The CIBC AC Conversion Card has been around for a little while now and has seen mixed reviews. To be honest, when the card first came out, I was not impressed at all as there seemed to be too many variables and unanswered questions to make it a strong card.
Since the launch of the card, there have already been changes made due to people abusing the card for manufactured spending, and complaints about excessive fees. For the general consumer, these changes were for the positive, and there is now enough clarification for me to write a CIBC AC Conversion Card review comfortably. The card is not the cheapest option for travellers, but there’s no denying the convenience. Read on for my full CIBC AC Conversion Card review.
What the CIBC Air Canada Card is all about
Formally called the CIBC Air Canada Conversion Card, the card is a prepaid Visa credit card that allows you to lock in rates for ten currencies. This is appealing to some travellers since you’re getting a guaranteed exchange rate; there’s no need to worry about fluctuating rates. The ten currencies available are as follows:
- Canadian Dollars – CAD
- United States Dollars – USD
- Euros – EUR
- Great British Pounds – GBP
- Mexican Peso – MXN
- Hong Kong Dollars – HKD
- Australian Dollars – AUD
- Japanese Yen – JPY
- Turkish Lira – TRY
- Swiss Franc – CHF
Note that you are no able to reload Canadian Dollars directly onto your AC conversion card.
The obvious benefit of the CIBC AC Conversion Card (referral link) is the fact that it’s a single card that allows you to store multiple currencies. You can move the funds around as you please, so you’re never stuck with a single currency. Since you pay the exchange when you load your cards with funds, you do not pay any foreign transaction fees when you make your charges.
Note that with non-supported currencies, you pay the standard 2.5% conversion fee.
The card also acts as a debit card so you can withdraw cash from local ATMs, however, there are fees. Depending on which currency you’re withdrawing, you’ll pay about $3.50 – $5 per withdrawal to CIBC, PLUS any fees the local ATM may charge. You do get one free withdrawal each month. It would have been nice to get more than one free ATM withdrawal a month, but this card is meant to be used as a credit card, not debit.
Should you get this card?
To be honest, it really depends on what kind of traveller you are and how much you care about fees. I personally prefer to pay as little fees as possible which is why I much prefer using a credit card with no foreign transaction fees or using my debit card to get cash while accepting that you’ll have to pay the extra 2.5% fee.
That being said, the CIBC Air Canada Conversion Card does have a few advantages. It’s the fastest and cheapest way to load funds since you won’t need to visit your bank or a foreign exchange office. You can just load everything online or through the app at your own convenience.
Keep in mind that cheapest is a relative term. The foreign exchange fees are built right into the exchange rate. The exchange rates used are based on CIBC’s rates, but interestingly enough, the CIBC Air Canada Conversion Card uses exchange rates which are different than CIBC’s regular foreign exchange rates. The exchange rates on the card are much more competitive and within a reasonable margin of the standard 2.5% fee that gets added when you make a transaction in a foreign currency.
Some people won’t mind that extra fee and prefer the convenience factor. There’s also the added security you get since this is a prepaid card. If you lose your card, your funds can be transferred to a replacement card. There’s no fee to transfer the funds, but you’ll pay a $25 fee for a replacement card. I personally don’t like this since if I lost my card abroad, I might be stuck without ‘cash’ for a little bit.
With all of the conditions above, you’re better off using the STACK Mastercard. STACK is a prepaid credit card that has no foreign transaction fees of any kind. There’s no forex markup on your purchases and you can even use your card to withdraw money at foreign ATMs with no fees (although the ATM may charge you a one time fee). If you sign up to STACK with my referral link, you’ll get $5 when you activate your card. Note that you must click this link via your mobile device for it to work.
Overall, my CIBC Air Canada Conversion Card review is neutral. I think there are better options out there, but I admit this card will work fine for many people. Read my guides on the best currency exchange options and credit cards without foreign transaction fees now for more details.