cash in Canada
While card payments are common, 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 Aussie dollars for Canadian dollars, you have these options:
Before you leave. Exchange cash in Australia using a foreign exchange service (information provided on this page).
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 colloquially 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.
Michael says that the ANZ Low Rate was his day to day credit card and he knew he was going to be in Canada for a while so 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 get a Social Insurance Number (SIN), which is the equivalent to our Tax File Number (TFN). Once you have that you can apply for a bank account/keycard. You can get these forms from any Canadian bank, it's a matter of going through the process and filling out the forms. 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 ANZ flagged a possible fraudulent purchase because of the location, apart from that everything was fine. 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 has some good advice about making international payments to Canada. He says he had savings in his Australian 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 BPAY 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 money belts a chance. While they may not be the most fashion forward choice of apparel, it's savvy nonetheless. Michael's words: "A travel money belt 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 Winter Sports insurance. So, if you are heading to Canada, make sure your trip is protected. Compare travel insurance policies today.
Canadian dollars are a common currency and can be purchased from any number of foreign exchange companies, including your bank. For example Westpac and Australia Post give you the same rate buying Canadian dollars, the difference is the commission. Westpac charge $4 for online foreign currency orders. Foreign exchange providers such as Australia Post and Travelex also have outlets at major Australian airports where you can collect your bucks before you hop on the plane. You can bring as many Canadian dollars into the country as you like. You must make a customs declaration if you're carrying more than $10,000. These institutions also offer foreign cash:
There have been reports of Canadian ATMs not accepting foreign cards. Look for the Visa or Visa PLUS logo on the front of the machine to see whether you can use your card to get cash. The same with Mastercard. A local ATM operator fee applies each time you withdraw cash (excluding Global Alliance Partners — ScotiaBank for Westpac cardholders). This fee is comparable to Australia where you'll pay $2 - $3 each time your withdraw in addition to international ATM charges and currency conversion charges (if applicable).
Tip: Look for participating ATMs in the Global ATM Alliance. Westpac cardholders can avoid the international ATM operator fee by using ScotiaBank ATMs. ScotiaBank have ATMs inside 7/11 stores as well as on the street.
Find banks, cash and ATM in Canada
Why you'll need a combination of travel money options
Whether it's a credit card and a debit card or a travel card, you'll need to use a combination of options. While you can get away with making card payment a lot of the time, there are still instances when you'll need cash. Furthermore, what happens if you lose your debit card and you have to wait half a week for a replacement? Take a combination of the travel money products we've listed on this page and use the right card for the right situation so you can save on international transaction charges. The Northern Lights, some of the best skiing in the world and a people warm in heart and spirit, it's no surprise that every month tens of thousands of Aussies travel to Canada. Do your research before you leave and you can enjoy your trip to Canada with the peace of mind you're spending your money your way, and not giving your hard earned to your bank. If you have any questions about using travel money in Canada, ask us a question using the form at the bottom of the page.
Jeremy Cabral is the chief operating officer and global head of publishing for Finder. He has written hundreds of comparisons covering everything from credit cards to travel money to Netflix TV shows. Jeremy has a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) from the University of Western Sydney.
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