View Full Version : Canadian/International hikers, how did you handle your money on your hike?

09-23-2018, 13:10
Did you just use your standard credit card?

I'm wanting to find a way where I can avoid or at least drastically minimize the international transaction and currency exchange fees as it'll really add up over the 5+ months I'll be out there. Unfortunately from my understanding as a Canadian our debit system won't work there either. Just wondering what other travelers have done.

09-23-2018, 15:01
> from my understanding as a Canadian our debit system won't work there either

Your understanding could be wrong. I've had no trouble getting money from ATMs all over the world -- most definitely including Canada -- for over 30 years.

I can't speak specifically about a Canadian spending in US dollars, but a few rules about international funds should prevail between any two countries:

1) Credit cards get the best exchange rate. In the U.S., you can use them all over the place. The problem for hikers, however, is that a lot of places frequented by us (like hostels) accept cash only.
2) When calculating the exchange rate, include the fees, which can make getting a small amount of money result in a terrible rate.
3) ATMs exist all over the place. As noted in (2), you should get a couple of hundred dollars from them.
4) If you can't find an ATM, there are innumerable places where you can buy food (actually, anything) and then get extra cash back. Equivalent exchange rate may not be so great.
5) Away from the U.S. border, or outside major cities, don't count on exchanging Canadian dollars for U.S. dollars at any bank.
6) Travelers checks have been worthless for over thirty years -- don't bother. VERY few places accept them, and most store clerks won't even know what they are.

This link is written for Americans in Europe, but the advice can apply to anyone leaving a home country.

09-23-2018, 15:18
Check with any existing credit cards you have (and if that doesn't help, check with other issuers as well). Going the opposite way a few years back, and using two different cards, only one charged an extra fee for using it in Canada. So it seems quite possible that some Canadian card issuers may also not charge fees for using their cards in the USA (no guarantee, but worth checking into).

One other thing that may be helpful (or may not) is to investigate what is offered in the US in terms of those pre-paid credit type cards. They are generally available in many retail stores that one would find along the trail.
Thinking this only in that, if you were able to buy one and load it with a larger amount (say a few hundred dollars) and then use that, you would at least only pay one fee to your credit card company (and usually a few dollar fee to the issuer of said pre-paid card) rather than many fees for smaller transactions over a month (or however long the card would last you based on what you put onto it).

09-23-2018, 20:03
I worked both sides of the border - banks in Canada do US dollar accounts, once set up a phone or web transaction will change over on a day when you feel the rates are favorable ( hint, the higher the gas prices are at the pump / the stronger the loony)

then the cheapest way to transfer money is to have an account/ debit card with a US bank and deposit a check (from the US dollar CA account)

does this all sound BS? it is - it is easier/ cheaper to bank between the US and Taiwan than the US and CA

09-24-2018, 05:36
credit card (only fee I've noted is a couple % on exchange. most CC will charge around 2%, give or take), some cash, and my debit card works fine for taking out $ from machines. now that it is a visa debit, it also tends to work in stores; it didn't seem to reliably before that

Odd Man Out
09-24-2018, 09:41
In the US, some credit cards do not have an international transaction fee. I have three credit cards and two of them don't have a fee, so I would check for local bank with that option. A quick search for Canadian cards came up with this article.


Then use a debit card from checking account for getting cash ATM. You can probably set up your credit card to get cash advances from ATM's but these charge loan shark rates and fees, so I only have that option for emergency back up (always good to have back up options). With ATMs, sometimes the local Bank (ATM owner) and your home Bank may both charge fees. You should know in advance what your local bank will charge but when traveling you don't have much control over what the local bank may charge. One hint would be to use (when possible) an ATM associated with a Bank, rather than a stand-alone ATM kiosk you may find in a gas station or dollar store. Those are more likely to charge big fees. Since some fees are flat rates (per transaction), you save money by taking out larger amounts of cash.

09-24-2018, 09:58
When I traveled to Canada, my wife who was Canadian would go to our local bank and exchange US funds into Canadian Funds because they will give you the current exchange rate. If we needed more, we used our credit card. American Express gives you the best rate of exchange, then VISA. Discover kept trying to get their card but I would touch it a 10' pole.

09-25-2018, 09:14
Seems odd that Canadian debit card wouldn’t be accepted. My debit card has worked in both The US and China...never a problem.