Canadian Currency Denominations
The Canadian currency system uses paper bills called dollars as well as a number of coins. The bills used most frequently for daily transactions are $5, $10 and $20. There’s also $50 and $100. If you’re exchanging money it’s best to get a variety of denominations.
The coins are 5 cents, 10 cents and 25 cents, respectively called nickels, dimes and quarters. The one dollar coin is called a Loonie because of the Loon bird on the front of it. Then the two dollar coin was introduced and became known as the Toonie. As you can see Canadians have an interesting sense of humour. Unless you want to keep them for souvenirs don’t forget to spend the coins before you head back home. Banks will only exchange paper bills.
There are several places that will do currency exchanges in Canada.
- International airports have currency exchange booths such as Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Although convenient they generally offer poor exchange rates.
- Currency exchange shops can be found in the larger cities and areas frequented by tourists. In Banff there is a currency exchange in the Cascade Plaza and in the Clock Tower Mall, both located on Banff Avenue. In the village of Lake Louise the Depot at the Samson Mall will do currency exchange and in Jasper there is a currency exchange in the Whistler Inn.
- Many of the hotels will do currency exchanges for their guests but the exchange is often not favourable.
- All the major banks offer currency exchange.
Check online to get a general idea of what to expect before you leave home. Oanda.com is a great site for travelers where you can print out an exchange rate sheet to have with you. When doing a currency transaction make sure you fully understand the rate. It can be particular confusing at currency exchange shops. The rate offered may seem like a good deal but then they tack on an exchange fee. A place with a higher rate an not extra fee could end up being the better deal. Take time to do the calculations.
Paying With The U.S. Dollar In The Canadian Rockies
The U.S. dollar is accepted at many hotels, shops and restaurants but don’t take for granted that it will be accepted everywhere as a form of payment. The rate offered may not be favourable and keep in mind that you will receive any change owed to you in Canadian currency.
Using Credit And Debit Cards
The systems that ATM’s or ABM’s (automated teller or bank machines) work on in Canada is either Plus or Cirrus.
MasterCard, Visa and American Express are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops and most places where you might need to make a payment. The Diner card with a Mastercard logo will be accepted anywhere that a Mastercard is, but without that logo it might not.
If you have a non-chip credit card from the U.S.A. it won’t work in the gas pump machines. You will have to go into the gas station and pre-pay for your fuel.
The debit card retail transactions in Canada go through what is called Interac, a network unique to Canada. Most debit cards issued by non-Canadian banks including those from the U.S.A. will not work for making retail purchases. They may work in an ATM (automated teller machine) to withdraw money.
Canadian issued debit cards are widely accepted for payments but take note that there are a few restaurants in Banff and Lake Louise that only take credit cards or cash. The restaurants in the Fairmont Chateau do not take debit. The deli in the hotel does.
Fees When Using Your International Credit Or Debit Card
When you use a credit or debit card outside of your home country there may be several fees incurred.
- International Transaction Fee – your credit or debit card issuer may charge you a fixed fee or percentage of the transaction price each time you use your card.
- ATM (automated teller machine) or ABM (automated banking machine) – when you withdraw cash it will be dispensed as Canadian currency. It will be your card issuer that determines the exchange rate. The machine will charge a fee of anywhere from $1 to $5 each time you make a withdrawal. This fee will be on top of any fee your card issuer might charge you. Try to use machines that are associated with one of the major Canadian banks. ATM’s that are found in retail and convenience stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants and pubs are usually privately owned and will have the highest fees.
- Check to see if your bank has a partnership with a bank in Canada. This could allow you to use certain ATM’s to withdraw money without incurring extra transaction fees.
- Be aware of Dynamic Currency Exchange. When you use your debit or credit card to make a purchase you may be offered the option to be charged in your home currency. This is almost never in your best interest, it’s a way for the merchant to make a profit. Having the purchase processed in Canadian dollars and letting your home bank do the currency conversion will usually give you the better rate.
Locations of Banks And Bank Machines In The Canadian Rockies
Large cities like Calgary and Edmonton have all the major banks, Credit Unions and Trust companies that are available throughout Canada and there are ATM’s in abundance to withdraw money.
The town of Canmore just east of Banff has most of the major banks. In the Rocky Mountain Parks the ATM’s will be few and far between once you get outside of the major town sites such as Banff and Jasper.
Lake Louise – Lake Louise has very limited banking options. There’s a satellite branch of ATB Financial in the village at the Samson Mall, but it may not be able to do all the transactions of a regular bank. At the same location is an ATM accessible from the outside at all hours. There’s also an ATM in the Chateau Lake Louise hotel. There have been instances where this machine and others in Lake Louise have rejected visitors VISA cards. It’s a good idea to have some extra cash on hand prior to your arrival in Lake Louise.
Jasper – Jasper has the following banks, CIBC, Credit Union, ATB Financial and TD Canada Trust. They are located downtown on Connaught Drive and Patrica Street.
Banff – The banks in Banff are CIBC, Credit Union, ATB Financial and the Bank of Montreal. They are all located on Banff Avenue.
Canmore – The banks in Canmore are CIBC, Credit Union, ATB Financial, Bank of Monteal, TD Canada Trust, Royal Bank and Scotiabank. Most of the banks are located on 8 St. (Main Street) in downtown Canmore or on nearby Railway Avenue.