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CIBC Air Canada® AC conversion™ Visa* Prepaid Card Review

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Last updated on December 13, 2021 Comments: 9

Travelling with a standard Canadian credit card can be an expensive endeavor, due to ever-changing exchange rates and repeated foreign transaction and ATM withdrawal fees. For those who travel quite a bit, one way to save effort and money is to carry a card preloaded with the local currency of a travel destination.

The CIBC Air Canada® AC Conversion™ Visa* Prepaid Card allows cardholders to load an impressive amount of cash across a wide variety of currencies, and at a locked-in exchange rate. Factor in its lack of an annual fee and it’s one of the best cards to travel with.

Multiple Currency Feature

The highlight of the CIBC prepaid card is its array of 10 supported currencies, which can be purchased and loaded onto the card at any time online. The supported currencies are as follows:

  • Canadian Dollars (CAD)
  • United States Dollars (USD)
  • Euros (EUR)
  • British Pounds (GBP)
  • Australian Dollars (AUD)
  • Japanese Yen (JPY)
  • Hong Kong Dollars (HKD)
  • Turkish Lira (TRY)
  • Swiss Francs (CHF)
  • Mexican Pesos (MXN)

This is a relief to those who had previously waited in line at the bank, exchanging cash for their upcoming trip at the bank’s own rates. It’s also safer than travelling in an unfamiliar country with a wad of bills. Loading these currencies to the card using Canadian dollars is easy via CIBC’s website, and CIBC characterizes each currency by the rate you bought it at. This allows you to lock in favorable exchange rates as the market changes and store currencies for later use.

If you know that you’ll be travelling to the UK at some point in the future, for example, you can wait until the Canadian dollar is in a good position relative to the Pound to load up for your upcoming trip.

Other Notable Perks

  • Use stored currencies to make purchases online as well
  • Load the card with up to the equivalent of $20,000 CAD
  • Unlimited ATM withdrawals in Canada
  • 24/7 support
  • $0 annual fee

Drawbacks and Limitations

  • Can’t buy on credit
  • Doesn’t build credit
  • Absence of relevant currency on the card means foreign transaction fees are applied
  • Only 1 free international ATM withdrawal per month
  • ‘Small’ fee charged for loading currency to the card
  • Few other typical travel card perks

Some of the biggest drawbacks of the card are simply symptomatic of its prepaid nature. For example, if you run out of prepaid funds abroad, you can’t use credit like you would with another card. You instead must load more money online. By the same token, the card automatically withdraws the relevant currency when paying overseas—it uses Yen while in Japan, for example. If you don’t have Yen on the card, and only Canadian dollars or another type of currency, then you’ll be hit with 2.50% foreign transaction fees. Cardholders shouldn’t use the card while abroad unless they’ve already loaded CAD and exchanged it online to the proper currency through CIBC’s dashboard.

CIBC hasn’t published a set fee that they charge for exchanging currencies/loading currencies to the card through their dashboard. What they’ve told us about the fees (though not in writing) is as follows:

  • Every currency exchange/load through their platform does incur some kind of a ‘small’, variable fee.
  • Cardholders have to confirm that they agree to be charged the fee before exchanging/loading currency
  • The fees are less than the standard 2.5% foreign transaction fee
  • These fees are added on top of the regular currency exchange rate set by Visa

We would prefer seeing fixed, transparent fees guaranteed in writing. But if what CIBC says is true, and the fee is always less than 2.5%, the card is a worthwhile alternative to other Canadian credit cards that either waive or make up for foreign transaction fees.

Who’s the Card For?

The CIBC AC Conversion card is designed with travellers in mind, as it can be used to lock in favourable exchange rates with the Canadian dollar and lessen the burden of foreign transaction fees. The card’s prepaid nature also suits those without a great credit score or high income, who might not qualify for ‘no foreign transaction fee’ credit cards.

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Article comments

GDW says:

I do not recommend this card. The one pro is that they replaced it quickly after I was pickpocketed, however they misplaced my funds at the same time and took several business days to find them. It took them several attempts to mail a new card to my home address even though my address never changed. They just lost a $1000 payment and told me to resolve it with the bank I made the payment through instead of just finding it and applying it to my account. The customer service is abysmal.

Daniel from GreedyRates says:

That really is a terrible experience. Surprised to hear this coming from a CIBC Visa prepaid but that doesn’t change the facts. Will you be keeping this card or do you have a replacement in mind?

Jim R says:

FWIW, 2.49% is less than 2.5%. IOW, without an official statement re the fee, “less than the standard 2.5% foreign transaction fee” it a *totally* *worthless* statement.

Daniel from GreedyRates says:

Hi Jim,
While we would prefer seeing fixed transparent fees posted clearly, your criticism is fair- a 2.49% foreign transaction fee would fall within the less than 2.5% parameter. Transparency would go a long way here- at least they’re not hiding the cost. Suppose it’s all in the way it’s presented. Maybe something like variable fees, not to exceed 2.5% per transaction?

Bob says:

This card is no good in my opinion. It wants to convert CAD to US at a rate of 0.72 when the market is now at 0.76!! I tried figuring out other ways to load money onto the card but there doesn’t seem to be an option – load CAD and then get pillaged on conversion. I know they need to make a spread but that’s too much!

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Bob,
At least the conversion rate is two points lower than the market. These cards are ideal for travelers or temporary residents who want to pay in the native currency so you’re not really supposed to make them your main cards, which is when they would be most impractical.

Gee g says:

WTF? Did you even read what he wrote?
There is no way of knowing about which code a charge will be in and both banks are refusing to accept responsibility for this.
The lesson is not that you should read the fine print. it’s that banks are greedy money machines that will stop at nothing.

Peter M says:

Be care using TD Credit Cards to load funds. TD states CIBC using a Cash Advance transaction code and TD charges $3.50 fee plus interest. Both TD and CIBC state is it the other firm’s issue. There is no notice on the AC Conversion website.

Be careful using any Credit Card.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi Peter!

Great advice. It’s vital to be careful when using any credit card, and to understand its finer points—both the positive and the negative. A big positive of the AC Conversion card that many people don’t know about or take advantage of is its compatibility with the CIBC smartphone app, so you can manage your funds or add new ones on the go. Negatives would include fees that were missed in the fine print, such as those universally charged by ATMs or this issue with loading funds using a TD card. A small transfer fee is to be expected, however, and encourages cardholders to preload the card in larger sums to reduce the proportion of the ±$3 fee.

Anyway, thanks for the guidance, and the reminder to other readers: always read the fine print! Know which services your bank will charge a few dollars for, and you won’t be surprised when you see it on your statement.