|Account||Network||Type||Overseas foreign ATM fees||International ATM surcharge rebates||Foreign currency transaction fees||annual/ monthly fees||notes|
|Koho Premium (Peoples Trust)||Mastercard||Prepaid||0||1 per 30 days rolling||0||$9 monthly or $84 annually||long list of restricted countries|
|Manulife Bank Advantage Account||Maestro||Debit||0||none, but surcharge free at Allpoint ATMs abroad||0||0||need to keep $1000 min. balance to avoid all transaction fees.|
|SBI Canada Chequing Account||Maestro||Debit||0||none, but surcharge free at Allpoint ATMs abroad and 50000 SBI ATMs in India||0||$4 monthly||monthly fee can be waived with $1000 min. balance or being over 60, under 18 or a student.|
|Wealthsimple Cash (Peoples Trust)||Mastercard||Prepaid||0||-||0||0||long list of restricted countries|
|EQ Bank||Mastercard||Prepaid||0||-||0||0||not available in Quebec|
|Stack (Peoples Trust)||Mastercard||Prepaid||0 up to a maximum of $1000 per month||-||0 up to a maximum of $1000 per month||$7.99 monthly||need to spend $350 with the card in the month you want to have 0 FX fees|
|Interactive Brokers Prepaid Card||Mastercard||Prepaid||$0.50||-||0||0|
|Brim Financial||Mastercard||Credit||$5 + 1.64% interest per month||-||0||0||does not support autopay, see here|
|Home Trust Preferred||Visa||Credit||1.50%, min. $5.50 + 1.53% interest per month||-||0||0||not available in Quebec, inactivity fee after 12 months without usage|
|ICBC Dual Currency Select||China UnionPay||Credit||$5 + 1.66% interest per month||-||0||$19 annually, first year free|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express Card||American Express||Credit||($5 at Global ATM Alliance, $7.50 elsewhere) + 1.74% interest per month||none, but surcharge free at Global ATM Alliance abroad||0||$120 annually, first year free|
|Scotiabank Passport Infinite||Visa||Credit||($5 at Global ATM Alliance, $7.50 elsewhere) + 1.74% interest per month||none, but surcharge free at Global ATM Alliance abroad||0||$150 annually|
|HSBC World Elite||Mastercard||Credit||$4 + 1.74% interest per month||-||0||$149 annually|
Tangerine used to be the Canadian travellers’ favorite, but they started charging a 2.5% currency conversion fee, which makes them less attractive. Best alternative is Manulife or the new EQ Bank prepaid card.
If you’re going to countries where ATM surcharges are the norm the Koho Premium card is worth thinking about. Simple math tells you that unless you use an ATM every month that surcharges at least $9 you’ll be in the red. But say you used an ATM that charges $5. You’d be $4 out of pocket, but with a different card it would actually be $5. And if you then factor in the 2% cashback (groceries, eating & drinking and transportation) and you see it’s not a bad deal. You can cancel and reactivate the Premium benefits on a monthly basis, which is great – no fees while you’re not traveling, the regular Koho version is free. Unless you’re traveling long-term I wouldn’t go for the yearly payment option.
For spending: the best credit cards are the Home Trust card and the new Brim card. Alternatively Maestro debit cards (like Manulife) can also be used abroad, see below.
- Almost all Canadian debit and credit cards charge a 2.5% currency conversion fee, the above are some of the exceptions.
- Scotiabank and Tangerine are members of the Global ATM Alliance and offer free ATM withdrawals at their partner banks worldwide, but still charge the 2.5% conversion fee
- Desjardins and UNI offer free ATM withdrawals at Credit Mutuel in France and Desjardins Bank ATMs in Florida, but will also still hit you with those 2.5%. Same goes for TD and BMO both of which also have US subsidiaries.
- The Canadian debit card system Interac does not work overseas, so Canadian debit cards come cobranded with international networks to ensure access overseas, with varying levels of functionality:
- Cirrus or Plus only cards do not work for POS purchases abroad (with exception of the US where there are some arrangements through NYCE and Accel), but many Canadian banks issue debit cards that are this limited (that’s RBC, Laurentian, DC Bank, First Nations, HSBC, Desjardins, many Credit Unions etc.).
- Maestro cards work fine overseas at ATMs and many PIN based Point-of-Sale terminals, but Canadian Maestro cards do not work for internet purchases. Having a second card that works online would be helpful, e.g. a credit card or prepaid card.
- Scotiabank, TD, BMO and CIBC are expensive but issue debit cards with full Visa or Mastercard debit functionality, which can be used everywhere: ATM, POS and online. A few others now issue such a card as well.
- ICBC distributes China UnionPay debit (also cobranded) and credit cards without currency exchange fees. China UnionPay works in some form in 174 countries, but especially POS is still limited except for North America and North Asia, where it cooperates with Discover and local networks.
- If your bank/card participates in the Exchange network, you get surcharge-free ATM access at around 40000 Allpoint ATMs in the US.