When moving to Canada on a working holiday, one of the least exciting but entirely necessary things to think about is how to access your money after making the move. It’s not straightforward either, with so many different options available to transfer money to Canada. Luckily, there is an easy way to decide between the many money transfer methods. Go for the one that saves you the most money! Here’s a round-up of the most popular money transfer methods, starting with the cheapest way to send money to Canada. 

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through and one of these services, I will receive a small percentage of the transaction at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. 

Online Money Transfer Services (Best value!)

A relatively new service, online money transfer services work on a peer-to-peer system in which the host website does not directly transfer money across borders, but instead re-routes payments between people in corresponding countries. Don’t worry, they are absolutely legit and such a money saver! All you have to do is set up a bank account on arrival in Canada and then get online. 

The fees with money transfer services are lower than any other money transfer option and the exchange rate given matches the ‘mid market rate’ – the one you see on live currency websites like XE. For this reason, online money transfer services offer the cheapest way to send money to Canada. 

TransferWise – This company charges a low percentage fee of the total transaction plus a flat transaction fee (amount dependent on the currencies used). 

CurrencyFair – This alternative money transfer option charges a low percentage fee of the total transaction plus a fixed 3 euro (or local currency equivalent) transfer fee.

Try them out yourself! Use the links above for one free transfer with each company

Transferwise vs. CurrencyFair?

Transferwise and CurrencyFair offer fast money transfer services with great exchange rates and low fees. They are both super easy and quick to use, delivering the money to your Canadian bank account within a matter of days (sometimes hours!)

To be honest, you can’t really go wrong with either. As for which one offers the cheapest way to send money to Canada, I find that it depends on where you are from and how much money is being sent. There are no hidden fees, so it’s easy to work out which offers better value. 

TransferWise usually comes out best for me, so I use them more often. I also like that I can get a ‘Borderless’ bank account through them. I do always double check with CurrencyFair first to make sure I’m getting the best deal. 

The cheapest way to send money to Canada

No matter which company you choose, using an online money transfer service is definitely the easiest and cheapest way to send money to Canada on your working holiday (or anytime, for that matter). It’s also the most hassle-free method in my opinion – you don’t even have to leave the house!

Looking for advice on opening a bank account in Canada? Click here for a guide
Screenshot from TransferWise's homepage
TransferWise’s rates are advertised right on the homepage

Prepaid Currency Cards

Some people will be familiar with prepaid currency cards after using them on holidays abroad. A good way to have money to hand on your arrival in Canada, they are re-loadable Visa/Mastercard debit cards which allow use in shops and withdrawals from ATMs. Loading money is fast which makes them also a great option for when you need money fast.

Prepaid currency cards vary between countries. The following two examples are UK based. Currency cards are not quite the cheapest way to send money to Canada, but this method offers a good alternative. 

CaxtonFX – This currency card has no fees. Exchange rate is just a little lower than current mid-market value. The exchange rate of Canadian dollars to British pounds is ‘locked in’ when money is loaded onto the card. Minimum load is £100. I’ve had a Caxton card for around four years now and I find it convenient and pretty good value. Not only have I used it in Canada, but also Australia and Italy. 

Revolut – Multi-currency card with sleek mobile app. The rates mirror the interbank exchange rate and are calculated when money is spent using the card (as opposed to the CaxtonFX card). 

caxton fx card website
The benefits of the CaxtonFX card 

Bank transfer

Probably the most familiar option to the majority of people, transfers are available via online banking from your home bank to your new bank in Canada. It sounds like the most sensible choice, but the exchange rate isn’t particularly good, being typically 3-4% less than the online money transfer services mentioned above. Banks also charge a flat service fee for the transfer which typically takes 2-3 days.

Here are some example service fees from banks in the UK. I cannot compare exchange rates since I did not find a single UK bank that was transparent regarding the exchange rate they use for money transfers. 

  • Barclays: £25
  • Nationwide: £20
  • HSBC: £4, free from HSBC to HSBC
  • Halifax: £9.50
Halifax bank website screenshot with international payments info
Banks offer secure service but not as good value as they want you to think

Western Union

Accessible via online and in person at thousands of locations, Western Union offers transfers within minutes to every country you can think of. The speed is great but the fees are high – around 10% for small amounts, dropping to 1% after £1000. The exchange rate is not the best, but certainly not the worst either. Western Union is definitely not the cheapest way to send money to Canada by a long shot! I’d recommend to avoid them. 

PayPal

PayPal is often used to send money to Canada, but many do not realise that this service charges high fees. A PayPal to PayPal transfer may be simple but the fees are multiple. PayPal charges 0.9% to 5% in ‘Cross Border fees’ (that means sending money between different countries) plus a 3.5% fee for currency conversion. There is also a 3.4% fee for using a credit or debit card. The exchange rates they use are not advertised up front on the website either. As with Western Union, avoid using PayPal to transfer money to Canada. 

Screenshot from PayPal's website
I don’t know, three types of fees don’t seem so straightforward or surprise-free to me…

Cash and ATMS

It may be old school and a pretty risky, but some people still prefer to cross borders carrying cash or simply withdraw all their money at their destination. Travelling to Canada, you are able to take $10,000CAD in cash without having to declare it. Bringing more than this amount is still allowed, but it must be declared on arrival. 

The exchange rate at the Bureau de Change and other currency brokers are usually easily beaten by banks or money transfer services.

ATMs fees can typically include both a flat fee plus a percentage fee (and often another flat fee) charged by your bank at home. ATMs also often have low limits on the amount of money that can be taken out at one time e.g. $150, 200. It is much easier to use online money transfer services and send a lot of money in one go. 

canadian dollars
 

Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in British Columbia, Canada. Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure.

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