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I used to use xe.com when I was shopping online but now I see it states the prices shown are not for consumers. Is there any other way to check current exchange rates between USD, GDP, CAD & AUD.

I want to shop in the currency that will be cheapest in CAD at any given time.

  • How do you plan on actually transacting the exchange? – quid Jul 14 '17 at 3:45
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    @quid Visa debit. – verve Jul 14 '17 at 3:47
  • Have you asked the issuing bank how they calculate the exchange rate? – quid Jul 14 '17 at 4:00
  • @quid RBC reps couldn't give a straight answer. lol – verve Jul 14 '17 at 4:04
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    Allow 2-3% from the midmarket rate for everyone involved to get their piece of the action, and you're done. – AakashM Jul 14 '17 at 8:34
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What you see on XE, is the rate at which it is being traded in the market. What you receive from a broker is the rate minus a fee, for the service being provided.

You can check what rates are available for visa and mastercard on the following websites.

Visa rates

Mastercard rates

I want to shop in the currency that will be cheapest in CAD at any given time.

This is a mirage and isn't going to help much. The prices you pay might be reflecting the exchange rates, difference in the product quality and other factors too.

Rates are fixed for a day, so any FX movement you see in the market willn't be reflected in what you pay.

  • But if my card gets charged instantly 2 min after I check the FX rate: doesn't it help? – verve Jul 14 '17 at 21:55
  • AFAIK Visa only updates the rate once a day, so no. – 0xFEE1DEAD Jul 14 '17 at 22:00
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I want to shop in the currency that will be cheapest in CAD at any given time.

How do you plan to do this? If you are using a debit or credit card on a CAD account, then you will pay that bank's exchange rate to pay for goods and services that are billed in foreign currency.

If you plan on buying goods and services from merchants that offer to bill you in CAD for items that are priced in foreign currency (E.g. buying from Amazon.co.uk GBP priced goods, but having Amazon bill your card with equivalent CAD) then you will be paying that merchant's exchange rate.

It is very unlikely that either of these scenarios would result in you paying mid-market rates (what you see on xe.com), which is the average between the current ask and bid prices for any currency pair. Instead, the business handling your transaction will set their own exchange rate, which will usually be less favorable than the mid-market rate and may have additional fees/commission bolted on as a separate charge.

For example, if I buy 100 USD worth of goods from a US vendor, but use a CAD credit card to pay, the mid-market rate on xe.com right now indicates an equivalent value of 126.97 CAD. However the credit card company is more likely to charge closer to 130.00 CAD and add a foreign transaction fee of maybe $2-3, or a percentage of the transaction value.

Alternatively, if using something like Amazon, they may offer to bill the CAD credit card in CAD for those 100 USD goods. No separate foreign transaction fee in this case, but they are still likely to exchange at the less favorable 130.00 rate instead of the mid-market rates.

The only way you can choose to pay in the cheapest equivalent currency is if you already have holdings of all the different currencies. Then just pay using whichever currency gets you the most bang for your buck. Unless you are receiving payments/wages in multiple currencies though, you're still going to have to refill these accounts periodically, thus incurring some foreign transaction fees and being subject to the banker's exchange rates.

Where can I lookup accurate current exchange rates for consumers?

It depends on who will be handling your transaction.

Amazon will tell you at the checkout what exchange rate they will apply if you are having them convert a bill into your local currency for you.

For credit/debit card transactions processed in a different currency than the attached account, you need to look at your specific agreement or contact the bank to see which rate they use for daily transactions (and where you can obtain these rates), whether they convert on the day of the transaction vs. the day it posts to your account, and how much they add on ($ and/or %) in fees and commission.

  • If I buy something in USD for $10 and my Visa debit shows a charge of $15 CAD...is that the final charge a bank/Visa will bill me or will I get charged extra fees later on for this particular transaction? – verve Jul 14 '17 at 21:59
  • Usually if there is a separate foreign transaction fee it should post at the same time as the foreign transaction itself. Not all credit card companies / banks charge separate foreign transaction fees. If you are only seeing one line item, it's likely that is your total cost for the transaction. There is a possibility that your bank may reconcile at the end of the statement period and apply all fees at that time, but that is rare. Either way, rules regarding such fees should be spelled out as part of your account agreement. – CactusCake Jul 14 '17 at 22:06
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Current and past FX rates are available on Visa's website. Note that it may vary by country, so use your local Visa website.

  • Seemed to work fine for me. – Peter Green Jul 14 '17 at 15:00
  • Peter Green I did try it but I don't know the bank fee. – verve Jul 14 '17 at 21:56
  • It's in the terms and conditions that came with your card. If you don't know it, assume zero fees. – 0xFEE1DEAD Jul 14 '17 at 21:59

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