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If you're a frequent traveller to the U.S. you need to take advantage of every opportunity to reduce costs, to make the most of your trips without breaking the bank. Here are five money saving secrets for your next trip south of the border.

Whether you enjoy weekend shopping trips to New York, Las Vegas adventures or spending the winter months golfing in Orlando, there are many reasons Canadians travel to the U.S. The fact is, with a weak Canadian dollar these trips can be more expensive.

If you’re a frequent traveler to the U.S. you need to take advantage of every opportunity to reduce costs, to make the most of your trips without breaking the bank. Here are five money saving secrets for your next trip south of the border.

1. Open a U.S. bank account

Each time you transfer Canadian dollars to U.S. dollars and back again, you lose money on the exchange rate. If you travel regularly to the States it makes good financial sense to open a U.S. dollar bank account.

You can deposit money back into the account between trips, so you’ll always have access to U.S. cash each time you travel. If you have to transfer funds for an upcoming trip, estimate how much money you’ll need and make one large transfer – you’ll get a better rate compared to making several smaller transfers. You can relax knowing your exchange rate upfront without having to keep an eye on daily currency fluctuations.

To get the best rate possible, set up an alert on your computer or mobile device that notifies you when the currency exchange rate reaches a certain level.

When you open a U.S. bank account, be sure to ask for a U.S. debit card as well. You’ll be able to withdraw cash from local ATMs or use it to make everyday purchases by either signing for your transaction or entering your PIN.

2. Apply for a U.S. credit card

If you use your Canadian credit card in the States, you will be charged a foreign transaction fee of approximately 2.5% on every purchase1 – those fees can really add up! The good news is you can apply for a U.S. dollar credit card through your Canadian bank.

Many of these cards offer benefits such as no annual fee; travel accident, trip cancellation and auto rental insurance; cash back options; and points programs that can be used for travel or merchandise. You don’t have to miss out on any of the rewards you may be receiving with your Canadian credit cards. You can also save on the exchange rate by paying off your credit card through your U.S. dollar bank account.

3. Enroll in loyalty programs

Save money on flights, hotels, entertainment and attractions by enrolling in loyalty programs. Different programs offer different rewards so do your research and join programs that suit your specific needs. There are many credit cards that offer travel rewards — look for those that have no blackout dates and let you use points to pay airline taxes and fees.

To save money on meals, find out which restaurants participate in your travel rewards programs. You can use your points for dining out at participating partners when you’re on the road.

Most of the large hotel chains offer loyalty programs – if you have a favourite hotel, be sure to sign up! You can earn points for free stays and upgrades, plus receive extra points when using their preferred travel partners such as airlines, rail services and rental cars. Some also offer points for dining, shopping and entertainment.

Whichever loyalty programs you choose, take time to review their websites to find out how you get the most from your rewards — and save.

4. Purchase a U.S. property

If you travel to the States during the most popular vacation times, you’ll pay a premium for hotels or rental properties. With the low interest rates and the wide selection of U.S. real estate available today, you may want to consider purchasing a vacation home south of the border. You’ll save money on peak season rates and if you list the property with a rental agency the rest of the year, your rental fees may even cover your mortgage payments.

5. Stay connected and save

There is nothing that can ruin an otherwise perfect holiday like the unhappy surprise of huge phone and internet roaming fees from using your devices in the U.S. Before you travel, contact your service provider to order a U.S. roaming plan that allows you to stay connected by phone, text and internet without incurring massive fees. Some services offer daily rates for shorter trips, and others can be purchased as a monthly plan to help you manage your communications budget.

While the lower value loonie can make a vacation in the U.S. pricier, there are ways you can minimize your costs and maximize your fun. Try these money savings secrets, and talk to a representative at your financial institution to learn more about these services. Bon voyage!

References

1. Foreign Exchange: How to Make Your Canadian Dollars Go Further.