Travel to Canada with US credit cards - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 05:14 PM Thread Starter
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Travel to Canada with US credit cards

If anyone is going to Canada, the story your US bank tells you about using their credit or debit cards is not the same as reality. I had trouble in 2007, 2008, and trouble again on my 2009 trips.

First of all, some major brand gas stations refuse to take US issued cards at all. Even if they do, you may find that some cards work and some cards don't work. You may also find that your bank has shut you off because they think your card is stolen, even if you haven't reported it and even if you told them ahead of time that you would be traveling outside the US.

Recommendation: carry two cards and preferably more. I carry three and had one instance where none of them worked.

Most places I've travelled in New Brunswick, Quebec, and Nova Scotia take US cash, but there are exceptions. It's best to travel with both US and Canadian currency.

Finally, when you use a credit card, a hold is put on your funds when the merchant swipes the card. The amount of this hold is entirely up to the merchant. Most are reasonable, but many are not. The following is an example. All of these are gas purchases, which should resolve to about $17 each.



As I type this, it's September 7 and the "pending" transactions have not yet been released, meaning I can't access hundreds of dollars of my money.

If you're staying in hotels, it can get much much worse. I've had situations where I bought a $125 hotel room, the hotel put a $300 hold on my funds, I paid cash in the morning, and the $300 hold was not released for 10 days. This could be a huge problem with $425 tied up for each day of travel. I thought I had $2,000 of headroom in 2007. Not so. I hit the limit with false "pending" charges. I was glad I had enough cash to get home.

I've talked to my banks about this and they categorically deny it happens like this, but this is reality folks.

Be prepared. Pay cash if you can. Get Canadian cash before you leave the US and carry multiple credit cards with high limits, just in case.

-Tom (DL650AL2) (KA1TOX) (E-I-E-I-O)

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post #2 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 05:37 PM
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It is common practice for gas stations to temp credit cards in BC for $150 before activating the pump. It's part of the pay before you pump routine. The card gets temped which means it reduces the amount of credit available on your card by the temped amount. But you only get charged the correct amount and the temp disapears when the actual charge goes through. I don't know how debit cards are handled since I don't use mine. There are no fees with credit card transactions and I like to collect the Alaska Airline points. So unless you have a very small credit limit this is not a problem with credit cards. I have never had a Canadian credit card refused in the USA. Just a hassle when the pump asks for Zip code. Then I have to go inside and hand over my credit card until I finish filling. No issues so far.

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post #3 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 05:55 PM
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But

Depending on your US credit card, they can whack you a "foreign" transaction fee of $3.00 +. I just used two separate cards in Montreal in August. An American Express for a hotel, dinners, and drinks with out a problem. My wife and I also used our Master Cards at some places with no issue. We did not buy gas while there. We fill up the cage just before crossing the boarder. Good thing to keep in mind if I every take the Wee up there. Sorry you continue to have this difficulty.

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post #4 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 06:06 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StromTech View Post
It is common practice for gas stations to temp credit cards in BC for $150 before activating the pump.
First of all, US credit and debit cards work almost exactly the same with subtle differences.

The problem is not the "hold" or "temp" but the amount of time it takes to get it released and the proper charges applied. In the US, it's never more than a day or two. My experience in Canada is that it can frequently take 10 days.

The merchant gets no obvious benefit from this since they do not get paid by the credit card company until they submit final charges. The credit card company (bank) benefits because they can use my money until final charges are posted.

-Tom (DL650AL2) (KA1TOX) (E-I-E-I-O)

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post #5 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 07:16 PM
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Get an American Express charge card if you travel frequently. Yes, there are some places that don't take it. Use it everywhere else. Build a history with it. All of the temp holds and everything else don't matter, there is no credit limit in the traditional sense.

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post #6 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 08:53 PM
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travelers checks

ive been told some people that when going to the US , take american express travelers checks in canadian funds . most people who cash them see the words AMERCAN express and treat the cheque as if is was in american funds .

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post #7 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 09:39 PM
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credit and debit are not the same thing

First of all, you said "credit", but the statement says "debit". Most places will put an excessive hold on debit cards, but in the US, they claim that it's the bank's choice, not theirs. I don't know of any US companies that do this with credit cards for gas purchases. (Rental car companies, however, will definitely do this with credit cards.) I'm not doubting you, I'm just pointing out that your document didn't match your report.

Second, just use cash. In a border state, it shouldn't be hard to find a bank that will do the conversion, and I guarantee you will save a ton of money by not paying the ripoff conversion fees that credit card issuers charge. In Seattle, I do my currency exchange at Wells Fargo. It's a flat $5 fee regardless of the dollar amount if you're not a customer; no charge if you are. If you cross the border more than occasionally (which you apparently do), why not just keep some in your wallet?

Yes, cash for gas is a pain where prepay is required (such as everywhere in BC), but think of it as an opportunity for human contact. Toss the man a $10 or $20, go fill up, and come back for your change and pleasantries. The most you can lose is the $20, and it's never happened to me yet. Besides, you're going in to buy Gatorade and take a leak anyway, right? ;-)

The only time I ever use a credit card for gas in Canada is at very busy stations where I don't want to wait in line twice.

Cheers ... -d

Last edited by dtalk; 09-07-2009 at 09:51 PM.
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post #8 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 09:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tmcgee View Post
The credit card company (bank) benefits because they can use my money until final charges are posted.
Um ... no ... they don't have your money if it's a credit card. What they've done is effectively lowered your credit limit temporarily.

If your bank is doing this with a debit card, that's a whole different matter, and I might raise a stink, depending on whether it was an interest-bearing account and whether I was refused a withdrawal on that amount. There are many good reasons to not carry debit cards (the risk to you is much higher), and that's another good reason.

Last edited by dtalk; 09-07-2009 at 10:02 PM.
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post #9 of 10 Old 09-07-2009, 09:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terrierterrorNH View Post
Depending on your US credit card, they can whack you a "foreign" transaction fee of $3.00 +
3% on my Chase card! They must think we're all stupid ... I'm sure plenty of people just pay it.
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post #10 of 10 Old 09-08-2009, 07:02 AM Thread Starter
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You're right. The statement I posted was for a debit card, BUT I've had the identical problem with MC and Visa credit cards.

-Tom (DL650AL2) (KA1TOX) (E-I-E-I-O)

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