I’m taking a trip across Canada right now. So far, it’s been a great experience. And, of course, it’s a great time to come to Canada from the United States because the greenback is relatively strong against the loonie. Here are three things making my life a little bit easier as I spend two weeks north of the border:
1. No Foreign Transaction Fees on my Credit Card
I’m using a rewards credit card without foreign transaction fees on this trip. It’s been great because I don’t have to worry about fees. Plus, this is a card that’s in my Apple wallet, so every time I pay, a small alert shows me how much I’ve spent. I smile a little every time I see the alert that tells me my US dollar amount is lower (by about 30%) than the amount shown at the register.
And I feel warm and fuzzy knowing that there aren’t transaction fees and knowing I don’t have to stop at an exchange bureau or bank to get cash. (I do have some cash, but I’m mostly relying on the credit card for rewards and fee-free transactions.)
2. Many Stores Accept US Dollars
I found that many stores, especially in areas where there are more tourists, accept US currency. Many of these stores will give you change in Canadian money, so it’s a good fee-free way to get cash. I did a lot of paying in US bills to start the trip in order to get change back in Canadian money. You end up with the right amount, and you don’t have to pay a commission. It’s a way to get that solid bang for your buck while you travel.
Editor’s Note: Getting cash this way IS convenient, but just make sure you don’t get killed on poor conversion rates. Many shops will exchange money this way in order to make a little bit for them. I like to take my no foreign ATM transaction fee card and just withdraw money from an ATM. Some hotels in certain countries will even exchange major currencies. Do either way works for you as long as it’s not too terribly expensive.
3. I’m Buying a Few Things While We’re Here
While I don’t want to load up my suitcase with souvenirs, I do see the value in buying a few things while we’re here. I bought a new shirt, and my son bought a LEGO set. When you can get a 30% discount on an expensive LEGO set, what’s not to love?
The main thing I need to watch out for is getting a little too blasé about my spending. Because everything feels so cheap, it’s easy to just whip out the credit card and pay for whatever impulse takes my fancy. I’m trying to rein myself in a little bit, but the truth is that I love spending on experiences, and the discount makes it feel like I can live in style while I’m here. (Being able to claim the rewards on my card also helps fuel the spending urge.)
Traveling internationally is easier than ever. And, thanks to technology and modern methods of payment, it’s possible to save money — at least on foreign transaction fees — no matter where you go. I remember visiting Austria nearly 20 years ago as an exchange student. I didn’t have a credit card and had to exchange traveler’s cheques for Austrian shillings (this was before the euro). Today, I’ve got a card with a chip and no transaction fees and ways to avoid paying exchange commissions. Aren’t you glad of the technological advances that make our lives easier? I know I am.