Avoid hidden currency exchange rate fees and save big

Best Currency Exchange RateGoing abroad? Shopping on U.S. websites? Between commissions, fees, and surcharges, ever felt like you were getting the short end of the stick when exchanging your Canadian dollars? Chances are you were.

Most banks charge up to 3% in fees over and above the prevailing currency exchange rate. We found a simple, and convenient, bank beating strategy to reduce your exchange rate fees to 0% – really!

GreedyRates.ca has compared the main currency exchange methods available to Canadians, revealing the fees of each. We found that while the initial currency exchange rate is done at market rates, your rate then includes an additional mark-up which can be as high as 9%! The mark-up is then blended into the exchange rate you see on your receipt, so consumers have little chance of figuring out how much the the bank or exchange bureau actually charged.

Most Canadians are not aware they can do significantly better.

Are you getting the best currency exchange rate?

Foreign Currency Exchange RateWhat we found was surprising. The best currency exchange rate available to Canadians is the use of a no foreign transaction fee credit card. It offers a near perfect foreign exchange rate. All you get charged is the foreign exchange rate for that day, set by Mastercard or Visa, which is based on the market rates as seen in Bloomberg, Reuters and the Central Banks. There is no additional foreign exchange fee. The worst places to exchange your money? The airport, hotels and your bank branch.

The only credit card issuers in Canada that offer credit cards without a foreign transaction fee are Rogers Bank (Rogers Platinum MasterCard) and Chase Canada (Marriott Visa & Amazon Visa).

Unfortunately, none of Canada’s largest credit card companies (RBC, TD, CIBC, BMO, Scotia, Capital One, Canadian Tire or PC Bank) offer a credit card without a foreign transaction fee. They all charge a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%, on top of the exchange rate set by Visa or Mastercard. They do the same for debit cards either when making a purchase at a U.S. retailer or from an ATM.

As a result, when using your travel credit card out of country or at a U.S. online merchant, whether it be your Aeroplan, Avion, or Air Miles credit card, you may be earning 1%-2% in rewards per dollar spent, but you’re being charged 2.5% per dollar spent in foreign transaction fees, for a net loss of up to 1.5% for every dollar you spend outside of Canada!

The lesson? Avoid exchanging your Canadian dollars at the bank, taking out money at the ATM or using a credit card with foreign transaction fees while travelling or shopping online. The best way to get the lowest currency exchange rate is to use a credit card without a foreign transaction fee. You’ll get the best currency exchange rate, the most convenience and won’t have to worry about carrying cash in your wallet.

Our favourite Canadian credit card without a foreign transaction fee is the Rogers Platinum MasterCard:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 1.75% cash back on all your purchases everywhere, no caps, limits or categories.
  • Apply your cash back as a statement credit OR to your monthly Rogers bill (Rogers & FIDO), Rogers & FIDO branded stores, and the Shopping Channel.
  • Welcome bonus of $35 in cash back
  • You will never have to pay an annual fee as long as your Rogers bill is set up as a pre-authorized payment

Now that’s a bank beating strategy!

 

74 comments

  1. 2 – 3% bank fee ??? I wish. I opened a U.S. bank account and a U.S. Mastercard to avoid the 31% I paid on my last purchase using my regular Mastercard. You didn’t read that wrong. Exchange and bank fees amounted to over 30%. Learned that I hadn’t saved a penny when I went to transfer money from my Canadian funds account into the US account to pay fr a purchase and they wanted the very same 31% bank fee to cover the transfer. BMO is a rip-off and I’m not sure any major bank is any better

    • Hi Donna,

      Thanks for the feedback. Any chance you can share with our readers how your effective exchange rate (rate, plus fees) added up to 31%? It would be helpful to all of us.

      GreedyRates Staff

  2. Hi!

    Thank you so much for the fantastic article! I’m going to be ordering one of these foreign fee recommended credit cards for travel ASAP, however I won’t be able to receive it in time for my trip this weekend. I have a few questions:

    1) Until I get the card, do you suggest exchanging currency at a place like International Currency Exchange or a local bank?

    2) When travelling to countries such as England, would you suggest exchanging currency in Canada or in England?

    3) Once I get one of these credit cards, what do I do in a situation where credit card is not accepted at a merchant in a foreign country? Would you use the Rogers Mastercard or Marriott Visa to exchange currency at a foreign bank?

    4) Why does GreedyRates recommend the Rogers card over the Marriott card? It seems that with the 1st year waiver and 30,000 points, it is a great churning opportunity?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Clement,

      Thanks for the kind words!

      1. I would get quotes from 3 places. We actually bring a quote to our branch manager, who then calls in the foreign exchange desk to see if they’re willing to match it. They match it every time. You get the best price and it saves the inconvenience of having to work with an exchange bureau.

      2. Always better to get some quotes and do it domestically. When your overseas it’s difficult to get options, and you do not want to get stuck exchanging money at the airport, hotel or tourist area – that would be worst case scenario.

      3. You might be better off ensuring you bring some foreign cash with you for those eventualities. Doing a cash advance is also expensive, given that you will be paying a cash advance fee, plus incurring interest right away. If you do a cash advance, you will be charged $5, so if you take out $100 that’s a 5% fee. You’d be better off planning ahead and paying 1.5% to 3% exchanging money at the bank.

      4. Both cards are great. In fact, if you’re into churning you could get both cards. Ultimately we chose the Rogers card because it has no annual fee, you earn 1.75% cashback on foreign spend, and the cashback is worth something to everyone. Although Marriott has a phenomenal welcome bonus and first year fee waiver, it’s rewards on spend is not as rich, and because points are restricted to marriott, we felt it had less universal appeal (that said, we love the card, and if you do find free hotel nights appealing, it’s a great card to churn, especially with a no risk first year fee waiver).

      Hope that helps,

      Greedyrates Staff

      • Extremely helpful. Thanks a lot!

        Clement

        • Sorry one more question! With the Marriot Rewards card, I believe the current offer is 30,000 points after first purchase. In the past, there used to be an offer with 30,000 points plus 1 free night after approval. Does that not exist anymore?

          Also, are there any extra taxes on top of redeeming points for a free night? Or is it 100% free?

          • Hi CW,

            You get 30,000 points plus a 1 free night anniversary certificate, every year. Always been like that as far as we know.

            Best,

            GreedyRates Staff

  3. Hi,
    Somebody already asked this question but unfortunately there is no answer posted. I have some inheritance money in British pounds due to me. It seems the bank fee charged on the last one was extreme and I’m in the process of checking it out. What can I do to get a better exchange rate? Is there anywhere to go that would be better? Or is there someone to whom I can launch a complaint? Their ‘fees’ seem to be shrouded in secrecy.
    Thanks,

    • Hi Anna,

      The alternative is to get multiple quotes from foreign currency exchange shops like TransferWise, CanadianForex, XE Trade, NorthStar, International Currency Exchange, and Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange.

      You can also take a quote you’ve received online and bring it to your branch manager. See if they’d be willing to calling into the banks forex department and give you a matching or better rate. If they’re willing it makes life easier for you.

      The key is to get multiple quotes so you know you’re getting the best rate available.

      Hope that helps,

      GreedyRates Staff

  4. BitGold is an interesting approach to reducing the exchange rate. If I understand it correcting, it is 1% on buying gold and 1% on converting the selected gold value to any currency of your choice.

  5. Currency Exchange:

    Since most people who invest have a brokerage account there is an ETF on the TSX to do the conversion of Can$ to US$ and vice versa.

    Purchase DLR on the TSX from your Canadian cash account. At the same time, sell the DLR.U from your US$ cash account.

    The DLR.U is the same as the DLR, except it is US$.

    On settlement date in 3 business days you will have the US$ in your US cash account to transfer to your US$ bank account…

    This also works in reverse

    Only cost is two buy/sell orders, in my case $19.98.

  6. I will be receiving an inheritance in British pounds (GBP) and wish to convert it to Canadian dollars. Since it is a very significant amount (>100K pounds), it is imperative that I secure the best rate possible in order that I don’t leave a large amount of money “on the exchange table”. What suggestions would you have for securing the best rate?

  7. Went to US yesterday and shopped at the duty free store using the Amazon Visa, the exchange rate is 1.30, but it charged my at 1.34, a 3% margin, isn’t the foreign transaction fee be waived using Amazon visa ?

    • Hi Shawn,

      That’s strange because when we checked Visa’s exchange rate for the day (on the 19th & 20th), the exchange rate was set at 1.304370. Not sure how Chase can be charging you at 1.34? Yes the foreign transaction fee is supposed to be waived for the Chase Amazon Visa. I’d call Chase and let them know you checked the Visa exchange rate calculator, and you’re not sure how they’re coming out to 1.34 when Visa comes out to 1.304370.

      Let us know what happens,

      GreedyRates Staff

    • Shawn, I had the exact same complaint. I charged an item for $1.00 US on my CIBC Visa and it came back at $1.38, and then charged the same item to my Amazon VISA. Same thing as CIBC. I left a review on Amazon.ca pointing out this discrepancy. Chase needs to be called on their bait-and-switch.

  8. No immediate question…. after reading article, and the comments and responses….

    but wow.Informative and helpful site!

  9. Love the Q&A! My son will be going to a US prep-school in the fall and I am looking for the best option of exchanging Canadian to US funds to pay for it. Do you have any recommendations of making the most of the money exchange so I won’t be hit so hard?

    • Hi Kevin,

      We’re going to assume you earn in Canadian dollars. The first question to ask is whether your son’s prep school accepts their tuition via credit card. As a private school, they very well may. If so, use a no foreign transaction fee credit card to pay for the tuition – that will give you the lowest exchange rate. The credit card will convert your US dollar purchase to Canadian dollars, close to, or at, the spot rate, with no additional exchange rate fees or margin. Then you’ll just pay your bill in Canadian dollars.

      If your credit card does not come with a sufficiently big enough credit line to pay for the tuition, either iteratively break up the tuition payments and repay your credit card each time, or see if the credit card company will temporarily grant you a larger line for a big purchase.

      If not, the best thing for you to do is to exchange your money through a company like KnightsbridgeFX. You can also take your quote from Knightsbridge and see if your branch manager can match it by calling into the FX desk of the bank – saves you the trouble of applying through Knightsbridge and transferring funds.

      Hope that helps,

      GreedyRates Staff

  10. HSBC debit cards have no 2.5% fee on foreign transactions. They are the only Canadian bank to do that now that Citibank is gone. Also, if you can find an HSBC machine (which are in many countries), you can avoid the $3? fixed withdrawal fee. And note that if you withdraw cash from an ATM with any credit card, you have to pay the cash-advance fee, about $7?.

    • Hi Curtis,

      Just remember, you cannot use your HSBC debit card at foreign merchants, either face-to-face out of country, or on the internet. You can only use it to withdraw cash at an ATM in a foreign country. Given that, why wouldn’t you use a credit card that has no foreign transaction fee, allows you to earn points, offers you warranty, purchase & fraud protection and MOST importantly allows you to make the purchase!

      Moreover, while HSBC confirmed to GreedyRates that they do no charge a foreign transaction fee with their debit card (this comment is not referring to credit cards), they were less transparent on where they derived their conversaion rate from. HSBC specifically said they used the conversion rate provided by the “governing bank” of each country. It would be interesting to compare HSBC’s governing rate to that of the networks (VISA, MC), to see if it comes in at the same, lower or higher rate.

      Thanks for the observation.

      GreedyRates Staff

  11. Will any of the major banks waive the foreign currency transaction fee on the credit cards (BMO, TD, or even AmEx) if you call them to advise you are travelling internationally? Maybe a one time offer?

    We’re planning a trip to Europe and I’ve had a couple of people tell me to do this. Is there any truth to it or would I be wasting my time?

    Thanks for all the great information you post – extremely helpful.

    • Hi Lori,

      We haven’t seen a bank agree to that. However, your question peaked our curiosity! So we just called TD, CIBC & American Express to see if they could or would waive the foreign transaction fee while we were ostensibly on “vacation” in the United States. None were willing or able. They all said it wasn’t an option in their operating system, if they wanted to. That said, it’s always worth a try.

      If your bank does agree to waive your FX fee, please let us know so we can share with our readers!

      Best of luck,

      GreedyRates Staff

  12. Hi Greedy Rates
    I have an account in Germany with around €50,000 in it. I’m looking to get it transferred / converted into Canadian Dollars.
    What’s the cheapest way to do it?

    Thanks
    Pete

    • Hi Pete,

      You have a couple of options. We usggest you get multiple quotes, more or less at the same time, to see which one gets you the best rate, with the least fees:

      1. If you have a brokerage account, see how much it charges for currency conversion. Brokerage accounts tend to offer cheap conversion options for high dollar amounts.

      2. Check a few of the larger exchange houses (xetrade.com. knightsbridgeFX)

      3. Check currencyfair, which allows you to exchange currency and transfer money internationally through P2P.

      In the end, you ay always want to take the best rate you get, bring it to your branch manager, and see if they can call their FX desk and match it. If they’re willing to, it may be more efficient.

      Hope that helps,

      GreedyRates Staff

  13. What if we pay by PayPal, with a credit card, foronline US shopping?

    Thanks

    • Hi Max,

      Great question. If the transaction is in USD, PayPal will convert the USD to Canadian dollars, collect a 2.5% foreign exchange fee. They will then charge your Canadian credit card the converted Canadian dollar amount. Because PayPal controls the transaction, they astutely convert the currencies themselves before it hits the creidt card and keep the 2.5% margin for themselves as well. As a result, if you’re are using a no foreign transaction fee credit card, it will be waisted if you use your card through PayPal.

      The workaround on this, is obviously to use your no foreign transaction fee credit card directly, without going through PayPal. Truthfully, not that big a hassle.

      Thanks for a great question.

      GreedyRates Staff

  14. You can get a U.S. dollars visa from TD as well. If you have a U.S. dollars bank account and purchase a lot online from the U.S. or travel to the U.S. a lot it could be a good option. I do a lot of business online in U.S. dollars and by my rough calculations was losing $600-700 in exchange fees per month!

    • Hi Jason,

      Yo bring up a point we think merits additional comment. What’s better, a U.S. Dollard credit card, or a no foreign transaction fee card? If you earn U.S. dollars, it obviously makes sense to have a U.S. dollar card. However, if you earn Canadian dollars, a no foreign transaction fee card will save you more.

      The reason is because, if you get a U.S. dollar card, you will first have to convert your Caandian dollars to U.S. dollars. You will typically do so at the bank or through an exchange service. When doing so you will be charged a fee, over and above the interbank/spot rate. That fee will be included in your exchange rate. Typically it will cost from 1.5% to 3%, depending on where and how much you exchange, if you do it with your bank. You will then use those US dollars to pay down your US dollar credit card bill.

      However, if you use a no foreign transaction fee credit card, your Canadian dollars will be converted by MasterCard or Visa at the interbank/spot exchange rate, and their will be no additional fee/margin on top of it.

      Plus, most US dollar cards either earn you no rewards, or minimal rewards. Whereas, you will earn substantial rewards with all of the no foreign transaction fee credit cards (Rogers – 1.75%, Marriott, Amazon)

      That’s why a no foreign transaction fee credit card beats a US dollar credit card everytime. The only exception would be if you earn income in US dollars. In that case, a US dollar card makes sense, because if you used a Canadian no foreign transaction fee card, you’d have to convert your US dollars to Canadian dollars (incurring a fee), to pay your Canadian credit card statement.

      Does that make sense?

      GreedyRates Staff

  15. From the discussion, it seems TD debit card withdrawalsf in Mexican pesos,]
    there is a ATM (HSBC) machine fee + 2 1/2 % exchange fee + the rate of exchange charged by Canadian bank. Is this correct.

    In other words, if I need to change $150,000 CDN to Mexican pesos, what is the best strategy. I have an Intercam account in Mexico

    • Hi Walter,

      In the case of TD, if you don’t have an All inclusive account, you will be charged $3.00 CDN per withdrawl at a non-TD ATM in Mexico by TD, plus whatever HSBC charges you for the use of their ATM. It can easily be up to $6 in flat fees per withdrawl.

      In addition, you will be charged for the foreign exchange by TD as follows:”For Debit Payment purchases at merchants outside of Canada who accept Visa Debit, the transaction amount will be converted to Canadian dollars based on the foreign exchange rate charged to TD Canada Trust and will include an additional fee equal to 2.5% of the converted amount. For NYCE® Debit Payment purchases, included in the currency exchange cost will be a conversion fee which is calculated by adding an additional 250 basis points to the interbank U.S. dollar exchange rate. For example, on a purchase of $10 U.S. with an exchange rate of 1.3 the transaction amount will be $13.25 CDN ($10 x 1.325). Deposit transactions are free.”

      In our opinion, there are two ways we would recommend converting your Canadian dollars to Pesos. First, for those merchants accepting credit cards, use a no foreign transaction fee credit card (Rogers, Marriot, Amazon). You will only be charged the foreign exchange set by Visa or Mastercard, which is better than anything you will be able to achieve on your own. The other advantage is, you want have to pay any ATM fees to access your cash.

      Secondly, to pay merchants who require cash, we would recommend you get multiple quotes from TD (speak to a branch manager and get a quote from the foreign exchange desk), HSBC, Knightsbridge (only charge .5% fee above the spot exchange rate), or another foreign exchange office. We would then recommend opening a Mexican HSBC account, and putting your Pesos there, so that you can withdraw your cash requirements fee free (since TD does not have ATM’s in Mexico). It makes no sense to pay $3 to $6 everytime you need cash. Withdrawing $100 at a time, it’s a 3% to 6% fee just to get your money.

      Walter does that make sense to you? Was it helpful?

      GreedyRates Staff

  16. Thanks so much for this post. I have an expensive surgery in the US this spring and have been watching the live currency chart religiously for awhile now. Finally pulled the trigger to pay half of it after seeing the terrible 1.46 rate last week.

    Noticed that the USD to CAD closed at 1.409 on Jan 27 but on my stupid RBC credit card I was billed on Jan 27 for 1.4509. 4% higher… which is tons of money when we’re talking thousands of dollars for a low income person. Sigh, just sent an application to Rogers, was rejected from Amazon already.

    • The Canadian Chase/ Marriott VISA Card does not charge the extra 2.5% on top of the International Visa exchange rate. I use it daily in the USA. 2.5% less than my RBC Avion Visa. The Chase card also accumulates points. There is $100 yearly fee. Yearly one gets a free one overnight in any 1 to 4 or 5 category Marriott Hotel

  17. Scotiabank has now taken over the Sears/Chase MasterCard. It is the Scotiabank Momentum card. I just got my replacement card for the Sears card. It still has the same card number and I’ve used it 4 times since I received it.
    It works well, just as the Chase/Sears did.

    • Hi S.Ann,

      Great to hear the portfolio conversion is going well for former Sears MasterCard holders who have been converted to Scotia’s Momentum Visa card. That said, previous and NEW Scotia cardholders will not have their foreign transaction fees waived. Only those who were converted from the Sears portfolio.

      Best,

      GreedyRates Staff

  18. Good article. Thank you.

    Are you aware if casinos in the US offer better exchange rates on using Canadian cash to purchase US cash? I do know that many casinos in Canada offer better rates for exchanging US to Canadian, but I am not sure if this is the same in the US.

    • Hi Orlando,

      Great thought! We haven’t done a study, but we can say that some, such as the Grand Casino in Vegas have tried to lure Canadian gamblers with “par” deals at the slots if you stay at the hotel, and other casinos do offer attractive rates when buying chips, for obvious reasons.

      GreedyRates Staff

  19. Hi,
    You Guys are best advisors than big banks have,very knowledgeable indeed.
    I have Us account and have some money sitting in it.
    Is it good time to convert it into CDN?
    From where I can get best rates?
    Do the banks charge any fee on conversion of currency?
    Thanks in advance for your time.

    • Hi Ruubi,

      Thanks for the kind words! We’re not currency experts, but the loonie has not been this low since 2009. If you look at historical charts since 1976, the dollar has not been this weak very often. However, some people prefer converting their currency over time i.e. X$’s per week or month, so they don’t rely on one days timing. Timing the market perfectly is hard, but you can at least rely on the fact that now is a historically good time.

      Yes banks do charge a fee for converting your currency. However, the do not publish the fee. The fee is baked into the exchange rate they offer you. To get the best rate call around – never use the rate you’ll get with the teller. I would focus on a few specialized shops like Knightsbridge, XEtrade.com, TD Borderless account online exchange. Then speak to your branch manager and see if they can call their foreign exchange desk and match your rate. If yes, it makes things a lot simpler. If no, choose the cheapest and most convenient alternative.

      GreedyRates Staff

  20. Hi greedyrates, great article.

    just wondering, if i use my amazon chase visa to take out cash, wouldn’t there be a transaction fee?

    • Hi Kevin,

      There would be a cash advance fee if you withdrew money from a foreign ATM (greater of 1% or $5, and you start incurring interest right away), but there would not be an additional foreign transaction fee (typically an additional 2.5% – plus the exchange rate).

      Hope that answers your questions!

      GreedyRates Staff

      • thank you.

        i guess i can eliminate that cash advance fee if i overpay my account balance, right?

        • Hi Kevin,

          Actually it’s a little dicier than that, and it depends on the issuer. You may get charged the cash advance fee, but not the interest. After all you’re using the cash advance function, but the loan itself is being paid down immediately, so no interest. Or you may get charged the fee and the interest (but only for a day or two), or you may get charged nothing at all. If you use your card for purchases during that time period, in addition to cash advance, you may get dinged the cash advance fee.

          Some issuers may put a hold on your card if you constantly overpay, leaving a credit. It’s a tactic used by fraudsters to launder money. Although it’s usually larger sums that are flagged.

          Best,
          GreedyRates Staff

          • GreedyRates, you are providing extremely valuable information with this site, please keep up the great work! It’s also awesome that you take the time to reply to individual comments/questions. I have a question related to your discussion with Kevin.

            My goal is to minimize any fees related to acquiring foreign currency. From my research and understanding, I think the following would be one of the most economical ways, but have some questions for clarifications.

            Step 1. Overpay, in advance, the Amazon credit card balance by the amount of the withdrawal I want to make. Say $500.
            Step 2. Withdraw this amount from a foreign ATM. I pay a $5 cash advance fee and this is basically the only charge I incur (ignoring the local ATM operator’s own fee, which is inevitable as far as I’m aware and thus not worth trying to minimize).

            Q1: I pay essentially zero interest, correct? Either I am charged no interest because my card balance is overpaid or I might pay 1 day of interest which is basically nothing (19.99%/365 days * $500 = 0.27 cents).

            Q2: Is it certain that the zero foreign exchange fee that applies to regular foreign currency purchases will also apply to this foreign currency cash advance? No traps here?

            Q3: What percentage of the credit limit are cash advances typically allowed to be? I’ve heard they can often be much less than your credit limit? Would withdrawing several hundred dollars (I’d probably withdraw $200-500 at a time) pose any issues? Similarly, you mentioned the anti-money laundering issue if you frequently overpay your credit balance by a lot…do you know if a few hundred dollars is low enough for this not to be an issue?

            From what I can tell, there is no way to avoid the typical 2.5% foreign exchange fee when using a bank’s debit/ATM card which is why I think the method above using a credit card that does not charge this ForEx fee might be the lowest-cost method. A $500+ withdrawal is the optimal amount because the cash advance fee is only 1% (any amount lower will be less economical because the cash advance fee is a minimum $5). The only competitive option when withdrawing smaller amounts may be leveraging the Scotiabank Global ATM Alliance because you can avoid the local ATM operator’s fee as well.

            Does all this logic seem sound? Or am I missing something? If you’re lucky, as you mentioned, and the issuer doesn’t even charge the cash advance fee because you have overpaid your balance, this method would appear almost hands-down the best way to get foreign currency abroad (although I think it makes sense that the cash advance fee would apply since you are still undertaking the cash advance transaction).

            Thank you again for such a great site!

          • Hi Adam,

            Great question and thinking. Thanks for the kinds words about GreedyRates!

            We called and verified with Chase Canada. There is no foreign transaction fee on cash advances. Furthermore, you can pre-pay your account, however, you will still be charged a 1% cash advance fee, or $5 per advance, whichever is greater. You will also be charged interest from the time of your purchase to the time it gets posted – usually 24-48 hours (but like you said that’s not much).

            1% is not insignificant, and $5 is very significant. If you do a $100 cash advance that’s the equivalent of a 5% fee. Do a $200 cash advance, it’s the quivalent of a 2.5% fee.

            However, if you take out a cash advance of $500 or more, you’re fee will be 1%, which is obviously better than 2.5% foreign transaction fee.

            The best option would still be to use your no-foreign transaction fee credit card wherever possible. If a merchant does not accept credit cards, your option of doing a cash advance, with immediate repayment is a good option, but only if done in increments greater than $200 ($200 is the breakeven, where the min cash advance fee of $5 equals 2.5% – so anything higher would equal less than 2.5%, making it a better option than withdrawing cash at the ATM with a 2.5% fee).

            Does that make sense?

            GreedyRates Staff

          • GreedyRates, just following up on your reply (I couldn’t reply directly to it because my original post and your reply do not have a reply button…odd?).

            Yes, that all makes sense and thank you very much for answering my questions. Definitely agree that making purchases with the credit card wherever possible is the best case scenario, but having cash is necessary for a lot of things. So seems like this card is a winner for both methods!

            Now I’m just hoping that the cap on how much they allow you to withdraw as a cash advance isn’t prohibitively low.

            Thanks again!
            Adam

          • Just a follow up question to this thread, assume I have an Amazon.ca rewards VISA and withdraw the equivalent of $500 Canadian in foreign currency from a foreign ATM. I also already have a balance of $500 on the card from purchases I made in stores in the past few days. Based on my interpretation of the Terms and Conditions, if I were to place a $500 payment onto my VISA immediately after making my $500 withdrawal, the payment, when posted, would be applied proportionally to my existing balance and my cash advance balance (in this case a 50/50 application). So in order to avoid paying interest on my cash advance I’d immediately need to pay off my entire balance, correct?

          • Hi Brandin,

            That is correct. That is why it is so important to either pay down your cash advance balance immediately, or pay down the entirety of your balance at the end of every month. Funny enough, prior to recent regulations, banks used to allocate your payments to your low interest balances first, maintaining the entirety of your higher interest balance until the low interest balance was paid down. At least things have improved somewhat.

            GreedyRates Staff

          • Thanks for the quick reply! Just to clarify, in the scenario I outlined above, assuming I had paid off my balance on time, and had recent charges that would be included on my next statement, my balance would be considered zero for the purposes of allocating a payment. Or would my payment still be applied equally against my recent purchases (for which I have not yet received a Statement) as well as my Cash Advance?

            Thanks Again.

          • Hi Brandin,

            We’re not positive, but believe that if both balances originated prior to your statement, then any repayment could be applied proportionately, even though only one of those balances might be incurring interest. Unfortunately, Chase’s disclosure is not clear on the matter, and we’d assume, rightly or wrongly, that if it’s ambiguous, it works in their favour.

            Here’s what their disclosure states “For any account statement where different annual interest rates apply to different amounts billed and owing on that account statement, any payment by you that is greater than the Minimum Payment set out in that account statement will be allocated among those amounts in the same proportion as each amount bears to the outstanding New Balance on the account statement. We reserve the right, subject to applicable law, to change the order in which we apply payments without notice to you.”

            GreedyRates Staff

  21. My husband and I are living in the U.S. We are retired and receive a Canadian Pension and Old Age Pension which we receive through Scotia Bank. The exchange rate now is very hard on us. Can anyone suggest a way we can get around this. We lost almost $500.00 in December because of the high exchange rate.

    • if you are paid 100% in CAD and spend 100% in USD when the CAD is 20% lower than it should be because OPEC wants to harm competing oil producers, then you’re evaporating 20% of you’re paid. the only way around this is to stop spending CAD on USD while the CAD is bad

  22. Probably not the smartest question asked but I can’t wrap my head around this. xe.com : to buy 1000 can is @ 700 us but to buy 1000 us is @ 1400 can. Should it not by approx 1300 with a 70cent dollar?

    • Hi Carol,

      Actually a VERY smart question! One we had ourselves – you wouldn’t believe the answers we got from supposedly people in the “know”. The answer is actually based on pretty simple math. Using your example, if we wanted to take the $700US you received, from the $1,000CDN and make it $1,000CDN again, we would need to apply an exchange rate of 42% (1,000-700)/700. However, going from $1,000CDN to $700US is only 30% (1,000-700)/1000. You have to change denominators. So even though the exchange rates are different, the nominal amounts, when going back and forth using those rate, should be equivalent. Does that make sense?

      GreedyRates Staff

  23. Very interesting article, greedyrates. I have a question, though: Is there any one I can speak to in Canada, like an Ombudsman or consumer group, to complain about an obscene exchange rate that I was charged? Is there a legal cap to the rates and additional exchange fees that can be charged? Today I used a Mastercard Rewards cash card that I received from my employer as a bonus for my years of service. I put $1000USD toward a cruise that I had purchased and it came to $1629.26. That’s an effective exchange fee of over 15%!!! Even if I add a typical 2.5% FX fee added as shown above, both the VISA and MASTERCARD calculators gave me a calculation of about $1450. It seems to me that the rate I was charged is highway robbery. Do I have any recourse? Thanks in advance. Andy

    • Hi Andy,

      You can always use the complaint process outline by the FCAC here. They usually want you to try to resolve the issue with the issuer of the card first.

      If you’d like you can send us your cardholder agreement and we can have a go at reviewing it ourselves. If you don’t have the cardholder agreement, you can give us the name of the issuer (on the back of the card) and the name of the card and we should be able to find the cardholder agreement. Also please send the date on which the transaction was posted and made. that will allow us to determine what the issuer committed to charging you in the first place, and what you ought to have been charged that day.

      If we find something obviously wrong, we can recommend alternative recourse.

      Look forward to it Andy.

      GreedyRates Staff

      • Thank you, greedyrates, false alarm. After further “processing” and without any complaints from me, they actually charged me an exchange rate (dated Jan 11) of 1.42 plus the 3% that the cardholder agreement shows as their foreign exchange fee. Maybe they take a bit extra at first until they can fine tune the charges. So, I guess I’m good. But I’m glad I found your website anyway for future info.

  24. Regarding Gavin French’s inquiry of November 17th – i.e. Does the “no foreign conversion fee” amazon.ca VISA still include a 2.5 % fee by using VISA international exchange rates? – the GreedyRates Staff did not reply. Do you have that information? Also in the article on ‘Avoiding Foreign Currency Fees’ you mention that Chase Canada has a no foreign conversion fee but as Chase is leaving Canada do you know if anyone will fill that gap?
    Great website!

    • Hi Marie,

      Thanks for the kind words about GreedyRates! Please see our reply to Gavin French below. The quick answer is no, VISA does not have a 2.5% fee embedded in the rate it charges to the banks. You can actually see what exchange rates VISA has charged on any given day, between any two currencies here https://usa.visa.com/support/consumer/travel-support/exchange-rate-calculator.html/ .

      First, it’s important to note, Chase has decided to leave the Sears portfolio behind. They haven’t left Canada yet – although it’s a pretty good assumption. But no need to switch your Amazon or Marriott cards yet. Second, Rogers MasterCard is the only other card that we know of that does not charge foreign transaction fees.

      Best,

      GreedyRates Staff

      • Look at the new terms on Roger’s credit card. They are ending the free rate conversion and adding a 2.5% fee. The exchange ride is over with them!

        • Hi Crash,

          Actually it’s not over completely. You will now be earning 4% cash back on foreign transactions. So in effect you will earn 1.5% cash back on foreign transactions with the Rogers MasterCard, when you net out the 2.5% foreign transaction fee. That’s still better than the Amazon card where you will only net 1% cash back on foreign transactions (including Amazon.com purchases).

          The difference is that you will need to redeem your cash back to harvest the value. But the value is there.

          We will update the post as soon as we confirm dates and details on which cardholders are impacted.

          Hope that helps,

          GreedyRates Staff

  25. What’s the CAN $ rate in India rupees today ??

    • Hi Lanya,

      GreedyRates does not provide foreign exchange quotes. Sorry.

      GreedyRates Staff

      • I see the following in Scotiabank’s website regarding foreign ABM usage:

        “Foreign currency withdrawals from international ABMs will have their foreign currency exchange rate determined by VISA International on our behalf. A conversion fee equal to 2.5% of the converted amount is included in the exchange rate.”

        They make reference to April of 2004 and say the VISA rate INCLUDES a 2.5% conversion fee. Is this fee embedded in all VISA rates and then added to by banks? Does the “no foreign conversion fee” amazon.ca VISA still inlcude a 2.5 % fee by using VISA international exchange rates?

        Gavin

        • Hi Gavin,

          We can’t find the reference you quoted above. If you could provide a link that would be great. That said, with respect to credit cards, we did place a few calls on your behalf and confirmed that Visa charges the banks a “wholesale rate” determined by “market participants” which should be “favourable” to cardholders, without charging a surcharge. In several notable Canadian class acion cases, it was revealed that the banks charge their 2.5% on top of the “interbank” rate, which is typically only available between financial institutions. That seems to also suggest Visa is charging a “wholesale” rate. Only the banks are charging or not charging a foreign transaction fee.

          Hopefully that helps.

          GreedyRates Staff

          • I just spoke to Scotiabank yesterday and the agent confirmed that a 2.5% rate is charged in addition to the exchange rate on credit card charges.

          • Hi Kim,

            Scotia, like the other big 5 banks, all charge 2.5% foreign transaction fees over and above the exchange rate on non-Canadian currency purchases. As far as we know, Chase and Rogers MasterCard are the only two Canadian issues not to charge a foreign transaction fee.

            Best,

            GreedyRates.ca

          • Note, the reference is with respect to ABM cash withdrawals, not credit card usage. But the issue is the same as they reference the VISA international exchange rate and the fact that that rate itself includes a 2.5% fee.

  26. Is there any way to get US cash in Canada from a Chase Visa card?
    I tried CIBC’s US cash dispensing ATM’s but no luck.

  27. Claus Felix Huberty

    very informative site, good job. cfh.

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