Avoid hidden currency exchange rate fees and save big

Avoid Hidden Currency Exchange Rate Fees and Save Big

Last updated on September 12, 2018 Views: 16277 Comments: 118
In this article

There are two factors that determine how much your Canadian credit card is charged when you make a purchase in a foreign currency:

  1. The daily currency exchange rate set by your card processor, i.e. Mastercard, Visa, or American Express. This is the difference between the value of the Canadian dollar and the value of a foreign currency on any given day.
  2. The foreign transaction fee charged by your card issuer, e.g. RBC or TD. You might not always notice these fees on your credit card statement, as many issuers automatically include them in the purchase amounts charged to the card, rather than listing the fees as separate line items.

Does one card processor offer lower exchange rates than the other? How do the exchange rates and foreign transaction fees affect your bottom line in the long run?

Visa, Mastercard and Amex Exchange Rates Compared

Image source: Shutterstock

To figure out who charges the lowest fees, we looked at the exchange rates posted online by Visa and Mastercard. The American Express exchange rate is not typically made public, but we reached out to them directly and they provided us with their rates.

We’ve included the 2.5% foreign transaction fee that the majority of Canadian credit cards charge, but have listed in brackets what the base exchange rate is. American Express currently does not offer a credit card in Canada that waives the foreign exchange fee.

We’ve also listed the Bank of Canada Exchange and the US Federal Reserve rates for reference.

 
USD - CAD
EUR - CAD
Visa
1.36649
(1.33317)
1.59694
(1.55798)
Mastercard
1.36591
(1.3326)
1.59197
(1.55314)
American Express
1.3663
(1.3333)
1.59586
(1.55596)
Bank of Canada
1.33071.5419
US Federal Reserve
1.3300

Based on the data, the Visa exchange rate is the highest and the Mastercard currency conversion rate is the lowest. American Express sits in the middle of the two. All three card processors do charge a slight markup compared to the Bank of Canada.

You’ll also notice that the Bank of Canada rate is nearly identical to the US Federal Reserve rate since both are government agencies and represent the official exchange rate between the two countries.

How Does the Exchange Rate Affect Your Bottom Line?

US-CAD Exchange Rate 2.5 fee included

US-CAD exchange rate 2.5 not included

The graphs above show how much you would pay in Canadian dollars if you were to charge $1,000 USD to your Canadian Visa, Mastercard, or American Express credit card with and without foreign transaction fees. When looking at the base rates, there’s only 58 cents separating Mastercard, which has the lowest fees, compared to Visa, which has the highest fees.

However, when using a Visa without foreign transaction fees, you would save $33.32 compared to a Visa that does charge the fees. With Mastercard, you would save $33.31.

American Express does not currently have a credit card in Canada that waives foreign exchange fees, so you’ll always be paying the additional 2.5% fee if you use Canadian Amex cards.

eur-cad exchange rate 2.5 included

eur-cad exchange rate 2.5 not included

In these two graphs, we looked at what the conversion works out to if you were charging €1,000 to your credit card. Again, the base exchange rates between Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are quite minor with just $4.97 separating them.

However, you can again see what a difference there is when using a credit card that doesn’t charge those foreign exchange fees. You’d save $38.96 with a Visa or $38.83 with a Mastercard.

Are You Getting the Best Currency Exchange Rate Possible?

Although the exchange rate fluctuates on a daily basis, the markup that Visa, Mastercard, and American Express charge compared to the Bank of Canada rate is consistent.

Based on the straight math, you would pay the least exchange fees with Mastercard, but it’s pretty minimal and likely won’t make a huge difference unless you’re charging $10,000+ USD to your credit card. Even if you spent that much you’d only be saving $5.80 compared to Visa and $3.90 if you used an Amex.

That being said, if you were to compare what you’re charged by your credit card provider to what banks or foreign exchange offices will charge you for exchanging currency, you’re likely getting the best rates by using your credit cards.

Banks and exchange offices set their own individual rates and the markup can be quite high depending on the currency you’re getting. Generally speaking, if you’re trying to get USD from your bank, the rates will be comparable to what your credit card charges, but if you need a currency that’s not commonly held such as the Turkish lira or Brazilian real, there could be a markup of up to 10% (!).

Other Ways to Save on Foreign Currency Purchases

‘No Foreign Transaction Fee’ Credit Cards

 Home Trust Preferred Visa Scotiabank Passport Visa InfiniteRogers World Elite Mastercard
Foreign Transaction Fee0%0%2.5%
Foreign Currency Cash Back Rewards1%1%-2%4%
Domestic Cash Back Rewards1%1%-2%

1.75%
VisitVisitVisit

Since the exchange rate differences between Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are relatively minor, the best strategy for saving money on purchases in foreign currencies is by using one of the cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. These cards waive the usual 2.5% exchange fee or give you cash back on your foreign purchases, which can make up for the fees.

Home Trust Preferred Visa

Home Trust Preferred VISA LightIf you’re looking for a straightforward credit card that has no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee, then the Home Trust Preferred Visa will likely appeal to you. You’ll earn 1% in cash back on all your purchases and the card also comes with a roadside assist membership. It should be noted that this card has a daily limit of 10 transactions, so it’s not a good fit for those who make a lot of purchases.

Click here to apply for the Home Trust Preferred Visa card


Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

Scotiabank Passport Visa InfiniteThe Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is perfect for those who travel often and like to earn travel rewards, but don’t like to pay foreign transaction fees. You’ll earn two Scotia Rewards points per dollar spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment, and transit purchases, while all other purchases earn one point per dollar spent. There is an annual fee of $139, but there’s also a signup bonus of 25,000 points ($250 value) when you charge $1,000 to the card in the first three months. In addition, you get six annual PriorityPass airport lounge access passes and a comprehensive travel insurance package.

Click here to apply for the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card


Rogers World Elite Mastercard

Rogers World Elite MastercardAlthough the Rogers World Elite Mastercard technically charges the 2.5% foreign transaction fee, it simultaneously generates 4% in cash back on any purchases made in a foreign currency. This means foreign currency purchases end up getting 1.5% cash back after the foreign transaction fee is factored out. Rogers products or services charged to this card will earn 2% in cash back while all other purchases made in Canadian dollars will earn 1.75%. The card also comes with a respectable amount of travel insurance, but it only covers you for 10 days.

Click here to apply for the Rogers World Elite Mastercard

Prepaid Foreign Currency Cards

With prepaid foreign currency credit cards, you can load your credit card in advance with funds. This is advantageous since you’ll know exactly what rate you’re paying and you can take advantage of any dips in the exchange rate. Prepaid cards are safe since they use PIN technology and are never directly connected to any of your bank accounts.

CIBC AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card

CIBC Air Canada AC conversion Visa Prepaid CardIf you like the idea of using a prepaid card while travelling, the CIBC AC Conversion Visa is one of the top choices available in Canada, as it can be loaded with up to 10 different currencies. This allows you to make purchases in the local currency in 45 different countries. You can still use the card in other countries, but you’ll pay an additional exchange fee. Loading your card with new funds is done via your smartphone, tablet, or online, so you should have no issues managing your account while travelling.

Click here to apply for the CIBC AC Conversion Visa card

USD Cards

USD cards can be useful for those who make frequent trips to the U.S. or make many purchases in U.S. dollars. Since the card has USD as the base currency, you don’t get charged any additional fees when you charge a purchase in USD. However, when it comes time to pay your bills, you’ll need to have USD available, otherwise, you pay a conversion fee when paying your bill with Canadian dollars.

BMO U.S. Dollar Mastercard

BMO US Dollar Credit CardIt doesn’t matter if you’re shopping in the U.S. or making purchases online in USD, the BMO U.S. Dollar Mastercard won’t charge any foreign transaction fees. You won’t earn any points or rewards with the card, but you do get extended warranty and purchase protection. The card does come with an annual fee of $35, but it’s waived as long as you charge at least $1,000 USD to the card each year.

Article comments

118 comments
Alex M says:

Some inaccuracies in the article, but a bargain hunter should check the info in person anyway. Just read the card issuer info. Some cards have a hefty annual fee. Some other – like Rogers – are bordering with scam, they charge 2.5% conversion fee, then give you 4% “cashback points” that you can spend on Rogers products ONLY, like sports tickets or Rogers phone bills.
Home Trust Visa Preferred appears to be more honest for those trying to be savvy (wouldn’t read all this otherwise, eh?), they just charge 0% conversion fee, though their ATM withdrawal fees are higher than with cards from major banks.

Jim says:

Whats the best way to make International Cash advances in Foreign currency?

I’m routinely in areas where cash is the only option and carrying around large amounts is not the wisest choice. ATMs can usually be found. Banks are harder to find and I cant always rely on being able to find one specific type of bank.

When using credit cards at international ATMs for cash advances, do they charge the foreign transaction fee on top of the international cash advance fee(+ATM provider fee)?
Of particular interest in this is the Home Trust Preferred Visa, Rogers Mastercard, MBNA Smart Cash Platnum Plus, and Tangerine credit cards

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi Jim,

Thanks for your questions about foreign exchange rates, transaction fees, and using ATMs abroad. First, it’s important to know that credit cards with foreign transaction fee exemption also extend this benefit to ATM withdrawals–there’s no special clause that hits you with an extra charge just for needing cash.
Remember that the Rogers credit cards that earn cash back on foreign transactions don’t avoid the fees, they offer a greater cash back rate that covers them and then some. The Home Trust Visa and the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite both advertise 0.00% and that’s what you will get, so the only fees you need to worry about are standard ATM fees. In addition to the other cards you’re looking at, you should include the CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion card.

The AC Conversion card allows you to preload up to $20,000 across a wide variety of foreign currencies at any time, allowing you to lock in a good exchange rate before you travel. It’s a great way to carry around a lot of foreign currency easily, but you can also withdraw it as cash if you like. It’ll automatically use the correct currency (10 different currencies supported) for relevant transactions abroad, so you’ll never pay foreign fees. Check it out–you’ll also appreciate that it gives you a free ATM withdrawal every year.

Let us know if you need further guidance.

Best,
The GreedyRates Team

Alex M says:

The best way is NOT to take cash advances, but withdraw money from chequing account instead. Then you avoid ATM withdrawal fees and very high interest.

Foreign ATM charge whatever they want. Scotia ATM in Scotia bank branch in Mexico doesn’t charge withdrawal fee if you withdraw from Canadian or US Scotia account. Same Scotia ATM in convenience store with charge something, and if ATM bears the name of some bank other than your home bank, your fees will be the highest. It’s a standard practice, people who travel often usually know all this.

Alex M says:

…correction to myself (since they don’t allow editing posts) – I meant to say “… avoid ATM cash advance fees and very high interest”. ATM withdrawal fees is a different thing (could be avoided too, as explained above). Cheers.

Henry says:

FIDO MasterCard will be adjusted the features to be similar as ROGERS MasterCard, effective in May 2018. Both cards seem downgraded a little bit.
https://www.rogersbank.com/en/notification

Keith Richmond says:

The FIDO MasterCard also gives 4% for foreign currency purchases (and 1.5% within Canada) and has no annual fee.

jimmy gravelet says:

Home Trust does not accept clients from Quebec – and the Rogers and Fido cards now include the 2.5% fee on foreign transactions (since july 2017).

Michael says:

Hey Jimmy, thanks for your comment. We’re sorry to confirm that the Home Trust card isn’t available to residents of Quebec, but a comparable alternative that Quebecers are eligible for is the Rogers Platinum Mastercard. You’re correct that it imposes a 2.5% foreign transaction fee–it always has–but this is also why it adds 4.0% cash back for each purchase in a foreign currency.

GreedyRates Staff

Marie andree says:

If I get e.g., BMO US dollar credit card and scan pas or with a Canadian US checking account. What is the best way to get the least amount of transactions fees and the best rates :using an intermediate company like forex or simply going to my bank thanks

GreedyRates says:

Hey Marie, thanks for your questions. With a BMO US Dollar Mastercard (or a bank account denominated in US dollars) all purchases you make in US dollars, even from Canada, are not subject to transaction fees. You can go to the United States and purchase without fear of being charged extra, or buy from US retailers that ship to Canada. Otherwise, we’re not sure what you mean by an “intermediate company like forex.” If you could elaborate a bit we can reply with a more accurate answer. Forex means foreign exchange, which does not apply in this situation, unless you’re buying in Canadian dollars from the US account or card. In that case, using a bank would likely result in fewer fees, because most retail money exchanges have high rates. You’d have to check with your bank to find out. Thanks!

GreedyRates Staff

James Cosgrove says:

I’ve always used Global Transfer Partners for my international payments, check them out for the best rates I’ve ever been able to find.

Donald Masters says:

As everyone else seems to comment, great info. I have a question for you.
My son will be attending a school in Vancouver area for one year starting in September, and I live in US. I want to transfer funds to the school to cover his tuition. I just wired a “deposit” and was disturbed to find that CIBC took so much in the conversion process. I think it was somewhere in the 2-3% range, just today. They claim to only take a fee of $15, but the converted funds was quite a bit lower than what the daily rates would indicate should have ended up at the school.

Do you have any suggestions for transferring funds to the school from the US?

BTW, I have traveled in Europe recently using a Chase Sapphire card and they did not charge transaction fees. I got the daily exchange rates as you discuss. I also took cash out of machines using a Charles Schwab Debit card from a USD checking account I setup with them and again, foreign currency with no fees and no loss from daily currency rates. Just sharing.

GreedyRates says:

Hi Donald, thanks for your interesting question.

You’re from the US, so converting any US dollars to their Canadian counterparts will cost a foreign transaction fee. If you equip your son with a Canadian credit card for the purpose of paying tuition, when funding the card from your US account, you will still need to pay a transaction fee.

You may be able to explore getting him an American credit card without foreign transaction fees, but as we only review Canadian cards, we cannot recommend a suitable solution for you. Perhaps look into getting a secondary Chase Sapphire card, as you’ve enjoyed using it, and give it to your son. If you’re able to get approved for a credit greater to or equal than a single tuition payment, this could be an option.

Before ordering your second card however, check with the school in Vancouver to see if this method would work – or if they have alternative suggestions. Thanks for reading!

GreedyRates Staff

Bob says:

Would the no annual fee Rogers credit card you mention be an accepted card on PayPal for Canadian sellers on eBay who use PayPal to accept payment? I currently have a Canadian credit card that gets a terrible US/Can rate when the money made from eBay sales is either put on the card or dumped into the bank account attached to the card. When it’s time to move the money from PayPal to my Canadian bank, the PayPal international fees that range from 3.7 to 3.9% of final sale including shipping are bad enough, so any savings on the exchange rate fees when my bank converts would be welcome.

GreedyRates says:

Hey Bob, thanks for presenting us with a very interesting question!

For Canadian eBay sellers who get payments in USD via PayPal, PayPal will inevitably charge a foreign transaction fee, as you mentioned. Officially, this fee is 3.7% for Canadians selling to the US market. There may be no way to avoid this, however, we’re not sure that getting a credit card like the Rogers card will help with the other half of the equation, which is getting the money from PayPal to your bank.

Only purchases made abroad or from foreign online retailers with cards like these are exempt from the extra transaction fees, and adding foreign money to the card or account may not be considered as eligible for this benefit.

Regardless, PayPal is the party charging you the extra 2.5% to convert USD in your account to CAD when depositing to your bank, meaning that you’re charged this exchange rate fee no matter what bank you work with or what credit card you have. You could try looking into opening a USD bank account in Canada, which is easily possible, but when trying to use that money you will run into fees as well. If you have further questions, you could try calling PayPal Canada’s customer support and asking for common solutions. Good luck.

GreedyRates Staff

Ron MacDonald says:

Yes, endeavour to open the US$ account with a Canadian bank, it should be possible even with a US resident address. Then to convert from either US-Can-US dollars use a good Forex on-line company, i.e. Transferwise or X-E trading to mention two. However, it will be necessary to open an on-line account first with these companies who typically charge about 0.5%. What most people don’t realize is that you can then transfer funds between the Can and US bank accounts in your name even at the same bank address.

Brian says:

I just wanted to comment on the Chase Amazon visa, which is what I use and think its good No Foreign transaction fee card. Some others mentioned previously they were getting charged what looked like higher rate or the fees. I have not found that in an cases since I have had the card (August 2016). I used it when I went to Europe and now for all my US purchases. In Europe the days I compared posted rate on card was 1.4464 while the posted rate for the day at least on (XE.com) was 1.4494 , 0.003 difference .

I also have used the XE credit card charge calculator to compare exchange charges vs other cards I use to use (Now obviously this is mid day rates so not your final number but as a comparison tool to other cards), and consistently other cards I used were 3 to 4 % in fees while Amazon Visa is consistently 0.3 to 0.4 for many US purchase and was 0.15 to 0.2 for Euro. Plus the 1% back on all purchases takes care of even the small fees that may be there.

Just my thoughts and opinion but for now this card has my vote for anything in foreign currency.

Also just FYI if traveling to EURO or abroad, and requiring some cash, use a card like this preload it with extra cash and go to no fee atm and take out your cash needed, it only charges 1% cash advance fee or min 5$ ( so take out minimum of what would be 500 CAD) no transactions fees $5 withdrawal fee , cheapest way I have found to exchange smaller amounts of money for Canadians , you will most likely save $20 to $30 compared to at a bank or other converter place

Joey says:

Thank you for putting up so much useful information here! I definitely learned a lot from you!
I am planning a trip to Japan later this year and read somewhere online that if you use Visa and MasterCard in Japan, they would convert Japanese Yen into USD first then convert into CAD.
Would this double conversion increase the overall cost to convert Yen to CAD if I use my Rogers MasterCard in Japan?
I’m trying to figure out if it is still worth it to use this card wherever possible while in Japan, then converting more Yen at my local bank before the trip.

GreedyRates says:

Hi Joey!

Thanks for the appreciation. We’re here to help, and think we can offer some insight into how to get the most from your trip.

We’re not sure where you read that purchases made with a Visa or MasterCard in Japan are converted first to USD and then to CAD. Establishments in Japan accept most credit cards and take payment in Yen. We are confident that stores, restaurants, hotels and other places in Japan will make the card convert just once – from CAD to JPY. MasterCard and Visa will apply the standard foreign exchange rate and then any foreign transaction fee that comes with using your card abroad.

On a related note, be sure to let the card issuer know that you will be abroad. This way, purchases will not get red-flagged and access to funds will go uninterrupted.

Enjoy your trip!

GreedyRates Staff

Joey says:

Sorry for the late response… somehow I lost this page and just found it.
Thank you for the info, now I’m sure I’ll use my Rogers card with confidence during my trip =)
Keep up the great work!

Jason Chu says:

I’ve just read the T&C from two of my TD Visa cards.
Any other currency outside of USD, Euros, GBP, Austrailian Dollars, or Mexican Pesos, will be converted first to USD, then to CAD.
So it’s a major ripoff.

Michael says:

Hi Jason, thanks for your insightful comment. We’re always pleased when our readers do their due diligence, and encourage you to check out the Rogers Platinum Mastercard if you want a better choice. Its 4.0% cash back bonus when using foreign currencies will cover the 2.5% foreign transaction fee you mention and more. You can learn more about that card by reading our Rogers Mastercard Review, or you can apply for the card directly via this link. Another option would be the Home Trust Preferred card, which accomplishes the same goals when it comes to avoiding extra foreign transaction charges. You can learn more about it by checking out our complete Home Trust Preferred Card review, or you can apply directly via this link. Best of luck!

GreedyRates Staff

J.B. says:

Thanks for the great article!

I will be traveling around the world for a year, and now have the Rogers Platinum credit card you recommend.

However, many places I will be traveling do not accept credit card. I will bring some USD cash with me, but sometimes will have to take cash out of ATMs. Do you know of a Canadian bank that does not charge (or rebates) foreign ATM fees? Some of the US banks have this type of account, e.g. TD’s American “Premier Checking” account.

Thanks again.

GreedyRates says:

Hi J.B.

Scotia is part of the Global ATM Alliance. Use ATM’s in the alliance and you won’t pay a surcharge or access fee. The network seems to be quite extensive throughout the globe.

If you have some bank plans (TD Select, RBC VIP), they will not charge you a fee on their end, but the ATM you are withdrawing from will still charge you a fee.

Hope that helps!

GreedyRates Staff

John Parker says:

Some great answers “Greedy Rates.” I’m a simple person trying to get something clear in my mind. I have a RBC Visa, Infinite, Avion credit card. When I use it for purchases in the US, will I have to pay the 2.5% card fee on the exchange plus a bank fee?

Thank you,
John

GreedyRates says:

Hi John,

Good question. If you use your RBC Avion Visa Infinite card for a purchase in the U.S. you will only pay the 2.5% foreign transaction fee, plus Visa’s foreign exchange rate (which has a small fee embedded in it).

However, if you use your RBC Avion card for a cash advance, you’ll pay the 2.5% foreign transaction fee, Visa’s foreign exchange rate, RBC cash advance fee and in all likelihood the ATM’s withdrawal fee.

Hope that helps,

GreedyRates Staff

Jay says:

Hello GreedyRates, I need your advice regarding the US-Canada currency exchange. I expect to earn in US funds to be deposited in a US bank account. Those funds will be used to pay Canadian bank loan on a bi-weekly basis. Could you please advise as to what would be the best approach for me to obtain best exchange rate and save on currency conversion fees? Thanks for your guidance and advice.

Jay

GreedyRates says:

Hi Jay,

Your best bet is to get a few quotes and determine which is the lowest cost and most convenient provider for you. You should probably check out Knightsbridge as well as the online exchange rate with your retail bank – this can be especially advantageous if you have a cross border account with TD or RBC.

Hope that helps,

GreedyRates Staff

John Parker says:

Thank you GreedyRates.
Sorry for the delay in replying.
John

Sandra Drury says:

Hi there,
I came across your site while searching for currency converters. Thank you so much for the help.
I’m looking at a property in Florida. What is the best route to take for converting currency for a large purchase like this? I’m getting different amounts and percentages depending on the site I go to.
Thanks so much,
Sandra

GreedyRates says:

Hi Sandra,

For a large sum like that we’d suggest you get multiple quotes from different providers. We’d suggest getting quotes from Knightsbridge, Canadianforex.ca, and Xe.com. Once you have the three quotes, we’d suggest asking your branch manager to get a custom quote from their foreign exchange desk to see if they can match or beat the best quote you were offered from the first three.

Hope that helps,

GreedyRates Staff

James Taylor says:

Interesting and very informative website you have.

Please correct me if I am wrong on my understanding. It seems that in Canada if I have a ” no foreign transaction fee” credit card (Rogers or Chase) My foreign currancy exchange rate will be set by either Visa or Mastercard @ “Interbank/Spot Exchange Rates” or whatever the exchange rate is for a particular foreign currancy for that particular date and time of the transaction, without additional fees included, so that I will receive the cheapest or near cheapest exchange rate possible, without fear of incurring hidden bank fees in Visa/Mastercard exchange rate fees.

Please respond to my query, as I am trying to figure out the cheapest way to travel in Europe without incurring additional charges that need not be.

I am sure you have answered this question above, but for me to understand, I need you to answer my question in the form it is written.

Thanks,

James Taylor

GreedyRates says:

Hi James,

Big fan of yours (you must get that all the time)!

1. Correct, Visa and MasterCard set the foreign exchange rate
2. Our research indicates the networks set it pretty close to the “Interbank/Spot Exchange Rates” but not exactly at it. Over 52 testing periods, MasterCard averaged 58 basis points (.58%) over the Bloomberg spot rate and Visa was 98 basis points (.98%) over the Bloomberg spot rate.
3. As a result, a card with no foreign transaction fees, will typically be cheaper than most if not all other currency exchange alternatives available to an individual.
4. To be clear, while the Rogers card offers 4% cashback on foreign purchases, it does charge a 2.5% foreign transaction fee. However, the net rewards rate ends up being 1.5% cashback (4% cashback – 2.5% FX fee = 1.5%), versus the Marriott card which offer a 1% net rewards with no foreign transaction fee (1% rewards – 0% FX fee = 1%). As a result, we believe the Rogers credit card offers the best FX value in the Canadian marketplace.

Hope that helps!

GreedyRates Staff

Jack says:

Hi, Just read that the SnowBird Association offers Canadian dollars send to your US acct, at preferred rates.
Have you heard of this, and are rates competitive?

GreedyRates says:

Hi Jack,

If you need U.S. cash, the Snowbird association, will typically provide better rates than your retail bank. However, there are two caveats. First, we still think a no foreign transaction fee credit card or a card such as the Rogers MasterCard which subsidizes foreign transaction fees with 4% cash back on foreign purchases, offers better exchange rates. So if you can use a credit card, you’re better off than using the cash.

Second, we do know that if you’re transferring larger sums, and let your bank manager know of the quotes you received from the Snowbird Association or Knightsbridge, they may be willing to match it. Also, note the the Snowbird Association has a $25 annual membership fee. So just make sure you’re transferring enough each year to make the savings worth your while.

Hope that helps,

GreedyRates Staff

Gary Chen says:

I just checked out the terms for the Rogers Mastercard and found this:

“All transactions made in a foreign currency are converted to Canadian dollars at the rate established by MasterCard International in effect on the date that we post the transaction to your Account (which may not be the same date as the date of the transaction plus an amount equal to 2.5% of the transaction amount after it has been converted to Canadian dollars.”

It looks like it is just like every other credit card in Canada with the 2.5% conversion fees???

GreedyRates says:

Hi Gary,

The Rogers card offers more value on foreign purchases than either the Amazon or Marriott cards. First, Rogers offers 4% cash back on all foreign purchases. When you deduct the foreign transaction fee, you’re left with net 1.5% cash back (4% cashback – 2.5% FX fee). If you use the Amazon card, which offers 1% cash back and no foreign transaction fee you’re left with net 1% cash back (1% cashback – 0% FX fee). The Rogers card comes out ahead.

Hopefully this clarifies why we recommend the Rogers MasterCard for foreign purchases. Rogers is just subsidizing the foreign transaction fee with its high cash back rate on foreign purchases, but is still offering more value than any other credit card alternative in the Canadian marketplace. So in fact, they’re not like any other credit card in Canada – even better than those who simply removed the foreign transaction fee.

GreedyRates Staff

Dao says:

Hi,
If you have a credit card with 2.5% fee foreign exchange fee and the currency is not in US dollars like Nzd for instance, is the 2.5% applied twice? The first time when converting Nzd to Usd and the second time when converting Usd to Cad? Thank you very much
Dao

GreedyRates says:

Hi Dao,

You only get charged the foreign transaction fee once, regardless of whether you’re converting US to CDN or NZD to CDN. It doesn’t matter whether the US Dollar is used as the peg currency or not.

In fact, as far as we know, every credit card issuer uses the US Dollar as the peg currency when switching an intl currency to the Cdn dollar. Some just articulate it in their disclosures while others do not.

GreedyRates Staff

kevin says:

Great article! I was surprised to see no mention of major Canadian Banks US Credit Cards as a solution to the exchange fee issue. What is your opinion on the CIBC US Dollar Visa card along with using a US Dollar bank account. Would this be a viable alternative? Buy US funds when the US currency is favourable, deposit into the US account, and spend using the US Visa while in the US. Payoff the US Visa card balance with the funds pre-purchased at a favourable rate. I would like to hear opinions on this method of saving on exchange fees – any info would be appreciated. Thank you.

GreedyRates says:

Hi Kevin,

If you already have US Dollars, or earn American dollars, a US Dollar currency card is a good alternative. However, if you’re exchanging Canadian dollars to US dollars, to pay for purchases on your US dollar card, it’s likely a more expensive strategy than using a credit card with subsidized foreign transaction fees.

The reason is because when you convert your Canadian dollars to US dollars at the bank or exchange bureau, you will be charged a fee on top of the spot rate. However, the fee is not separated from the exchange rate provided. In general, that fee will be in the 2.5% to 3% range at a Canadian retail bank, when exchanging small sums in branch. When using a credit card with subsidized foreign exchange fees, you will be paying substantially less.

Moreover, not only will you be avoiding the 2.5%-3% exchange fee margin, you’ll ALSO be earning rewards. As of right now, no Canadian US Dollar cards offer a competitive rewards program, if any at all.

Hope that was clear and helpful,

GreedyRates Staff

Donna Whitman says:

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

GreedyRates says:

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

C W says:

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!

GreedyRates says:

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

C W says:

Extremely helpful. Thanks a lot!

Clement

C W says:

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?

GreedyRates says:

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

Anna says:

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,

GreedyRates says:

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

Brian Davey says:

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.

Roy Davies says:

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.

Zador says:

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?

Shawn says:

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 ?

GreedyRates says:

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

Bill says:

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.

Warren Lee says:

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

but wow.Informative and helpful site!

Kevin Canning says:

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?

GreedyRates says:

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

Curtis says:

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?.

GreedyRates says:

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

Lori O says:

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.

GreedyRates says:

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

Pete says:

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

GreedyRates says:

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

max says:

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

Thanks

GreedyRates says:

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

max says:

Thanks a lot! Great website.

Jason says:

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!

GreedyRates says:

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

Vicky says:

I’m curious about the last paragraph. I earn USD and currently use a TD USD Visa. I use my regularly earned USD to pay that bill each month. I also have an Amazon.ca Visa and am wondering if it might actually make more sense to use that card (or the Rogers MC) for those purchases despite the fact that I earn USD but I can’t seem to make total sense out of it. I currently exchange USD to CAD but hold on to ~$1000/mth to pay my USD visa. The exchange is done through TD borderless account so I know I’m not getting the best exchange rate. If Amazon.ca VISA uses a rate that’s close to the spot rate + I get 1% cash back, does it make more sense for me to make my US purchases on my Amazon.ca Visa rather than on my TD USD Visa that has no rewards?

GreedyRates says:

Hey Vicky! Awesome question, and the answer is yes – it would be beneficial for you to make purchases in, or from the US with your Amazon.ca credit card. This and the Rogers™ Platinum MasterCard® card have no foreign currency transaction fees, and when you consider the 1% cash back bonus, plus an exchange rate that is close to spot, it becomes much more valuable than using cards without similar benefits. Hopefully this answers your questions!

Walter Ostorm says:

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

GreedyRates says:

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

S.R. says:

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.

peter dooran says:

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

peter dooran says:

Todays exchange rate for the Canadian Chase/Marriott Visa today is 1.41 and 1.44 for the RBC Avion Visa

S.Ann says:

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.

GreedyRates says:

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

Orlando says:

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.

GreedyRates says:

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

Ruubi says:

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.

GreedyRates says:

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

Ruubi says:

Hi GR Staff{Helping Hands}
Thanks for providing me such useful practical knowledge.Wish You guys Grow and prosperous

GreedyRates says:

Thanks Ruubi!

kevin says:

Hi greedyrates, great article.

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

GreedyRates says:

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

kevin says:

thank you.

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

GreedyRates says:

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

adam says:

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!

GreedyRates says:

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

adam says:

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

Brandin says:

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?

GreedyRates says:

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

Brandin says:

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.

GreedyRates says:

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

Linda Boax says:

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.

gg gg says:

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

Carol says:

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?

GreedyRates says:

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

Andy Schmiedel says:

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

GreedyRates says:

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

Andy Schmiedel says:

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.

Marie Sab says:

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!

GreedyRates says:

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

Crash says:

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!

GreedyRates says:

Hi Crash,

Rogers is still offers the best value on foreign purchases of any credit card in Canada. 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.

Hope that helps,

GreedyRates Staff

Lanya says:

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

GreedyRates says:

Hi Lanya,

GreedyRates does not provide foreign exchange quotes. Sorry.

GreedyRates Staff

gavin french says:

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

GreedyRates says:

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

Kim says:

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.

GreedyRates says:

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

Gavin French says:

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.

Paul says:

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.

GreedyRates says:

Hi Paul,

Not sure. Have you tried one of RBC’s 200 new U.S. dollar ATM’s they rolled out in Canada? Check them out here… http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/usd-2011/

Best,

GreedyRates Staff

Claus Felix Huberty says:

very informative site, good job. cfh.