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I will go to Canada for the first time from the United States. I will use credit card as much as possible but I guess I need cash for small shops and cafes anyway. To avoid exchange money back and forth and ATM fees, I plan to cash some money in USD and carry it with me. As of today, 1 CAD = 1.0086 USD so it should be easy to convert currency. Do small retail stores in Toronto accept USD in cash? If so, how are their exchange rates?

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As I have conflicting answers, I will accept one after coming back from my trip based on my experience. I will bring both USD and CAD with me. –  puri Sep 7 '11 at 17:52
    
I am in Toronto now and I have asked some places around, their exchange rate is around 1 USD = 0.90 CAD, so it is about 10%. –  puri Sep 12 '11 at 1:45
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Note that some US banks have free use of ATMs with a corresponding Canadian bank. For instance, Bank of America allows the use of Scotiabank ATMs (and vice versa), and will give you a much better conversion rate than a retailer would if they priced things in USD: scotiabank.com/cda/content/0,1608,CID8040_LIDen,00.html –  Zach Sep 16 '11 at 23:54

4 Answers 4

up vote 19 down vote accepted

In most border towns you can, further away not. Sometimes they might also give you small change back in CAD, or charge you a small fee for using USD.

If you exchange the money in a bank you will get a much better rate. Try to pay with your Credit card whenever possible.

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And yes, for these purposes, Toronto does count as a 'border town'. –  DJClayworth Sep 6 '11 at 13:22
    
Normally how much is a small fee for using USD? –  puri Sep 6 '11 at 16:15
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@puri: depends on the store, sometimes they round up to the next Dollar, sometimes they charge you an extra 5%... guess it depends on how much you buy and how much they like you - there is no fixed rule for that :) –  iHaveacomputer Sep 6 '11 at 21:23
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You will usually see signs like "US dollar at -10%" which means that e.g. $9 Canadian will cost you $10 US. There won't be a fee on top of that. –  DJClayworth Jan 3 '12 at 20:30

Anecdotal answer: I've been in Vancouver a week now, and noticed I keep being given American coins as change. Certainly the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters seem interchangeable; the locals never even blink at accepting them.

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Ah yes that's true, I'd completely forgotten about that. Don't accept any US loonies though d-; –  hippietrail Oct 5 '11 at 8:20
    
I didn't try that. Thanks for the info. –  puri Oct 7 '11 at 7:57
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Indeed, the corresponding coins seem to be exactly the same size. I suspect this is to make it easy for vending machines and other equipment to accept either. –  Nate Eldredge Apr 20 '12 at 2:36

No. I've lived in Montreal and Toronto and the occasional place will take US dollars, but most places will just laugh at you, perhaps in French. If they do take it, they might give you 80 cents on the dollar or so.

Just use credit for everything. There's really no reason not to.

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I will use credit card as much as possible but I guess, like in New York, many small shops/cafes won't accept credit card. Also I use Chase which charges 8-9% per ATM transaction so I want to avoid that. Anyway 80 cents per USD is a very low rate so I had better go with the ATM option. Is this rate recent? –  puri Sep 6 '11 at 17:23
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"...but most places will just laugh at you, perhaps in French" - Oh god that was good :D –  Ankur Banerjee Sep 7 '11 at 8:48
    
@puri In Canada most places accept credit-cards. Pretty much every restaurant or shop does. I live in Toronto and the only place I use cash is at a coffee shop because they don't accept Visa. (Visa is the most popular kind of credit card). –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Feb 23 '12 at 20:08
    
Will they laugh through their nose in finest French fashion? –  Nate Eldredge Apr 20 '12 at 2:36

Usually, yes. But now that the US dollar isn't more valuable (and is fluctuating wildly from week to week) I've noticed more places not taking it or taking it at a steep discount. You won't get the value you used to out of it.

It's always a good idea to have some local currency on hand no matter where you're going. A credit card will also work, though there can be fees and poor exchange rates on that too depending on the card. Also if you intend to use it, call up the credit card company and tell them where you're going so you don't trigger an anti-fraud security check.

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Do you know the normal discount exchange rate between USD and CAD? –  puri Sep 6 '11 at 16:18
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@puri I've seen anywhere from 5-20% in New Brunswick, depending on the place and the current rate. Merchants have really lowered the exchange rates to protect themselves from the volatility in the last year. –  Tridus Sep 6 '11 at 18:32

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