Canadian Currency

Written by: Raeann Calcutta

So, if you’re on this blog before you go on the study abroad trip (or maybe in your first day or so), you might be wondering: “Hey, what do I do about money?”

Well, it’s not really all that difficult. 

Some places in Stratford will accept American cash. However, even though businesses will accept American cash, they may return your change in Canadian currency, or exchange it at a higher rate than normal. Or, in some events, they may not accept it at all. 

So let’s talk about Canadian currency and how to obtain it for your trip.

Canadian currency is very similar to American currency. They run on bills and coins, much like America does. However, there are a few differences. The first is that all bills are printed on a polymer base plastic instead of paper. The second is that the Canadian economy is more inflated than America’s. A Canadian dollar is worth, roughly, 75 cents USD at the time of this post. This is according to the Bank of Canada’s Currency Converter website, which I’ll link here: https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/exchange/currency-converter/. The third is that CAD has no circulating bills under the $5 denomination. That means no $1 bills. Here’s a peek at what some of them look like. 

Canadian Notes
A $10, $20, and $50 Canadian note. Not pictured: $5 note.

So then, how do you pay for things less than $5? You use coins. CAD coins include the nickel, dime, quarter, 50-cent piece (though these aren’t usually circulated, like the American 50-cent piece), loonie ($1), and toonie ($2).

Canadian Coins
From left to right: a nickel, dime, quarter, and loonie ($1 coin). Not pictured: toonie ($2 coin).

So, let’s say that a transaction is going to cost you $6.25. You would give the cashier a $5 note, then a loonie coin, and a quarter. It’s a bit different, but not hard to get used to after you’ve made a few transactions. As for leaving tips, I’ve found that leaving two toonies or a $5 note is the most common acceptable rate. 

As far as exchanging American currency for CAD, you can either do it before you leave through a local bank (credit unions typically won’t offer it, but you’re welcome to try), mail order, or you can do it after you cross the border at the bank in Stratford. I would recommend doing it once you enter Stratford – it’s a lot cheaper and they’ll do it for you on the spot. 

If you would rather not carry cash, then use a credit card. There are credit cards that will allow international transactions with no extra charge. Check your current credit card to see if it’s one of those. If not, then there are plenty to apply for. I used Chase’s Amazon Prime card, for example. However, I’ll recommend carrying some cash. There are some businesses that will only accept cash in Stratford. The local laundromat will only accept coins as well. They’ll give you change for notes, but, as far as I could tell, there isn’t a way to swipe a credit card for change. 

So, all in all, currency isn’t too hard! Just come prepared and you’ll be just fine. 

A side note: remember to exchange your Canadian currency back for American currency when you return! Unless you’re planning to return to Canada soon, it might be nice to have that leftover money for use once you return. 

Happy travelling!