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Gearing up for the holidays? Use our tips to make the most of your cross-border holiday shopping - whether you decide to trip it or ship it
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1. Want to Trip It? Grab Some Friends to Take Along!

If you're planning on heading down to the U.S. to take advantage of Black Friday or other holiday season deals, there are many reasons to travel as a group.

  • You can share gas and accommodations, lowering the cost of your trip.
  • You can divide and conquer at the doorbuster sales, covering more ground and grabbing the best deals.
  • It's more fun to shop with friends!
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2. Have a Doorbuster Strategy

Doorbusters — special limited-time price reductions typically available during special early shopping opportunities — are heavily hyped because prices are greatly reduced. This can whip many shoppers into a frenzy, even before the doors even open. There are many, MANY experienced doorbuster shoppers out there, so you've got to go in with a plan.

  • If possible, go to the stores ahead of time to pick out the best deals.
  • Do a walkthrough of the store so you know where to find the sections you're targeting.
  • Consider heading down early, since some retailers have deals days ahead of Black Friday.
  • For the big day itself, find out who's giving free stuff out to the early birds so you know which store to hit first.
  • Protect yourself — some doorbuster shoppers can get pushy!
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3. Do Your Math

Not every deal is as good as it looks. Before you buy, you'll want to know if you're truly getting a bargain.

Find out:

  • What were the prices pre-sale?
  • What's the cost in Canadian dollars when you factor in the exchange rate? How much duty might you have to pay if you go over your exemption limit?
  • Even if the TV/sweater/ blender is super cheap, is it something you actually need?

It can be easy this time of year to get sucked in by sales and then suffer buyer's regret afterwards. Don't let that be you.

See how much your Canadian currency is worth in USD — or how much that U.S. price tag will cost you in CDN: Calculate exchange rates here.

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4. Know Your Limits

Your personal exemption limits, that is. When you leave Canada for the day, you can't bring anything back without paying customs/import duty — you're expected to come back with what you left with. When you go for 24 hours or more, you can bring $200 CDN worth of merchandise back without paying duty and taxes, and when you're gone for 48 hours or more, that limit goes up to $800 CDN.

View Your Exemption Limits

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5. Declare It!

If you do go over your limit, don't try to hide it from a border guard. The worst case scenario: you end your cross-border shopping trip in the "border line of shame" (you know the one).

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6. Seek Out Products and Brands You Can't Get in Canada

While many U.S. retailers have physical stores or online shops in Canada, they don't always sell the same products on both sides of the border. To maximize your cross-border shopping experience, try to snag things you can't easily get back home — like certain cosmetics, electronics, or anything from Trader Joe's.

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7. Know What's Cheaper in the U.S.

Black Friday or not, there are products you can buy in the U.S. that are consistently a bargain when you compare the prices to shops in Canada. From toiletries to bedding, kitchenware to diapers, many home and family essentials are cheaper south of the border. For fashion-forward shoppers, denim — including luxury American-made brands like Rag & Bone and Paige — is far less in the States. American brand footwear is can also be a great deal.

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8. Don't Want to Leave Home? Ship It!

If you don't have the time or stomach for navigating holiday crowds, you can take advantage of deals on Cyber Monday (or even before). The great news is, many deals online are just as good as the ones in-store. And, Canadians can now get a break on shipping fees, thanks to Here's how it works:

  1. You sign up to get a U.S. shipping address in a tax-free state.
  2. Shop online at thousands of U.S. retailers and ship your goods to your new address.
  3. combines your packages to deliver in a single shipment, saving you up to 80% on shipping costs.
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9. Follow Your Favourites

One of the best ways to stay up-to-date on late-breaking deals is to follow your favourite retailers on social media. Many retailers use Twitter and Facebook in particular to promote new and big sales.

Signing up for newsletters is also a great way to get ahead of upcoming bargains. Plus, many brands regularly send out codes with extra savings to loyal customers.

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10. Use a U.S. Based Credit Card

Whether you're heading south or shopping from home, a U.S. based credit card — issued by a U.S. financial institution — may save you with U.S. retailers. For one, you'll save on foreign transaction fees, which can range from 2.5 - 3.5 per cent of your purchases. Take a look at how much you can save on these fees alone with this Foreign Transaction Fee Savings Calculator.

With a U.S.-based credit card, you won't be hurt by currency fluctuations, which can be especially helpful if you bought the wrong piece and have to return it.

The holidays are fast approaching, which means it’s time to start charting out your shopping strategy now! In fact, advance planning is a must if you want to cross-border shop like a pro.

With these tips and tricks to put you in the know, and your cross-border shopping game face on, you can make the most of the deals and discounts waiting for you on the other side of the border — whether you visit in person or online.

Save more than $143 USD this year on your U.S. online purchases

For a limited time, apply for a U.S. based Direct Checking account and no annual fee1 Visa Signature Card from RBC Bank™.

  • Save the annual banking fees of $39.50 USD for the first year.
  • Receive a one-year membership – free, with no set-up fee. That’s an additional savings of $104 USD.
  • Save on foreign transaction fees, state taxes and shipping for all your online U.S. purchases.

Learn More