CIBC AC Conversion Card Review

The CIBC AC Conversion Card has been around for about a year now 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 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 as of April 13, 2018, you will no longer be 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 in 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.

Final word

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. 

Sign up now for the AC Conversion Card
By |2018-07-24T09:05:02+00:00August 4th, 2017|Credit cards, Personal Finance, Travel, Travel news|

16 Comments

  1. Cristina September 6, 2017 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    I think that’s a fair review. Transaction fees are no fun. I get a lot of benefit from my Amazon Chase Visa which I’m glad to see it’s listed in your other post. It seems to be a better option bc it has no foreign transaction fees, just straight currency exchange. And most places these days take credit now

    • Barry Choi September 6, 2017 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      Cristina,

      With this card, some of the exchange rates can be 5% + which is obviously significantly better 0% that credit cards with no foreign transaction fees offer. Like you, I just charge everything to my Amazon card. The only downside is that the Amazon card is no longer accepting new applications.

  2. Jeff Barnett September 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    This card is a huge disappointment. I just came back from a trip to Ireland and I found this card very frustrating for 54reasons.:1) It really has nothing to do with CIBC because you cannot transfer founds from you CIBC account 2) The ability to transfer funds via Interac is limited – no CIBC and I could not use my local credit union as well. THe only way to load was using a credit card and I got dinged a $7.50 cash advance fee when I used my TD Mastercard 3) THe website is not great because if you try to load money from another credit your name is pre-filled and you cannot change this – on some cards I am Jeff while on others I am Jeffrey 4) I had l left over funds and I thought I could transfer them to CDN dollars on the card to pay for a cab ride form the airport. THe card was declined .
    I would have to say unless they get rid of some of these issues I would recommend staying away from this

    • Barry Choi September 15, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      JEff,

      Those are interesting and fair points. I can see what that would be very frustrating.

  3. Wayne Hollingshead October 20, 2017 at 9:52 am - Reply

    Ordered this card prior to a south east asian trip. Paid for express shipping(3 days) but after 1 week still had not received the card. I called and asked for the card to be cancelled and refund my money because I was leaving in 24 hrs, which I was assured would happen . I haven returned from my 3+ week trip yet no refund yet – it has been over 1 month since they took my money. Multiple emails and calls to CIBC and still no refund. Quick to take your money but dont want to refund it . Typical BIG BANK they dont care about customers

  4. Ryan March 12, 2018 at 10:12 am - Reply

    I’m going to trips in Europe and the US this year. For those trips, do you see any big differences between getting this AC card and getting 2 of the CIBC Smart Prepaid Travel Visa Cards (one EURO and one USD)? Those cost $5.95 each but are integrated into CIBC online banking. Other than that, I haven’t been able to spot much of a difference between the two options.

    • Barry Choi March 12, 2018 at 10:18 am - Reply

      Hi Ryan

      My only concern would be where CIBC pulls their exchange rates for the prepaid travel visa cards. With the AC Conversion card, they have their own rates which is lower compared to what you get if you walked into the branch. Assuming they also use the lower rates, then it probably doesn’t make a difference. That being said, it’s still cheaper to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

  5. Steve W April 7, 2018 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    This is a terrible card!!!!! They fail to let you know that you are only allowed to withdraw 60% of the total amount from what you put in or the card will be locked. Then you will need to have two pieces of ID to prove your identity before they will unlock your account. This is after you contact customer service and provide your security identification. It could take up to 5 business days before your card is unlocked. YAH, they are so helpful and if I put whatever amount onto the card I should be able to withdraw any amount I desire if there is sufficient amount in the account. I find it super ridiculous.

  6. Joyce May 16, 2018 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Barry,

    I have been reading a lot of reviews but still confused over the small details… can you elaborate on why it would be cheaper to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees? I’m unclear on how the exchange rates on the AC card could be more competitive when you say that the foreign transaction fee is already built into the card’s exchange rate.

    And to be clear I would only be paying the 2.5% foreign transaction fee if I use a non-supported currency on the card?

    Thank you so much!

    • Barry Choi May 16, 2018 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Joyce,

      So with the AC conversion card, you load funds onto your card online. However, you pay CIBC’s exchange rates at that time which may be more or less than 2.5%.

      If you were to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, then you just pay the spot rate (as in, no markup).

      And yes, you would pay the 2.5% fee for non supported currencies

      • joyce May 24, 2018 at 8:17 pm - Reply

        Thanks Barry. Do you know if I have to open a CIBC chequing account to use this card?

        • Barry Choi May 24, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

          Hi Joyce,

          As far as I know, you don’t need a CIBC chequing account to use the card.

  7. Gwen Nielsen May 21, 2018 at 11:41 am - Reply

    I find the best bet to get cash when travelling is having a Tangerine or Scotia bank account to access your funds via their international ATM network..which is VERY large..for free transactions. So no nasty multiple international ATM withdrawal fees!!

    • Barry Choi May 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      Gwen,

      Yes, I prefer to just withdraw cash from local ATMs also.

  8. Laura Fedirchuk July 9, 2018 at 7:35 am - Reply

    Really wish I had read these reviews before I ordered this card. After two weeks and paying for express shipping my daughter is overseas without the card and no one knows where the card is. So disappointing.

  9. Peter Muir August 14, 2018 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Be very careful using TD Credit Cards as they consider loading charges a Cash Advances. You will be charged $3.50 per transaction plus interest. There is no information of AC Conversion site.

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