Your To-Do List Before Going to Canada

Chapter 6: How to carry/transfer money

Published: 03-03-2020



How to carry/transfer money

Cash, wire transfer, money transfer or ATM withdrawals—these are a few of the options available to access your funds. Now, you have to find the cheapest, most convenient one.


Bringing cash gives you immediate access to your travel funds. However, if you lose your money or if it’s stolen, it’s gone. It can be wise to bring some cash (Canadian dollars or another strong currency you can exchange easily when you arrive) to cover first expenses or emergencies. However, carrying too much cash is a big gamble and probably isn’t the safest option

Check with your bank before you go, but ATMs accepting foreign cards are widely available in Canada, and your non-Canadian issued card may even be accepted by payment terminals in shops. It’s an easy way to access your funds, but do keep weekly/daily withdrawal limits in mind.

When you withdraw money in Canada with a foreign card, the Canadian financial institution may charge fees. Your own bank can also charge you two fees: a fixed “foreign transaction” fee (around €3-€4.5) and a transaction fee, i.e. a percentage based on the amount withdrawn (usually around 2-3% of the amount). Review those fees before you use your card. When the fixed fee is high, it’s better to withdraw a weekly lump sum (and pay, for example, €3 to withdraw CAD400) than to hit the ATM every time you need cash (and pay €3 each time you withdraw CAD80). Note that ATMs operated by one of the five big Canadian banks—Bank of Montreal (BMO), the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD)—are always cheaper than safer than out-of-network ATMs typically found in convenience stores and bars.

A few banks have special offers or partnerships with Canadian banks and a portion of the fees may be waived when you use these ATMs.

Bank-to-bank wire transfers and international money transfers

When carrying cash isn’t that safe and withdrawing large sums of money isn’t a practical option, you have to use a money transfer service—i.e. bank-to-bank wire transfer or money transfer through a third-party company. To find the cheapest option, shop around.

Bank-to-Bank Wire Transfer

After opening your Canadian bank account, you can initiate a transfer from your home bank account to your new bank account in Canada. Depending on financial institutions, it can take as little as three days and as much as two weeks. For any international money transfer between two banks, keep an eye on the following fees:

  • Your home bank fixed fees and the commission fee for an outgoing international transfer. Fees are around €15-25 plus a 0.1% commission on the total amount transferred (rates vary from one bank to another, ask before initiating the transfer)
  • The current exchange rate: contact your bank on the day of the transfer to find out the rate and the final amount you’ll receive in CAD.
  • The fixed fee charged by the Canadian bank for an incoming transfer, usually around CAD15-25.

    International money-transfer services

    Money transfer companies—e.g. the famous Western Union—offer a faster service but fees are also higher so they are best used in case of emergency.

    A few companies manage to be both fast and affordable. For instance, TransferMate offers a 1-to-4-day money-transfer service to Canada for €15 and a fair exchange rate. There is no commission fee on the amount transferred for this kind of service, you’ll only pay a €15 fee and you know exactly how much money you’ll get in CAD.

    This is how it works: first, you transfer the desired amount from your French or Belgian bank account to the French or Belgian bank account of the company—this way, you skip the international transfer fee. Then, once the amount received, TransferMate transfers the amount from its Canadian bank account to your Canadian bank account, again, bypassing the “foreign transaction” fee.

    [Postit] Through our partnership with TransferMate, you can enjoy a special rate of €10 for your money transfer order. To get started, click . [/ Postit]

    If you’re planning to use a money transfer service, just remember that you won’t be able to access your money right away. First, you have to open a Canadian bank account to receive the transfer. Then, even if the electronic transfer takes a few seconds, you have to wait for funds to clear and this could take between 48 hours and two weeks. Remember to have a backup plan for your first expenses that can’t wait!

    Find the best exchange rate for money transfer and cash

    Compare the rate offered by difference companies and services on a given day because exchange rates are in constant fluctuation. Bank-to-bank wire transfers are often the most expensive option with fees and a poor exchange rate. For best overall value, WHP holders tend to favour money transfer services.

    To get the best currency exchange deal, consider the following:

    • Exchange rate
    • Fixed fee, if any
    • Commission fee charged as a percentage of the amount to be exchanged

    This is when it’s probably a good idea to make a comparison table for services because it does get confusing with all these different fees and rates! For each company, enter the amount you want to exchange/transfer and convert it based on the exchange fee offered, then take off the fee and/or commission. Compare the final amounts and choose the service offering the best value.

    Be very careful with companies advertising “zero commission fee” or “no fees”—they usually also offer a terrible exchange rate.

Chapter 6 of 10


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