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I live in the US, work in the US, and have a US bank account (Wells Fargo). I've often been travelling into Canada as of late, and I find the conversion fees are quite expensive when I use my credit card.

The card I use is a Wells Fargo Platinum Visa card. The fees show up as Foreign Currency Conversion Fee. According to THIS LINK the fee is 3% of each transaction converted to U.S. dollars.

If I open a Canadian bank account and transfer money between my accounts I would still have to pay the same conversion fee wouldn't I?

What strategies are used to limit or reduce the fee's for occasional couple-hundred dollar trips into Canada?


Note that How to save money on currency conversion is a similar question, but asks based on larger transactions - and the answer seems specific to that.

  • You might want to specify the credit card brand, and how their fee works (is this a foreign transaction fee, an overly-low exchange rate, or something else? Many credit cards have low or no foreign transaction fees, and also many have different ways of determining the exchange rate. – Joe Mar 16 '15 at 21:48
  • @Joe edited per your suggestion – DoubleDouble Mar 16 '15 at 22:01
  • There's also Norbert's Gambit (canadiancouchpotato.com/2013/12/03/…) but I don't understand it well enough to write it up as an answer, nor can I seriously recommend it. – ChrisInEdmonton Mar 17 '15 at 1:19
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An addition to the other answers more than a real answer I suspect. Note that fees are not the only way that you pay for foreign exchange; where no foreign exchange fee is charged the issuer makes it back by giving an appalling spread on the rate. Be very careful not to go for a card that has no fees but an exorbitant spread. I personally would open a CAD denominated account in Canada and convert a larger amount into that account when CAD is historically weak. The spreads will be better that way but don't attempt to use it to mitigate exchange rate risk or to trade the two currencies for profit as that way madness and penury lie.

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Find a good commercial bank in the us, or almost any bank in Canada, and exchange cash. Or use an ATM card in Canada; the surcharge is often minimal. (Check with your bank before traveling). You may or may not get a good exchange rate from your hotel desk; some view it as a courtesy, others as a service. You may be able to simply pay with American cash, near the border, but check the exchange rate. Or, for small amounts, you can simply not worry about whether you're getting the best possible exchange rate or not.

I visit Canada periodically, and I use a mix of these solutions. Including that last one.

  • And remember, nearly all of Canada is near the border. About 80% of the population of Canada, and eight of its ten largest cities, are within 100 miles of the US border. – Mike Scott Mar 17 '15 at 7:27
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Not every American credit card charges Foreign Currency conversion fees. I won't mention the specific one I know about as I'm not interested in shilling for them. However, if you Google "No foreign transaction fee" you will find a couple of options.

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I suggest opening a Credit Card that doesn't charge Foreign currency conversion fees. Here is the list of cards without such a fee, Bankrate's Foreign transaction fee credit card chart

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