In past years, Canadian shoppers have spent upwards of $20 billion annually in the United States. Despite fluctuations in the Canadian dollar, many Canadians still find that shopping in the US is a real money saver.
In order to get the biggest bang for your Loonie, you’ll want to make sure you’re using every frugality measure in the book. We’ve got you covered!
Below are our top five tips for saving money when shopping across the border:
1) Gas up in the states.
Don’t fill up at home, because gas is usually around 20% cheaper in the US. Wait until you’re south of the border to gas up, even if it takes a bit of extra planning.
2) Plan your trip around sales events.
Taking advantage of lower prices is one thing, but you can supercharge your savings by hitting the states during a major sales season or holiday. November/December are great for getting the holiday season sales, and there are usually great bargains to be had on Labor Day and the Fourth of July.
3) Hit the tax-free states.
Some of the border states have no sales tax, while others offer tax refund programs for out-of-country shoppers. Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon have no state sales tax. North Dakota has a tax refund program for visiting Canadians.
4) Stay overnight (or longer.)
Your duty-free limit increases the longer you’re in the states. If you stay less than 24 hours, you won’t get a duty-free allowance, but if you stay over 24 hours, you’re allowed $200 per person. Stay longer than 48 hours and your duty-free allowance becomes $800 per person!
5) Don’t pay currency conversion fees.
One place where the banks can hit you hard –and cut into your savings severely– is through currency conversion fees. When you make credit card purchases in the US, in US dollars, you’ll have to pay fees on the currency exchange that occurs behind the scenes. There are only a few ways around this, but the easiest way is to simply sign up for a USD credit card.
These cards allow you to pay for your purchases in US Dollars without needing a separate US bank account. Our favorite choice is the newer Scotiabank US Dollar Visa, which eliminates all currency fees and carries only a small annual fee.