The monetary system in Canada is based on dollars and cents like the U.S., but there are differences. Canada has nickels, dimes, quarters, 1-dollar coins (“loonies”) and 2-dollar coins (“toonies”), but no longer uses pennies, so cashiers round-off up or down as needed. Paper currency comes in $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, etc. bills.
Major American bank and credit cards are accepted in Canada. Credit card purchases are billed at the U.S. dollar equivalent at the current exchange rate and a “Foreign Transaction Fee” may be included.
U.S. currency is accepted as payment in most places in Canada, but with some exceptions, so it is a good idea to carry Canadian cash in Canada. (Canadian money is not accepted as payment in the U.S..)
While merchants in Canada may accept U.S. currency, they will give change in Canadian currency and they may or may not give you the prevailing exchange rate. Not all banks in the U.S. or Canada have foreign currency on hand, so the quickest way to get currency is at an ATM (automated teller machine). Most cities in Alaska and Canada have ATMs—MasterCard/Cirrus ATM Network, Nexxus and most banks—and they usually accept bank debit cards regardless of country of origin. There is always a transaction fee.
The Canadian dollar and American dollar are 2 separate currencies and the rate of exchange fluctuates daily. Looking at exchange rates historically, Canada and the U.S. have been on or near par much of the time, but there are also times when either dollar is much strong than the other . Currency converters are available online at various sites, such as https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/exchange/currency-converter/ , if you want to know the current conversion rate.
It is important to carry some cash since some merchants may not accept plastic. NOTE: Campground showerhouses often require loonies for coin-op showers and Northwest Territories government campground require Canadian funds (cash or cheque) for payment.
Figuring out Liter Gas Cost in U.S. Funds Per Gallon
Canada dispenses gas by the liter and charges by the liter. U.S. travelers must convert the per liter price to a per gallon price, then adjust for the exchange rate, if they want to know their actual cost. There are a couple of different ways to calculate this yourself.
- Multiply the Canadian price per liter by 3.785 (there are 3.785 liters in a gallon)
- Multiply that result by the current Canadian to U.S. exchange rate using whatever the Canadian equivalent of 1 USD. (Or just have the online currency converter do it)
Example: If the average per liter gas price in British Columbia is 154.432 (according to a site like http://www.bcgasprices.com) you multiply by 3.785 and get 584.525, then either multiply that by the current U.S./Canadian exchange rate (at the time of this calculation, $1 CAD equaled $0.75 USD so we multiply by 0.75) OR divide by the current Canadian/U.S. exchange rate (for this calculation, $1 USD equaled $1.34 CAD). Either way we get 438.393 or $4.38 USD per gallon.
- Divide the Canadian price per liter by 33.8
- Multiply that result by 128
- Multiply that result by current Canadian to U.S. exchange rate
Example: Divide the average per liter gas price in BC (154.432) by 33.8 and get 4.568; multiply by 128 and get 584.831; multiply by the current Canadian to U.S. exchange rate (for this example, 0.75) to get 438.623 or $4.38 USD per gallon.