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The Cheapest (and Best!) Way to Send Money to Canada

When moving to Canada, one of the least exciting but entirely necessary things to think about is how to access your money after making the move.

With so many different options available to transfer money to Canada, the solution isn’t a straightforward one. There are a few different factors to take into account.

View from Banff gondola window showing other gondola car ascending mountain, with views of forest and Banff town below, with Cascade Mountain in background
Banff, Alberta

For most people, however, the easiest way to decide how to send money to Canada is to choose the cheapest option!

This post features a round-up of the most popular money transfer methods, starting with the cheapest way to send money to Canada. 

Here’s what to expect:

Published 2018, last updated January 2023.

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you click through and one of these services, we may receive a small percentage of the transaction at no extra cost to you.

Elevated view of coastal landscape below, with sandy beach in foreground and lighthouse in background. The ocean surrounds the land on the right hand side
Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec

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.

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. 

All you have to do is set up a bank account on arrival in Canada and then sign up for an account or download the relevant app. Better still, sign up before you leave home to make the process even easier.

Wise – This company charges a low percentage fee of the total transaction plus a flat transaction fee (amount dependent on the currencies used). The fees are clearly displayed upfront. I personally use Wise regularly

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.

Alpine scenery at Wonder Pass with meadows, scattered trees and mountains in the background
Wonder Pass, British Columbia

Wise vs. CurrencyFair?

Wise (formerly 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. 

Personally, I prefer Wise. I like that I am able to have a ‘Borderless’ bank account with a debit card through them, which I can use in any country around the world

A heart shaped driftwood sculpture on sandy beach with ocean and mountains in background
Vancouver Island, British Columbia

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 quickly.

Currency cards are not the cheapest way to send money to Canada, but this option offers a good alternative for people who want to use a method that feels more physical (not just online).

I would highly recommend using a currency card for payments during your first few days in Canada. After opening a bank account, switch to your new Canadian debit or credit card instead.

Prepaid currency card brands vary between countries. The following two examples are UK based.

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. £1,000 per month spending limit. It is also possible to use Revolut to transfer large amounts of money to your Canadian bank account

Wise – As mentioned above, Wise also offers an international debit card as well as money transfers. Load Canadian dollars onto the card and use it in Canada just like a regular card or load with your local currency and it will auto-convert the funds at the current rate (small fee for both services)

Looking across rocky beach just after sunset (the sun is close to the horizon) to JR's silhouette close to shore
Near Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Bank transfers

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 1-4% less than the online money transfer services mentioned above.

Banks usually also charge a flat service fee for the transfer which typically takes 2-3 days.

Having said all this, bank transfers are a better option than they used to be. I have no doubt that this is due to the rise in popularity of online money transfer services like Wise.

The UK bank Barclays, for example, previously charged £25 for all money transfers and offered a less-than-good exchange rate.

In 2023, Barclays claims to use the mid-market rates and waive the £25 fee for personal, Premier or Wealth Management account holders.

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.

Western Union’s speed is great but the fees are high – around 10% for small amounts, dropping to 1% with larger amounts.

The exact fees vary depending on whether you use their app, website or in-person service. They do, however, usually waive the fee for your first website transfer.

Western Union’s exchange rate is not the best, but certainly not the worst either. If you’re looking for the cheapest way to send money to Canada, I would avoid Western Union.

Canola fields on Prince Edward Island

PayPal

PayPal is often used to send money to Canada, but many do not realise that this service has a fee and a poor exchange rate.

The fees for international transfer vary a lot from country to country.

In this example, I’ll use PayPal UK. The minimum fee for sending money internationally is 5% of the payment total, to a maximum of £2.99.

The exchange rate is the biggest problem when using PayPal to send money to Canada – it’s just not very good.

At the time of this update, for example, the mid-market rate for GBP to CAD is £1 = $1.63. PayPal is offering 1.56, while Wise (mentioned above) is offering 1.63. With every £1000 transferred, you’d be losing around £50 with PayPal.

Screenshot from PayPal's website

Cash

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 online money transfer services.

canadian dollars

ATMs

Considering using an ATM to withdrew cash on arrival in Canada?

Be aware that ATMs usually charge a flat fee. Your bank at home will likely charge a fee as well, often percentage based.

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. 

Looking down steep cliffs above Lake Superior on the Top of the Giant Trail in Ontario. Trees adorn the top of the almost vertical cliffs
Top of the Giant Trail lookout in Ontario

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 any other time, for that matter).

It’s also the most hassle-free method in my opinion – you don’t even have to leave the house!

Dramatic shark fin shaped Perce Rock at golden hour, with the surface lit up by sunlight
Percé Rock, Quebec

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