Cross-border shopping hacks

Whether travelling to and from the United States or purchasing online, cross-border shopping is a popular activity with Canadian shoppers. But there are a few things to know before indulging in retail therapy south of the border.

Here are some pointers from RBC on how you can make the most of your cross-border shopping experience.

  1. Plan ahead. At certain times of the day or year, border crossings can take hours. Check the Canada Border Services Agency website or app to find up-to-date information on wait times. During busy times of the year, start your trip as early as possible so you get plenty of shopping time.. Coming home, pick a time when things will have died down — after 8:30 p.m. is usually best.Bonus tip: If you don’t already have Nexus, consider applying for faster entry on both sides of the border. Just remember that all travellers need to have it in order to take advantage of the dedicated lane.
  2. Do your math. Sometimes a deal sounds perfect, but once you factor in the exchange, duty and cost of travel, it might not be so much of a bargain.
  3. Hang on to your receipts for claiming. You must be in the U.S. for at least 24 hours to claim a Canadian $200 tax-free exemption; after 48 hours you can claim up to $800. If you don’t declare your purchases, you could face a fine or other penalty.
  4. Pick up a no annual fee U.S.–based credit card. Do this before you go and you can easily  avoid foreign transaction fees.
  5. Open a U.S.–based bank account. If you stay south of the border for extended periods of time, you can make regular ATM withdrawals without having to worry about added fees.

Here are some added tips for online shoppers:

  1. Review the balance before paying. Many online retail sites provide details on exchange fees and estimated duty, as well as shipping fees.
  2. Read the return policies. Taxes and duties are often non-refundable, and you may be on the hook for pricey international return shipping costs.
  3. Consider paying with a U.S. credit card or U.S. based bank account. This will lower the added exchange rate fees.

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