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Buying gas in the US without a ZIP code
October 28, 2013
8:51 am
Rick
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Just did the math and figured by using my Amazon Visa I've saved almost $150.00 in conversion fees, not counting the $40.00 cash they've credited my account in rewards, since I started using it in April. Yes, I live close to the border and we spend a lot in the US. Not proud of it, I'd rater spend the money in Canada, but gas is forty cents a liter cheaper than in BC, milk is half price, dairy a quarter the price, etc. It all adds up and is money in my pocket. Why pay the banks and credit card companies anything for converting your cash to USD??? Even keeping a USD account you get charged a fee for conversion, and it's just another hassle maintaining it. So glad I found this site and the article on no-fee credit cards. As for the zip code... a cashier at K-Mart told me to just put in any 5 numbers, it doesn't really matter. I use the zip for my US post box and have never had a problem.

October 28, 2013
1:14 pm
GS1
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Kanaka and Rick:

I am currently travelling in SouthWest Florida with my BMO US$ Mastercard. (Mine appears to be grand-fathered as it is fee-free and for US$49 I get 1% back.)

On the trip down I-77/I-79/I-95/I-4/I-75 I bought gas at 4 different gas providers. Sheetz in PA. would not take the card at the pump even before asking for a ZIP code, likely due to it being a "Canadian" card. The other three stations (all different brands) either didn't ask for a ZIP code or accepted ###00 as a valid ZIP code (using the numbers from my postal code and appending two 0's.

The most telling use was at the local fitness centre where I registered and the clerk was using Square as a payment authenticator. The clerk asked me for my ZIP code, I squirmed a little and told her ###00 and it worked. I then asked her to start another transaction and use 34104 (a Naples, FL ZIP I happen to know) and it failed.

There is starting to be some consistency but we aren't quite THERE yet.

Before leaving Canada I called BMO and asked about ZIP code handling and was told that they knew ###00 worked many places but weren't "publicizing" it as there was not universal acceptance.

I don't mind having to manage a US$ card or a US$ bank account as I buy US$'s all year to dollar cost average my time in the US. The money I am current spending is in my books at CDN$1.0005 to US$1.00 so I am saving about 6.4 cents (or 6.4%) using today's rate. Between condo rental and normal living expenses here I expect to spend about US$7500 over the three months here.

I did sign up for an Amazon card earlier this year but have yet to use it. I don't like having wait to get to $2000 to then get $20 off Amazon purchases. I may re-consider as time goes by.

GS

October 28, 2013
1:47 pm
Peter
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GS said

I did sign up for an Amazon card earlier this year but have yet to use it. I don't like having wait to get to $2000 to then get $20 off Amazon purchases.

Quick note since I have the Amazon card too -- it's $20 directly off your credit card bill, which is much nicer than getting a credit off Amazon purchases (at least for me, who rarely shops at Amazon).

October 28, 2013
3:42 pm
GS1
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Peter:

Thanks - I need to look more closely at it. I find that while I am in the US I buy a fair bit from Amazon. It is astounding the variety of stuff they sell that I would buy anyway.

Last year I picked up three high end smoke/CO detectors for our home. These are Kidde and wired together so when one goes off they all go off. They have a seven year life and literally will drive you crazy when they reach seven years as they announce their pending demise. At Canadian Tire/Home Depot/Home Hardware near my home they were $79-$99. Ordered them from Amazon.Com and got them for $39.95 each. True, they don't announce in French and English like the old ones but these could be programmed somehow to either announce in English or Spanish. These were shipped from a fulfillment centre in New England and arrived her in two days - free shipping as I was over $25.

I also picked up a motorized three stage knife sharpener that I have been seeing in stores in the Us for around $79 but when I found it at $45 at Amazon.Com that was the tipping point. We now have the sharpest knives on our street - every day!

Amazon.Com just raised their free shipping threshold from $25 to $35. In their annual report they have a line item of $2.9 Billion (yup, with a "B") for shipping expense (difference of what they collect on shipping and what they pay out to ship).

Big news down here is that they also just announced start of construction on two fulfillment centres in Florida. One is for big items, Kayaks and Televisions were mentioned. The second is for the smaller items, books, electronics and consumer goods were mentioned. Once the centres are up and running they project it will create 1000 new jobs.

Amazon is BIG business. I answered a survey last week (another source of my retirement income) that turned out to be for Amazon and was questioning my grocery buying habits and was seeking to learn if I would be comfortable buying grocery over the internet - likely from Amazon.

Greg

October 28, 2013
5:20 pm
Rick
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GS...peter is right....20 bux gets credited to your card balance. If you spent that 7500 on your Amazon.ca visa, you would get $60.00 credited on your bill, and be short of spending another 500 for another 20 credit. I like to think of it as getting a bonus 1% on the exchange rate. You also get a one time credit to use at amazon.ca. I think it was 35 bux. I don't believe you get double points for using it on Amazon.com, just the .ca site. I'm holding on to the US cash I bought above par until the CDN dollar drops below 90 or I retire, whichever comes first. Always nice to have some cash on hand anyway, just in case, you know, the zombie apocalypse thing. Would be interested to know if any other cards can use just any zip.

October 29, 2013
5:54 pm
kanaka
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Rick, GS, Peter

Great information.

I just cancelled my BMO US$ MasterCard. I just cannot see any value to it especially when I have to pay an annual fee of $30. We stopped using it last year when the CDN$ and US$ was so close to PAR. I do use BMO online to convert CDN to US and put it in my US$ account and then I would pay my US$ MasterCard so...I am paying the exchange rate along with a conversion charge (not much different than using a CDN$ credit card in the US and being charged exchange and a conversion fee). Apparently the conversion fee is less if you move funds from and chequing or savings account to the US$ account online or in the branch vs going into a branch and buying direct out of your savings or chequing account. We do a lot of cross border shopping every month and as well have to pay maintenance fees for our Timeshare in US$. So the light finally went on!! As I refuse to pay any fee for banking or a credit card I look at the few thousand I spend every year and look and the conversion charges ...... say $5000 at 2.5% plus a card fee of $30 would be a cost to me of $155.00. So if I had a no conversion fee credit card like Amazon or Sears MasterCard it is $150.00 in my pocket but I would lose on the Cash Back on my Costco American Express for those purchases in the US. Not a big deal but a few small decisions to make to suit your needs makes one think about saving vs being further gouged by the banking system.

So being a long time Sears employee I have a sense of loyalty to keep my "Sears" card vs converting to a "Sears MasterCard". But what the heck......Sears no longer owns the financial end and the benefits of the MasterCard are equal to or better than the Sears card. So next time they ask me to convert....I will be on my way....if not sooner on my accord. That way it will be dual purpose vs the single purpose of the BMO US$ MasterCard.

No doubt the American gas companies and or credit card companies don't want to advertise how OUR work around works just in case it works with an invalid or stolen US credit card. BUT we should be able to purchase gas or what ever in the US using our credit cards without a hitch and it is up to OUR credit card issuers to make it work!!!!

So in summary here is what works according to you folks and BMO.
For example: My old Postal Code in Calgary was T3M 1A1 so I should be able to key in 311 from the postal code plus 00 ... in other words ... 31100

What would be interesting is, would my old postal code work? Or does it have to be my current one?

Regards Peter

And thanks everyone....another easy way to save!!!

ps. Are there any stats out there showing what the conversion fee is by credit card issuer?

October 30, 2013
6:25 am
GS1
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I suspect any postal code/ZIP code conversion would work at some stations.
I know it doesn't work at all stations.
I know many stations are not using any ZIP code validation.
I continue to seek gas pumps right up near the cashier in case I do need to do the two or three trip validation.
I believe most card companies are charging a 2.75% premium over the daily US$ exchange rate.

My wife likes to buy stuff and return it a day or two later when she decides she doesn't need/want/deserve it. Our card was being charged, say, US$100 x (105%[buying rate]+2.75%) or CDN$107.75. then when it went back and the exchange rate was exactly the same (which seldom happens) we were being credited -US$100 x (102.5%[selling rate]+2.75% or CDN$105.25 for a loss of $2.50 or 2.5%.

Putting everything on the US$ card allows her to take EVERYTHING back without me losing my sanity and allows us both to know what we are actually paying with pre-purchased funds.

GS

October 30, 2013
9:25 pm
kanaka
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Just to set the records straight, during the online process of cancelling my US$ BMO MasterCard I found that there is NO fee to convert Canadian money to US money from your chequing account to your US dollar account just the exchange rate.
So using the US $ MasterCard to buy, return etc. will not cost you for any differences in the exchange rate or conversion fees on each transaction.

Regards Peter

January 16, 2014
5:44 pm
pogoj
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I am currently on my annual winter trip to warmer climes and can report that the postal code approach (###00) has worked using my BNS Visa card at every US gas station that has asked for zip code verification.

February 7, 2014
7:58 pm
Peter
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I just tried the ###00 zip code trick at Chevron in the US -- it worked with an Amex card but not with the Amazon Visa.

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