Gift cards bought in the US to be used in Canada?
May 25, 2016 4:10 AM   Subscribe

Some friends are moving from the US to Canada. We live in the US and want to get them a gift card of some sort as a going away present, but I found a few articles that say US gift cards can't always be used outside of the states (something about financial regulations). I'm confused and turning to the hive mind - what's the simplest way to do this?

We could give them a Home Depot or Lowe's card and say "buy something for your new place!" but we'd rather get them a good-as-cash card so they can use it for anything — home furnishing, nice meal, etc. But now I'm worried that I'll accidentally get them something that can only be used in the US. So can someone point me to a good-as-cash card (like a Visa gift card) that can definitely be used easily in Canada? Thanks!
posted by Tehhund to Shopping (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Order some Canadian currency to stuff a card with? It would be more readily apparent what the gift is for, and possibly more practical to use.

AAA or your bank should be able to help you out, but check the exchange rates.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:16 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Get a Canadian Tire Gift Card. It would be FANTASTIC if you could get your hands on some Canadian Tire money. Put it all in a gift card.

The place is pretty interesting and they have tons of hardware and homeware types of things.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:33 AM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

You know what's good-as-cash? Cash!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:37 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Amazon Canada sells gift cards as well, if you want something that can be used to purchase all sorts of goods.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:46 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

When my folks would give us cash at Christmas time, it came in an envelope labelled Portraits of Famous Canadians or Bank of Canada Gift Certificates. Feel free to use that if you decide to go the cash route. Wikipedia lists who's who.

Canadian Tire is pretty ubiquitous, so that is probably a good choice. Home Depot is pretty well established and you could buy a card from the Canadian website. Lowe's doesn't have as many locations.
posted by TORunner at 5:14 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you can get Canadian Tire money (like the actual money, not a gift card) that would be the awesomest thing. I think I have a couple of dollars worth and most Canadian mefites probably do, too, but buying it 50 cents at a time is probably more work than it's worth.

If you can't get actual Canadian tire money, a Canadian tire gift card is better than Lowes. Canadian Tire has more stuff, more locations, and better prices.

However, the other option, if you really want to go gift car instead of cash, might be one of those pre-paid visa cards you can buy at the drug store. They should work, BUT of course the money will be stored in USD so every time there's a "foreign" currency transaction, they may take the opportunity to gauge you somehow. Read the terms carefully.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:41 AM on May 25, 2016

I was going to add, tell your friends to keep their US credit cards with US addresses attached, even if they have to get a UPS store address. There are lots of things online you can only buy with a US credit card and US address, even if shipping to Canada (though some online services that don't require shipping).

Then I realized, the if your friends won't be keeping a US credit card, the best thing you could do for your friends would be to get them one of those pre-paid visa cards that is *re-chargeable* and attach it to your address. Then they can go online and recharge it. Make sure it's one that can be used online. I tried once to get around the gave-up-my-US-credit-cards-and-now-wish-I-had-one problem by buying one of those visa cards at the drug store but when I got home and tried to recharge it found that you can't recharge it without a US address. Thwarted.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:01 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Where in Canada are they moving? If it's nearish the border they might well find themselves shopping in the US semi-frequently anyway.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:11 AM on May 25, 2016

You could try this , where you can buy a card and ship it to them.

Costco gift cards are also extremely useful, and I believe that you do not have to have a membership to use one. But you do have to have a membership to buy. And I believe US Costco membership can be used in Canada

Chapters would be another place to try.. its a book store, but their houseware/gift section is nice. They do e-cards too.
posted by Ftsqg at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2016

Thanks all! They're moving to Vancouver, and it looks like there are plenty of Canadian Tire locations there. It seems like an appropriately Canada-themed gift to give. But I'm looking at their site and I don't see a way to get the card shipped to the US, so that may be a dead end as well. So we may just have to find a Visa that works internationally, since we want to give the gift before we have their address (they're throwing a party before having housing figured out, which makes it tough).

(I'd like to just give Canadian currency, but some more traditional people don't like cash as a gift. It's like sending an email/text thank-you for a gift vs sending a paper card - both accomplish the goal but only one is currently socially acceptable to most people.)
posted by Tehhund at 9:08 AM on May 25, 2016

one of those pre-paid visa cards you can buy at the drug store

A lot of these have fine print that say they can't be used outside the U.S. I've never tempted fate on this one, so I couldn't tell you if this is actually the case.
posted by the road and the damned at 12:33 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

IKEA gift cards can be used internationally.
posted by quaking fajita at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

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