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Six Tips for Shopping Across the US Border

    Countless Canadians cross into the US to take advantage of the lower prices and the benefits of a strong Canadian dollar. Some folks even cross over to the US to do their grocery shopping, as duty-free limits have gone up considerably over the years, now allowing up to $200 worth of merchandise to cross the border after a meager 24-hour stay. There are plenty of other reasons to shop in the US, including the chance to peruse a diversity of products you just can’t get at home.

    All advantages aside, many Canadians are wary of making the journey, and we want to help! Here are a few tips to help you make your shopping experience a winner:

    1)      Shop carefully – Many products are labeled differently in the US versus their local counterparts. You will even discover that the ingredients of certain products are different than their equivalent product that you’re accustomed to. It’s always wise to read the labels when you’re shopping in the US to avoid confusion later on.

    2)      Know the rules – There are some things that you can’t bring across the border, and the list is extensive enough to be a bit perplexing. You should consult with sites such as the Canada Border Services Agency to avoid problems. When in doubt, just show the guard what you bought and ask if it’s okay to bring over. If you’re forthcoming, you’ll get a straight answer (and if it’s not permitted, it will be confiscated, but you won’t get into trouble!)

    3)      Don’t leave your integrity at home – This probably goes without saying, but you shouldn’t try to sneak goods back into the country. Trying to trick the border guards is a surefire way to end up with fines!

    4)      Prepare! – It’s a good idea to head over to the US with a shopping list. This way, you won’t be tempted to overspend…or exceed your duty-free limit. Bring a cooler if you plan on buying perishable goods, and keep your passport and receipts handy when you cross the border.

    5)      Know what’s cheaper at home – Some things aren’t cheaper in the US, so buying them on your trip is pretty much a waste of money and time. Be sure you’re putting those limits – and your money – to good use by checking prices ahead of time.

    6)      Obtain a USD credit card – There are complicated ways of avoiding currency exchange fees (most of which involve opening bank accounts in the US) but there’s also a much simpler solution. A good USD credit card will save you from the exchange rates, as well as heavy fees imposed by standard Canadian credit cards. We highly recommend the Scotiabank US Dollar Visa, as it eliminates all of those conversion fees for a modest annual cardholder fee.


    Christopher - BSc, MBA

    With over two decades of combined Big 5 Banking and Agency experience, Christopher launched Underbanked® to cut through the noise and complexity of financial information. Christopher has an MBA degree from McMaster University and BSc. from Western University in Canada.

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