If you're traveling to Canada, it's helpful to know a little about the money that you'll be using when you're there. All of Canada uses the Canadian Dollar (C$ or CAD). The Canadian dollar’s value floats against that of all other major currencies. Since about 2014, the Canadian dollar has been worth about 70 or 80 cents compared to one U.S. dollar.
The low Canadian dollar in 2016 is in contrast to the years between 2009 and 2014 when the U.S. and Canadian dollars were approximately on par, with the CAD hovering either just below or just above the U.S. dollar. In the 1980’s and 90’s, the CAD was considerably lower than the U.S. dollar. At times when the Canadian dollar is low, shopping in Canada is a real bargain for those with American currency (but remember to factor in the sales tax).
Characteristics of Canadian Money
Canadian bills or bank notes are commonly available in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 dollar denominations. The $1 and $2 bills have been replaced with coins (the loonie and the toonie).
Canadian bills are brightly colored—unlike the green and white of all U.S. bills—making them easy to distinguish from one another. In fact, in addition to better beer than their neighbors to the south, their colorful money is another point of cultural Canadian pride.
Canadian coins include the Loonie, Toonie, 25¢ quarter, 10¢ dime, 5¢ nickel, and 1¢ penny. Although production of the penny has been stopped and phased out, some people hang on to one or two as a keepsake. Since 2014, purchase totals have been rounded off to the nearest nickel to take pennies out of circulation.
Beginning in 2011, the federal government of Canada began replacing paper bills with polymer bank notes to cut down on counterfeiting. These polymer notes are more slippery and may sometimes easily stick together, so take care when dealing with a stack of bills.
Best Way to Bring Money to Canada
Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted across Canada and ATMs are easy to find in urban areas so it's not necessary to bring loads of cash. Having some cash on hand when you arrive is a good idea though for tipping or odd small purchases. Read more about using debit and credit cards in Canada.
Using U.S. Currency in Canada
Canada has its own currency—the Canadian dollar—however in border towns and at major tourist attractions, U.S. currency may be accepted; it is at the discretion of the retailer. Read more about using U.S. currency in Canada.
Many places near the Canada / U.S. border, especially tourist destinations, accept U.S. dollars, but exchange rates vary by retailer and likely are less favorable than bank exchange rates.
Debit and credit cards issued by other countries can be used for purchases or to withdraw Canadian money in Canada, but currency exchange rates will vary by card. ATMs will ding you for a user fee between $2 and $5. Read more about using debit and credit cards in Canada.