Canadian currency comes into Havre - where does it go?
Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson
Havre Area Chamber of Commerce's incoming President Chandra Moomey welcomes people to the Chamber's 103rd Annual Meeting Wednesday afternoon in the Duck Inn Olympic Room.
With an increase in Canadian money coming into north-central Montana, the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce took the opportunity during its annual meeting Wednesday to tell local merchants about how to accept Canadian credit and debit cards and what happens with Canadian currency once it gets here.
Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Chamber, said the area has a long history of economic ties to Canada, and recollected street dances during Canadian Days in Havre, with flags and banners hung throughout the community.
She noted that, with an increasing number of Canadians shopping in the area, the fact that few visitors from north of the border like to use credit cards, preferring debit cards or currency, can cause challenges.
Vandeberg said that seeing a Havre merchant processing a Canadian debit card inspired her to contact Mike Peterson of Frontline Processing in Bozeman, and she asked him to talk at the Chamber's annual meeting in Havre.
Peterson said that, as long as a Canadian debit card is marked with Visa or Mastercard, there is no problem in his business processing the transaction.
"It's very simple. If it has a Master Card, Visa logo on it, you can take it,... swipe it, we'll process it for you, and we'll fund you guys. "
If the card does not have those logos, "we're kind of at a loss — we can't really help. Not just us, not any processor, " he said.
Peterson said some issues can cause minor problems, such as address and zip code differences, which usually can be corrected by a telephone call to the processor.
It also can create problems if the transaction using a Canadian card is done via telphone or the Internet, Peterson said.
The transaction takes no extra work as far as the exchange rate. Peterson said the charge, in U. S. dollars, is paid in the exact amount in U. S. dollars. The exchange is made by the Canadian card issuer when in processes the transaction.
Mark Antonic of Independence Bank also told the merchants about what happens to Canadian currency when it is used in the area.
Before the terrororist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, banks in the Havre area accepted the money, and exchanged it at the Federal Reserve bank in Helena.
During consolidation of the Federal Reserve, the agency noticed that the Helena branch was the only one doing that, and the process was stopped, Antonich said.
Antonich said that now, banks have to take the currency to a third-party exchange that handles foreign currency.
The bank never knows what it will be paid for the Canadian money until it arrives at the exchange — it constantly changes, Antonich said.
While the bank charges a 5 percent discount on the Canadian money it takes in to make up for the cost and rate at the exchange, that rarely covers expenses, he said.
"Sometimes we gain, sometimes we lose, " Antonich said. "Some years we might make a thousand dollars. This year was not one of them. "