Can I Use USD in Canada?

By Remitbee - Apr 2, 2024

As two neighbouring countries with minor border restrictions (there's literally a house sitting atop the grounds of the US-Canadian border), some exceptions to the rules are inevitable.

For instance, an American can actually stay for vacation (or even work) in Canada without a visa for up to six months. This physical proximity between the two nations has effortlessly led to a close diplomatic relationship.

So if you can casually travel for a relatively long time as an American in Canada, you can't help but question if you can also use your local currency there. After all, they are both dollars, right?

Is USD accepted in Canada?

The Canadian dollar is the official and only acceptable currency in the Maple Country as a general rule. But for so long, the US and Canada have had a constant, healthy relationship. In time, Canadian businesses have learned to adapt and make everything more convenient for their American customers.

So while some tourists can't easily use their money in Canada, the US citizens can roam around shops without necessarily getting their cash converted. In short, although USD is legally unacceptable, the trick is that businesses can automatically convert your money as you buy.

Awesome, right? But take note that there are still some limitations. Of course, not all hotels, shops, and restaurants have an internal currency exchanger. And although many border-crossing shops and hotels have regular USD-paying customers, the currency exchange may not be as friendly for you.

As businesses, their instinct is to make more profits, which means more fees and less money on your end. If you're on a budget, you should convert your money to CAD to get the most out of it.

You may skip right to Canada's most famous attraction if you're hurrying. Tourist hotels, duty-free shops, and border towns generally accept the US dollar. A few shops will exchange your money for a competitive amount.

When Will You Need Canadian Currency

Okay, you get it. You can use the USD in Canada but with certain limitations. The formula is that the closer you are to the border and the more tourist-popular your destination is, the more likely your money will be accepted. So how about the times when you'd probably need to get your money converted?

Remote areas

You probably haven't heard of these sites, but Yukon, Pleasant Camp, the edgest part of Quebec, and many other less-hyped areas may require you to get your USD converted first. If you're planning to visit such places this holiday for a change or to visit a relative, it's better to go to a money exchanger at the airport to avoid any hassle or RemitBee.

And don't think that just because the map says that a place is near the border means that you can already use a foreign currency hassle-free. Some places, like Saskatoon, won't accept the US dollar even at the airport.

Coins and bills slots

There are automated services like parking slots, coffee stands, laundromats, and other automated services that require you to insert money to pay. Generally, those machines will likely reject any other currency. Remember that they're robots, so it's safe to have some Canadian coins and bills at hand to protect yourself from getting frustrated.

It would also help to get yourself oriented to Canada's "loonies and toonies" before your travel day. They refer to Canadian coins. It's good to know what the locals are telling you to avoid hassle and protect yourself from being a vulnerable tourist.

Alternative To Cash

As it may feel safer, it's advisable to get your money converted at the Canadian airport and have some Canadian cash at hand. Even better, exchange your USD in your home country if the airport you'll arrive at won't accept foreign money.

However, you may run out of Canadian cash at some point – for some reason– or can't prepare and convert money at home. Fortunately, you still have a last resort– your ATM card.

Most Canadian shops and banks accept American debit or credit cards. The surest cards, as one would guess, are Master and Visa. Nevertheless, keep in mind that some (like Costco Canada) may still decline Visa or other foreign cards.

The formula is to notify your bank first that you'll be visiting Canada, especially if you're not a regular traveller. They won't get suspicious when you have your first transaction in a foreign land, and your card won't get declined.

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