The Canadian currency system uses dollars ($) and cents (¢) similar to the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Canada now has one- and two-dollar coins, often called the “loonie” and the “toonie” respectively, in addition to 0.01¢, 0.05¢, 0.10¢ and 0.25¢ coins. Paper money comes in different colors and designs. The most common are $5 bills (blue), $10 bills (purple), $20 bills (green), $50 bills (red) and $100 bills (brown).
Most hotels, stores and restaurants will accept US dollars, though sometimes at a lower exchange rate than at banks or airports. Large hotels will usually give you a rate similar to those at the bank. It is always a good idea to convert some of your money to Canadian currency prior to leaving home.
Exchanging Currency in Canada
You can change money at any recognized financial institution, bank, trust company or currency exchange in Canada. Many major stores, hotels and restaurants will also exchange currency, but often offer a lower exchange rate than a financial institution. Be sure to convert some of your money prior to leaving home.
For information on currency exchange rates, check out the Bank of Canada’s Currency Converter.
Sales Taxes & GST
The GST, or “goods and services tax,” is a 5% federal tax applied to most goods and services provided in Canada.
In all provinces except Alberta, there is an additional provincial sales tax (PST) of between 5-10% added to purchases and financial transactions. The territories do not add PST. The HST or “harmonized sales tax” is a 13% tax that replaces the PST and GST in the provinces of Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Some hotels and retailers include the GST or HST in their prices; others add it on separately.
Visitor Tax Rebates
Non-resident visitors and non-GST/HST-registered businesses visiting Canada may be entitled to take part in the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program (FCTIP). Rebates may be available to those who purchase short-term and/or camping accommodations in Canada. Non-GST/HST-registered businesses coming to Canada for a convention and/or as an exhibitor may qualify for a rebate as well. For more information, consult the Canada Revenue Agency Visitors to Canada website.
Credit Cards & Bank Machines
Major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in Canada. Your financial institution at home will automatically make the currency exchange before you receive your monthly statement. Be sure you contact your credit card company to let them know you’ll be using the card outside the country.
Using an ABM (automatic bank machine), also known as an ATM (automated teller machine), is an easy way to access cash while travelling abroad. Most international bankcard systems, including Interac, Plus, Cirrus and Maestro, will work at most ABMs in Canada. You’ll find them conveniently located at banks, stores, airports and many other locations. You can also get cash advances on your credit card at an ABM.
It’s a good idea to notify your home bank that you’ll be using your bank card in Canada to find out whether any special conditions and withdrawal limits may apply.
Travellers cheques can often be used as cash as most Canadian restaurants, hotels and stores will accept small-denomination Canadian Dollar travellers cheques. You may be asked to produce a passport for identification when cashing your travellers cheques.
Standard banking hours are Monday to Thursday from 9:30 am until 4:00 pm. Many banks are open to 6:00 pm on Friday. Some banks and specific branches may be open later on weeknights and even on Saturdays. Trust companies are generally open from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays and on Saturday mornings.
Tipping is a common practice in Canada. Tips or service charges are not usually added to restaurant bills in Canada, but server salaries are based on the assumption that staff will receive a good proportion of income in tips. Some restaurants will also place a mandatory service charge on a bill for large groups. In general, you should reward good service by tipping 15-20% of the total amount.
Barbers, hairdressers and taxi drivers are usually tipped 15%. Bellhops, doormen, porters and other staff at hotels, airports and railway stations are generally tipped $1-$2 CDN per item carried. Tipping the server both at the bar and at the table is common in Canadian bars and nightclubs.