Buying, saving and spending U.S. dollars

How Canadians can get the most bang for their ailing loonies.

Gail Bebee 1 February, 2016 | 6:00PM
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Canadians love their winter escapes to southern climes. While the warmer weather is welcome, the sticker shock for a getaway this year is not. Prices at many popular destinations are tied to the mighty U.S. dollar, and Canada-U.S. exchange rates are the lowest in years. A falling loonie also means that shopping at American retailers, in stores or online, is increasingly expensive. More than ever, Canadians need to find ways to stretch their funds when they are buying, saving or spending U.S. dollars.

Using a debit card at an ATM in the United States is an easy way to withdraw U.S. currency from your home bank account, but you pay for the privilege. Buried in the exchange rate is a foreign-currency conversion fee which is usually 2.5%. Your bank will add an international ATM usage fee (typically $3 in the U.S. and $5 elsewhere) on each withdrawal.

The foreign bank that owns the ATM may levy a usage fee too. If you pay for a premium banking package, these ATM fees may be waived. Customers of Scotiabank, a member of the Global ATM Alliance, can avoid the usage fees if they use their ScotiaCard, Scotiabank VISA or Tangerine Client Card to withdraw funds at ATMs of other Global ATM Alliance members such as Bank of America. In the U.S., TD Canada Trust customers do not pay usage fees for withdrawals at TD Bank ATMs and certain Presto! ATMs.

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About Author

Gail Bebee

Gail Bebee  Gail Bebee is an independent personal finance speaker, teacher and the author of No Hype--The Straight Goods on Investing Your Money. She can be reached at gbebee@gailbebee.com; her website is www.gailbebee.com.

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