Every country in the world has some form of currency. Every day, its currency increases or decreases in value relative to the currencies of other countries. This is known as the exchange rate; in other words how many units you would have to give of one nation's currency to get a unit of another nation's currency.
The United States and Canada both use the dollar. There are 100 cents to the dollar in both cases. Here is the current exchange rate:
|As of July 28, 2010, the US Dollar is worth C$1.03071 Canadian dollars. The Canadian dollar is worth $0.970205 US dollars. In other words, if you were to convert one US dollar to Canadian currency, you would get C$1.03 in Canadian money. If you convert a Canadian dollar to US currrency, you would get back $0.97 in US money. What this means is that if you are quoted C$100 for the rate of a hotel room in Canada, its worth in US currency is $103.07 .|
If you use a credit or debit card, you will be charged by the merchant (hotel, transit operator, etc.) the Canadian rate. The amount deducted from your account or added to your credit card balance is based on the prevailing exchange rate for the date the transaction was made. In some cases, if the merchant puts through your credit card information a day or two after the transaction took place, your rate of exchange may be slightly different than what it was when the transaction took place. Your credit card bill will show your charge from Canada converted to US dollars, and will also show, for your information, the Canadian dollar amount of the charge. In addition to the direct charge, almost all credit card companies also assess a “foreign transaction fee.” This fee is applied anytime charges takes place outside the US. The fee is typically 3% of the US dollar value of the charge and will appear as a separate line item on your bill. Each $100 of charges made in Canada will result in an additional $3 for the foreign transaction fees.
If you are paying cash, some merchants in Canada do accept US money. However after they figure the exchange rate, you may or may not receive change back. If you do, it will be in Canadian money, not US money. It is better to look for places that take internationally-known credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, etc.), so that you will end up with as little Canadian currency as possible when you come back to the United States.
You may want to get some Canadian currency for even a short stay in Canada. Cash is useful for fast food, tips, and vending machines. A convenient way to get Canadian currency is to withdraw from an ATM using your US bank card. ATM’s are widely available in Canada, including at Vancouver Station. Depending upon your bank’s policies, you may be charged a fee for using another bank’s ATM, and some banks also assess the foreign transaction fee for ATM withdrawals outside the USA. It is also desirable to limit the amount of Canadian currency you bring back to the US since exchanging currency once home is time consuming and expensive. One way to do this is to pay a portion of your hotel bill with cash when you check out. For example, if you have $50 cash and coin, and your hotel bill is $100, offer to pay $40 in cash and coin and charge the rest. Then you can hold the remaining $10 for incidentals on the last day. At worst you’ll end up carrying $10 Canadian into the US, which is not too bad.
Another hint for getting rid of Canadian currency after leaving Canada is to give it as all or part of a gratuity to an attendant on your train. They travel regularly into and out of Canada and could use it more than you can.