Canada Currency Exchange Guide

From the sparkling coastline of the east to the snow-capped peaks of the west, Canada is a land of stunning natural beauty. And with four distinct seasons, there’s always something new to explore. Visitors can enjoy world-class skiing in the winter, hike through fields of wildflowers in the spring, swim in pristine lakes in the summer, and admire the autumn leaves as they change colour. Canada is also home to a vibrant culture, with thriving cities and a rich history. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a quiet place to relax, you’ll find it in Canada.

General Canada Currency Information

What is the currency of Canada?

The official currency in Canada is the Canadian dollar (CAD).

What do Canadian notes & coins look like?

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Canadian currency is some of the most beautiful and distinctive in the world. The designs incorporate a variety of themes, from nature to history to art. All of the text on Canadian banknotes appears in both English and French, Canada’s two official languages. Before 2011, banknotes were printed on paper made entirely out of cotton fibres. However, since then, synthetic polymers have been used instead, with the last of the paper banknotes being circulated in November 2013.

Canadian dollar banknotes feature a portrait of notable figures in front, while the backside depicts historical scenes or landmarks that are significant to the country. These banknotes are currently in circulation:

  • $5 (blue) – Wilfrid Laurier (obverse) | Canadarm2 and Dextre (reverse)

  • $10 (purple) – John A. Macdonald (obverse) | The Canadian passenger train (reverse)

  • new $10 (purple) – Viola Desmond (obverse) | Canadian Museum for Human Rights (reverse)

  • $20 (green) – Queen Elizabeth II (obverse) | Canadian National Vimy Memorial and poppies (reverse)

  • $50 (red) – William Lyon Mackenzie King (obverse) | A map of Canada’s North, CCGS Amundsen in arctic waters, and the word arctic in Inuktitut (reverse)

  • $100 (brown) – Robert Borden (obverse) | Invention of the pacemaker, Medical research, a vial of insulin, and a DNA double helix (reverse)

canada coin

Canadian dollar coins or “loonies” depict Queen Elizabeth II on the front and various images of nature on the back, except for 10¢ and 50¢ coins that feature the Bluenose and Canadian coat of arms, respectively. The current circulating coin denominations are:

  • 1¢ (copper plated) – Maple leaf

  • 5¢ (nickel plated) – Beaver

  • 10¢ (nickel plated) – The Bluenose

  • 25¢ (nickel plated) – Caribou

  • 50¢ (nickel plated) – The Canadian coat of arms

  • $1 (brass plated) – Common loon

  • $2 (nickel ring & Aluminum bronze centre) – Polar bear

Economy

Canada has a highly developed mixed-market economy. As of 2022, it is the 8th largest in the world by $2.221 trillion nominal GDP and the 15th largest by $2.237 trillion PPP. As with other developed nations,

International trade represents a large chunk of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with exports and imports comprising about one-third. The U.S., China, and the U.K. are the country’s three most significant trading partners, while the real estate, rental, manufacturing, and mining sectors contribute most to its GDP.

Brief currency history

Even before Europeans arrived in the Americas, indigenous people were already engaged in a robust economy based on trade and barter. Copper and other precious metals, furs, and other natural materials were used to create the first forms of currency.

The wampum belt, in particular, had become an iconic representation of early Indigenous cash, even though it was never actually used as money before Europeans arrived. Wampum belts were used during the time of European contact to signing agreements of peace and mutual respect between indigenous peoples and the European newcomers.

After establishing the colony of Acadia in Canada (New France) in 1603, the Denier was used as the basic currency unit. However, due to a continuous shortage of French and Spanish silver coins used as the primary transaction means, the governor personally cut and signed a deck of playing cards to be distributed in 1685. 

After Great Britain conquered Canada from France in 1759-60, they introduced the British pound sterling as the official currency. For nearly 100 years, the British pound sterling circulated throughout Canada before it eventually phased out.

Canadians utilised various currencies in the early 19th century, from Nova Scotia and American dollars to Spanish dollars and American gold coins, and even “army bills” used by British forces to purchase supplies during the War of 1812. As a result of using army banknotes, Canadians became accustomed to using paper currency.

Prior to the time of the Confederation on the 1st of July 1867, a decision was made to abandon British currency (Canadian pound) in favour of a decimal system similar to the US dollar.

In 1871, the Canadian government passed the Uniform Currency Act, which unified the country’s many provincial currencies into a single national currency. The Bank of Canada was founded in 1934, and the first banknotes were printed the following year.

Fast forward to the present, Canadian legal tender is now produced by the Bank of Canada, which regulates Canada’s banking system. The banknotes are made with polymer plastic that includes security features to help prevent counterfeiting, and each denomination has its own colour scheme. The most recent series of banknotes was introduced in 2011.

Taking Travel Money to Canada

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What currency should I take to Canada?

If you’re travelling to Canada, you’ll need to exchange your Australian dollar (AUD) for the Canadian dollar (CAD) before you leave. Read more in our AUD to CAD exchange guide.

Is it cheaper to convert currency in Australia or Canada?

Getting your Canadian dollars before you leave Australia is generally the cheapest option. That’s because you’ll avoid paying foreign exchange fees of up to 2.5% of the amount you’re exchanging. Additionally, it is beneficial for you to see how much money you actually have in Canadian dollars. This can help you budget for your trip and avoid overspending.

How much can I take to Canada?

Though there are no limits to the amount of money you can bring into or take out of Canada, you must still declare any currency or monetary instruments totalling over $10,000 Canadian dollars to customs officials.

Where to convert currency?

You can convert your currency at banks, airport kiosks and some hotels. However, Crown Currency Exchange is your best option if you want the best AUD to the CAD exchange rate. With more nearly 20 years of experience, we offer competitive rates across 50 stores in Australia with no commissions or hidden fees. Over 80 foreign currencies are also available, so you can always find what you need.

Is tipping customary in Canada? How much is expected?

Yes. Leaving a gratuity or a tip is a deeply ingrained practice in Canada after receiving any type of service. This lets the staff know how you feel about their level of service. Although it is considered rude to not tip for services, if you did not have a good experience, you can decide how much (if any) of a tip to give.

Restaurants: If you’re unsure of how much to tip at a restaurant, the tax percentage may be able to guide you. Generally, 15-20% of the bill is considered a good tip. Depending on the level of service, you may choose to leave more or less.

Hotels: While you are never required to leave a tip, most people working at hotels or resorts do expect one. Keep in mind that not everyone should receive the same amount. The quality of service is always taken into consideration when dishing out gratuities. You can tip the bellhop CAD $1-2 per bag, the housekeeping staff CAD $2-5 per day, and the concierge an amount based on the level of service you received (usually CAD $1-20).

Tour guides: If you take a tour of any of Canada’s national parks or major cities, it is common practice to tip the guide. When joining a big group tour, a 10% gratuity based on the cost of the whole tour is generous. If you have a private guide, increasing the tip by 15% is an excellent way to show your appreciation if they provide top-tier service.

Bartenders: If you like going to bars, it is customary to tip bartenders 15-20% of the bill.

Salon: Getting a haircut, mani/pedi, or other beauty services? Then you should tip 15-20% of the service cost.

Taxis: Taxi drivers appreciate approximately 10-20% of the fare as a tip. For example, on an $8 fare, a CA$2 tip would suffice, or if the fare were $40, then a CA$5-$6 tip shows appreciation for good service.

Can you bargain in Canada?

Canada doesn’t have a bartering culture, as it makes them uncomfortable. Bartering or bargaining is considered rude and tacky in most social situations. If you’re at a store, the listed price is final – there’s no room for negotiation. The cashier isn’t authorised to haggle with customers.

You’ll be met with judgement if you try to bargain and won’t be treated well. Not unless you are buying in car dealerships or antique stores, then it is expected that you bargain

What is ATM access like in Canada?

Similar to Australia, you will be able to find an ATM machine on nearly every street corner in the major cities. Smaller towns also offer plenty of options, but you may have to walk a bit further to find one. The same goes for banks – you’re never too far from one in Canada.

What should you budget per day?

Low Budget

If you only plan on spending CAD $60-80 per day, you will most likely be cooking all your meals or eating quick meals from the grocery store. You can also expect to find some cheap accommodation options, such as hostels or Couchsurfing. Getting around will be the biggest expense, whether you’re taking public transportation or renting a car. Make sure to plan your days carefully, as you won’t have much money left over for activities or attractions.

Moderate

You should budget CAD $150-170 per day for a more comfortable yet still affordable trip. This will allow you to eat out for most meals, stay in mid-range accommodation, take bus rides between cities, and visit some of the main attractions, such as the CN Tower or Niagara Falls. Airbnb is also a great option in this price range.

Luxury

No matter how much money you have to spend, Canada has plenty of ways to blow your budget. If you’re looking for a luxurious vacation, expect to spend at least CAD $300 per day, if not more. This will give you plenty of money to stay in upscale hotels, take taxis or Uber everywhere, eat at the best restaurants, and do whatever else your heart desires. Just keep in mind that prices can vary greatly depending on the city you’re visiting – Vancouver and Toronto will be more expensive than smaller towns.

Currency details

Currency:

Canadian dollar

Currency code:

CAD

Currency symbol:

$, CA$, Can$, C$

Central bank:

Bank of Canada

Nickname:

loonie, buck, huard, piastre

Currency sub-unit:

Cent = 1/100 of a Dollar

Bank notes:

$5, $10, $20, $50, $100

Coins:

1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢. $1, $2

Must-do's while you are in Canada

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1, Gaze at the Northern Lights

Few natural phenomena are as awe-inspiring as the Northern Lights. Also known as the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights are a display of vibrant colours that dance across the night sky. For centuries, people have been captivated by their beauty, and today, travellers from all over the world come to Canada to see them. They are best viewed in complete silence, so you can appreciate nature’s majesty. If you have a chance to see the Northern Lights while you are in Canada, take it! It is an experience you will never forget.

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2, Marvel at Niagara Falls

Situated on the border between Ontario and New York, Niagara Falls are actually made up of three separate waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Together, they create a breathtaking display of power and beauty. Visitors to Niagara Falls can marvel at the sight of the Falls from both the Canadian and American sides. You can also take part in a variety of activities, such as hiking, camping, and boat tours. No matter how you choose to experience them, the Niagara Falls are sure to leave a lasting impression.

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3. Explore the Canadian Arctic

The Canadian Arctic is one of the most stunning and unique places on earth. From the Nora brand glaciers to the teeming wildlife of the tundra, there is much to see and experience in this vast region. And with so many different ways to explore the Arctic, there is sure to be an adventure that appeals to everyone. Whether you want to trek across the tundra, paddle a canoe through pristine lakes, or simply photograph the amazing landscapes, the Canadian Arctic offers something for everyone.

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4. Dine in 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower

The CN Tower is one of Canada’s most iconic landmarks, and 360 The Restaurant offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable dining experience. Located at the top of the tower, the restaurant provides stunning views of the cityscape below. The rotating floor ensures that every table has a perfect view, and the glass walls provide an unobstructed view of the skyline. The menu features a variety of local and international dishes, and the knowledgeable staff are happy to make recommendations. Whether you’re looking for an intimate dinner for two or a celebration with friends, 360 The Restaurant is sure to make your visit to Canada truly memorable.

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5. Visit the scenic Banff National Park

If you’re looking for breathtaking beauty and a wealth of outdoor activities, Banff National Park is the perfect spot. Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, the park offers stunning vistas at every turn, from towering mountains to glassy lakes. And there’s no shortage of things to do, whether you’re looking to hit the hiking trails, go for a scenic drive, or simply relax in nature. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoorsman or someone who just appreciates a good view, Banff is sure to leave a lasting impression. So why not add it to your list of must-see destinations? You won’t regret it.

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