Cross Border Shopping

With the Canadian dollar at it’s strongest levels in 30 years relative to the USD, if you’re anything like me, you may be thinking about doing some shopping in the U.S to save a few dollars.  But how much will those trips across the border cost you if you do decide to load up on consumer purchases?  How much are you allowed to bring back?

I did some digging and came across the article from the Canada Border Services Agency that explains all the exemptions and maximum purchases (without paying duty) that you can make depending on how long your stay is in the U.S.

How much can I bring back without paying any duties?

Time Period Max $ Amount Cigarettes Tobacco Cigars
Liquor
24 hrs $200 CAD none none none none
48 hrs $800 CAD 200 200 tobacco sticks/200 gms of tabacco 50 1.5L of wine or 1.14 L of liquor or 24 355 ml cans/bottles of beer

Updated Oct 2012. All the info above was referenced from the CBSA.

Where can I check the current exchange rate?

  • My personal favorite site for exchange rate information is: XE.COM

What is the best way to pay for my purchases in the states?

  • I think that the most convenient way to pay for purchases while in a foreign country is via credit card.  Credit cards, unfortunately, normally charge an extra 2.5% on top of the current exchange rate.
  • If you regularly travel to the states, a viable solution may be to obtain a USD credit card along with a US currency bank account. That way, you can load up on US cash when it’s cheap (like now) and avoid all those currency exchange fees.  You can find these credit cards at any of the major banks.
  • Another cheap solution would be to use Interactive Brokers for your currency exchanges paired with a USD account.  IB has a very low spread, and charge a flat fee of $2.50USD / exchange.  An IB account along with a USD account at one of the big banks would also give you a cheap alternative to obtaining USD.

Those of you who frequently travel to the U.S, how do you save money on exchange fees?

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