I don't cross the Canadian border by vehicle to the USA very often, and I'm not sure if it will pose a problem that I am crossing for an appointment with a tattoo artist in the morning, returning back later that same day after getting my tattoo.

I would have some US cash with me, and would spend most of it by credit card. I would be spending upwards of $1,000, but not in goods and wouldn't be bringing any goods back.

Does anyone foresee any reason why there may be a problem with spending less than 24 hours there? Are there any rules on how much you can spend in that time period?

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    Check with your card issuer to ensure that the card will work in the USA. And be aware that merchants will expect to handle your card. Using the terminal yourself is not yet universal in the USA. Apr 17, 2019 at 15:31
  • 3
    @MichaelHampton do you have any reason to suspect that a Canadian credit card would be likely not to work in the US?
    – phoog
    Apr 17, 2019 at 15:33
  • 9
    @phoog Anti-fraud protections common to most banks. Apr 17, 2019 at 15:34
  • 4
    @MichaelHampton None of my Canadian friends has ever reported having trouble using their credit cards in the US.
    – phoog
    Apr 17, 2019 at 15:34
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    Remember that your Canadian card issuer will charge you a certain exchange rate above the spot rate for USD transactions. Inquire with your bank to know how much that will be. For a $1k+ transaction it might be worth having a look at credit cards that will not charge you any foreign transaction fees (they usually have an annual fee, though). Scotia Bank Passport is a good one, currently the fee is $139/yr, but if you spend over $1000 you'll get $300 worth of points for travel, on top of other benefits.
    – Aubreal
    Apr 17, 2019 at 18:10

4 Answers 4


Literally thousands and thousands of people every day cross into the US from Canada for less than a day. Some go shopping, some visit family, some visit tourist attractions, some have business meetings, some simply want to eat in a fast food restaurant that only exists in the US. Some commute to the US on a daily basis.

There is absolutely nothing unusual about visiting the US for less than 24 hours.

  • 4
    Vice versa as well, visiting canada from michigan to try a restaurant is a bi-weekly thing for us sometimes.
    – JonH
    Apr 17, 2019 at 19:01
  • 16
    Some cross 4 times a day to go to school - see Point Roberts. Apr 17, 2019 at 19:16
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    Also drug runners
    – Valorum
    Apr 17, 2019 at 20:56
  • Nice use of Literally!
    – PatrickT
    Apr 20, 2019 at 8:13

In the early 1990s, I lived in Windsor, a Canadian border town. Back in the day, every Saturday morning I would cross the border into Detroit. I would drive a couple of miles on I-75, get off at Mack Ave, fill up my car, turn around, and come back to Canada. At the border, on both sides, I would truthfully answer that I was crossing for 20 minutes to get gas. Even with paying the tunnel crossing fee, it was worth it.

Granted, things are different now, but still people on both sides of the border routinely cross for less than 24 hours. I have family and friends in Windsor and Detroit who do it at least once a week.
When asked your purpose of visit, tell the truth that you're going to see a tattoo artist.
Good luck with your tattoo.

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    I lived a few years ago (circa 2015) in Bellingham, WA, just south of the border and we'd get Canadians down to buy milk (by the cartload, >20 gallons at a time) and gas constantly... it got so intense Costco ended up building a new, larger store and gas pump to meet the demand. Apr 17, 2019 at 18:25
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    @TemporalWolf Don't worry, they still do that Apr 17, 2019 at 19:12

To address the question of monetary spending limits, they only apply to goods that you bring back to Canada, as clearly stated in the customs declaration form. Services paid for and received outside the country are not subject to any limits.

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    This is certainly true of pure services like tattoos, haircuts, training, meals consumed, health care and so forth. It's not true of things one may think of as "services" which enhance the value of a thing which is to be brought back, such as having your car repainted or having a diamond re-set in a new ring. In those cases, you may (if caught) [be assessed duty on the full value of the improved good][1]. There are exceptions for urgent necessary repairs to one's vehicle. [1]: crossbordershopping.ca/duty-tax-import-guide/duty-tax-tips
    – CCTO
    Apr 17, 2019 at 18:27
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    @CCTO Still we're now talking about importing goods, not spending on services. Also, I prefer looking at the source documents e.g. CBSA Memorandum D8-2-26, which, if I interpret it correctly, allows duty-free importation of repaired or altered goods from "free trade" countries, including the USA.
    – mustaccio
    Apr 17, 2019 at 18:55
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    I want to see a lawyer arguing that a tattoo isn't a service since the recipient brings it back with them now.
    – user79434
    Apr 17, 2019 at 19:42
  • 1
    Perhaps separate invoices for 1)Inks, various and 2) Packing of ink
    – DJohnM
    Apr 17, 2019 at 21:06

My relative made a less-than-24-hour trip from USA to Canada while carrying a large amount of cash (~$600). Canadian border officials were not concerned with his entry into Canada. However, upon his return into the United States, US Customs became very suspicious of his brief visit, and after determining that he was carrying a large quantity of cash decided to detain him while they conducted a full vehicle search. Of course they found nothing, as he was not engaged in any illicit conduct, but the ordeal was both stressful and time-consuming. I would recommend bringing minimal amounts of cash into the United States so as not to arouse any suspicion of ill intent.

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