With the US and Canada sharing the longest international border in the world, it’s common for American and Canadian currencies to intermix between the two countries. But can you actually use Canadian money in the United States? Read on to learn the nuances of exchanging and spending CAD in the US.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, you can use Canadian money in the US in many cases, but you may receive a poorer exchange rate.

Is Canadian Money Accepted in the US?

For Canadians traveling to the United States, one common question that arises is whether their Canadian money will be accepted. The answer is generally yes, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Most Major Retailers Will Accept CAD

When it comes to larger retailers and businesses, you can typically use Canadian money to make purchases. Many major companies, such as Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, will accept Canadian currency. This can be convenient for travelers who may not have had the chance to exchange their money before crossing the border.

However, it’s important to note that the exchange rate may not always be in your favor, so it’s a good idea to check the current rates before making a purchase.

Some Smaller Stores May Decline CAD

While most major retailers will accept Canadian money, smaller stores and businesses may decline it. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including the hassle of dealing with foreign currency or a lack of knowledge about exchange rates.

If you plan on shopping at smaller establishments, it’s advisable to have U.S. dollars on hand or a credit card that can be used internationally.

You May Get Change Back in USD

If you do use Canadian money to make a purchase in the United States, it’s important to note that you may receive change back in U.S. dollars. This is because most businesses prefer to keep their cash registers stocked with the local currency.

While this may not be a concern for some travelers, it’s something to keep in mind if you were hoping to use up all of your Canadian cash before leaving the country.

It’s always a good idea to be prepared when traveling to another country, especially when it comes to currency. While Canadian money is generally accepted in the United States, it’s not guaranteed everywhere.

It’s always a good idea to have a mix of U.S. dollars and Canadian money on hand, as well as a credit card for emergencies.

Exchange Rates and Fees for CAD to USD Conversions

Exchange Rates Vary Daily

When exchanging Canadian dollars (CAD) to US dollars (USD), it’s important to keep in mind that exchange rates can vary on a daily basis. The value of currencies fluctuates based on various factors such as economic indicators, interest rates, and geopolitical events.

Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check the current exchange rate before making any conversions.

There are several online platforms and financial websites where you can find real-time exchange rates. Websites like XE.com and OANDA.com provide up-to-date information on currency exchange rates, helping you make informed decisions about when to convert your CAD to USD.

It’s worth noting that exchange rates offered by banks and currency exchange services may differ slightly from the rates displayed online. This is because these institutions often include a markup or spread to cover their operating costs. However, the difference is usually minimal.

Banks and Currency Exchange Services Charge Fees

In addition to exchange rates, banks and currency exchange services also charge fees for converting CAD to USD. These fees can vary depending on the institution and the amount being exchanged.

It’s common for banks to charge a flat fee or a percentage-based fee for currency conversions. For example, a bank may charge a fee of $5 for every $100 exchanged. Alternatively, some banks may have a tiered fee structure, where the fee decreases as the amount being exchanged increases.

Currency exchange services, such as those found at airports or popular tourist destinations, may also charge fees for their services. These fees can sometimes be higher than those charged by banks. It’s advisable to compare fees and exchange rates offered by different institutions to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.

When exchanging larger amounts of money, it may be beneficial to negotiate fees with your bank or consider using specialized currency exchange services that offer competitive rates and lower fees.

Tips for Getting the Best Exchange Rate

When exchanging Canadian dollars (CAD) for US dollars (USD), it’s important to get the best exchange rate possible. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

Compare Rates Offered by Different Providers

Don’t settle for the first currency exchange provider you come across. Take the time to compare rates offered by different providers to ensure you’re getting the most favorable exchange rate. This can be done by visiting their websites or calling them directly.

Keep in mind that exchange rates can fluctuate throughout the day, so it’s a good idea to check multiple times before making a decision.

Additionally, consider using online currency exchange platforms that allow you to compare rates from multiple providers at once. These platforms can save you time and help you find the best deal.

Watch Out for Hidden Fees and Commissions

While comparing exchange rates, be sure to also factor in any hidden fees or commissions that may be charged by the currency exchange provider. Some providers may advertise competitive rates but then tack on additional fees that significantly impact the overall exchange rate you receive.

It’s important to read the fine print and ask the provider about any potential fees or commissions before making the exchange. This will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises and ensure that you’re getting the best value for your money.

When comparing rates and fees, consider using websites that provide comprehensive comparisons of different currency exchange providers. These websites often include user reviews and ratings, which can give you valuable insights into the trustworthiness and reliability of each provider.

Remember, getting the best exchange rate requires some research and comparison. By taking the time to compare rates and watch out for hidden fees, you can ensure that you’re getting the most favorable exchange rate when converting your Canadian dollars to US dollars.

Alternatives to Paying in Cash with CAD

While using cash is a convenient way to make purchases, there are alternatives to paying in Canadian dollars (CAD) when you’re in the United States. These alternatives can offer added security, flexibility, and convenience. Here are two popular options:

Pay with a Credit or Debit Card Instead

One alternative to paying with cash is to use your credit or debit card. Most businesses in the US accept major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. By using your card, you can avoid the hassle of exchanging currency and carrying around large amounts of cash.

Additionally, using a card can provide you with added benefits such as rewards points or cashback on your purchases.

When using your card in the US, it’s important to consider any foreign transaction fees that may be associated with your card. Some credit card companies charge a small percentage fee for each transaction made in a foreign currency.

It’s a good idea to check with your card issuer to understand these fees before using your card abroad.

Consider Mobile Payment Apps

Another convenient alternative to paying in cash is to use mobile payment apps. Popular apps like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay allow you to link your credit or debit card to your smartphone and make contactless payments at participating merchants.

These apps provide a secure and convenient way to make payments without the need for physical cash or cards.

Using mobile payment apps can be especially useful for travelers, as they often offer features like transaction history and the ability to track your spending. They also provide an added layer of security, as your card information is not directly shared with merchants when making a payment.

It’s important to note that not all merchants in the US may accept mobile payment apps, so it’s a good idea to check with the merchant beforehand or look for the contactless payment symbol at the point of sale terminal.

By exploring alternatives to paying in cash with CAD, you can enjoy the convenience and benefits of digital payments while avoiding the hassle of currency exchange and carrying large amounts of physical money.

Whether you choose to pay with a credit or debit card or utilize mobile payment apps, these options can make your transactions smoother and more secure during your visit to the US.


In summary, while you can often use CAD for purchases in the US, you’ll get the best value by exchanging to USD first. Where accepted, paying directly with CAD comes with exchange rate and fee drawbacks.

With careful planning and research, you can maximize the value of your Canadian dollars spent in the US.

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