DUTY FREE ALLOWANCES

If you’re crossing a border you can shop at a Duty Free store. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away or how long you’re planning to stay. If you’re Canadian or American (or International), you can shop before you enter the U.S., before you enter Canada or both. Of course, we’d prefer you plan to stop at our Store on the way into the U.S. but if it doesn’t make sense for you this trip, well that’s okay, please come see us again soon.

HOW DOES DUTY FREE WORK

The Duty Free Program was set up by the U.S. and Canadian governments to make shopping convenient for travellers, create additional jobs and to further bolster the countries’ economies. Typically, Duty Free Shops sell great brands at a significant savings vs. regular retailers, offer a selection of unique or hard to find products and provide great service at a convenient location. All Duty Free shops were not created equal and have different ownership so you may find some (vast) differences.

Read about us!

How much you can buy tax and Duty Free depends on how long you’ve been away. The allowances are clearly laid out throughout our store and on our website, but you can also ask our staff if you’re not sure – they’re always happy to help.

CANADIAN ALLOWANCES & REGULATIONS

Travelling into the U.S.

Any length trip:

  • 1 litre of alcohol (must be 21 years old)
  • 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars (non-Cuban) OR 2kg of fine cut tobacco

Returning to Canada

24-48 hours in the U.S.:

  • $200 CAD worth of goods per person
  • Excludes alcohol and tobacco - these are subject to duties and taxes

48+ hours in the U.S.:

  • $800 CAD worth of goods per person
  • 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of liquor OR 1 case of beer (24x355ml cans/bottles) OR 1.5 litres of wine
  • Plus 200 cigarettes (1 carton); 50 cigars; 200 tobacco sticks and 200 grams of manufactured tobacco

 

John and Judy are heading to Buffalo for the night to shop and have dinner. Can they shop at the Duty Free before entering the U.S.?

Yes they can. Any purchases may be subject to tax & duty upon returning to Canada just like any purchase at a U.S. retail store. They should only purchase alcohol and tobacco they plan to consume in the U.S. (or gift to someone in the U.S.) to avoid paying high tax & duty upon returning to Canada.

Sally, Natasha and Jules are headed to New York for a week to meet up with friends. They want to pick up gifts for their friends and liquor for the party. Can they purchase gifts and liquor at the Duty Free before entering the U.S.?

They can purchase both. They can buy 1L of alcohol each tax & duty free and can purchase more if they’re ok with the possibility of being asked by U.S. Customs to pay a very small amount of tax & duty on any excess purchases – see above. They can return to the U.S. with up to $200 each tax & duty free.

Short Video explaining Duty Free Allowances for Canadians

 

 

 

AMERICAN ALLOWANCES & REGULATIONS

Returning to the U.S.

Less than 48 hours in Canada:

  • $200 USD worth of goods per person, tax and duty free
  • Any purchase of alcohol or tobacco products may be subject to duties and taxes

48+ hours in Canada:

  • $800 USD worth of goods per person, tax and duty free
  • Purchases may include 1 litre of alcohol, 200 cigarettes (1 carton), and 100 cigars
  • Family members can combine their tax and duty allowances

 

Bonnie and Sherry went to see a play in Toronto for the day and are on their way home to Rochester. Can they stop and shop?

They can return to the U.S. with up to $200 each tax & duty free. If they want to purchase alcohol and/or tobacco they can but may have to pay a very small amount of tax & duty if U.S. Customs asks them to – see above.

Amy, Mark and Tim are heading back to Niagara Falls, NY after having spent a few days in Toronto watching a concert and sightseeing. Can they buy Duty Free on their way home?

Each person can return to the U.S. with up to $800 tax & duty free including alcohol and tobacco. They may also purchase in excess of their allowance which U.S. Customs may ask them to pay a small amount of tax & duty on. Many people do because even with the small amount of tax & duty there is a considerable savings.

Short Video explaining Duty Free Allowances for Americans

 

 

WHAT IF YOU EXCEED YOUR ALLOWANCE (CANADIAN'S OR AMERICAN'S)

Tax and duty rates entering the U.S.

The following duty rates may apply to purchases in excess of your allowance:

Liquor - $2 to $2 USD per bottle*
Beer - $1.90 USD per case*
Tobacco - $10.07 USD per carton*

*Duty rates are approximate and are assessed according to alcohol content. 

Tax and duty rates entering Canada

You may return to Canada with amounts of excess of your allowance. However duty and taxes on excess alcohol and tobacco are considerable and it may not be advantageous to do so. If you'd still like to know the duty and taxes when returning to Canada, please contact us.

Click here to download the Duty Free Regulations & Allowances sheet.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

1. Why should I take the Queenston Lewiston Bridge to the U.S.?

The Queenston-Lewiston bridge via HWY 405 is the first entry point into the U.S. in the Niagara Region. It is the most direct link to the I-90 East to cities such as Rochester, Syracuse and other popular travel destinations on the East Coast like Boston and New York. The bridge has five lanes to accommodate traffic during peak travel periods and accounts for approximately 30% of the total Niagara Region cross border traffic.

2. Why should I shop at a Duty Free store?

You can save money on some of the best brands and most-sought after products in the world! International travellers have been taking advantage of Duty Free shopping ever since the first store opened in 1947 at the Shannon Airport in Ireland. Duty Free stores are exempt from having to charge sales tax and duties, which means our customers can save up to 60% compared to regular retail prices. We regularly stock a wide range of products including liquor, fragrances, confectionary, jewellery and accessories.

3. Can I shop at the Duty Free store on the Canadian side of the border before I enter into the U.S.?

Yes, you can!

Whether you’re on a day trip or staying for multiple days, you can buy products at a Duty Free store. What and how much you should buy depends on how long you’ve been in Canada or how long you’re staying in the U.S. Many of our more informed customers buy products at the Duty Free on the Canadian side of the border and bring them back home to Canada, to avoid making an additional stop and to take advantage of deals that may not be available at U.S. Duty Free stores.

4. What is the difference between the Duty Free store before I enter into the U.S. and the Duty Free store before I return to Canada?

At most border crossings, the main difference is the Duty Free store entering the U.S. has more variety of products in most categories. The stores are often larger and offer more services than the American Duty Free stores. Additionally, there is a larger range and variety of Canadian content including confectionary, wines and souvenirs.

5. What can I buy at the Duty Free on the Canadian side of the border before entering into the U.S.?

This is often an area of confusion for customers. To help you understand better you can visit our Duty Free Allowances page where you can view and print a copy of the allowances, watch a short video, call us with any questions and also read our allowance signs and flyers at the store.

6. Am I allowed to buy more than my personal Duty Free allowance for alcohol, tobacco and the value of goods?

Yes, you can!

Canada and U.S. Customs allow travellers to cross with amounts limited to personal consumption and do not stipulate exact quantities in this regard. You are subject to additional duties and taxes on excess purchases.

7. When do I claim the goods I bought at your Canadian Duty Free store? U.S. or Canadian Customs?

  • You must always claim goods purchased at Duty Free stores with the customs officer. Failure to do so could result in seizure/forfeiture of goods or worse.
  • At primary inspection (your first encounter with customs) they will determine whether you will have to pay duties and/or taxes or you can proceed with entry into the U.S. or Canada.

8. Why should I get out of line to shop at the Duty Free if there is a traffic back-up?

If you’re in line and have a chance to stop at a Canadian Duty Free, odds are it will take you a while (30 to 60 minutes) to get to U.S. Customs. Since you’re facing an extended wait, why not stop in, use the clean restrooms, grab a snack and take advantage of great savings.

9. I’m flying from Buffalo Airport. Can I still stop at your Duty Free Store?

Yes, you can!

We’ll even give you bubble wrap to make sure nothing happens to that precious cargo you purchased.

1. Will I be charged roaming fees while travelling in the U.S.?

  • Unless your plan covers them, you will be billed roaming charges
  • Contact your carrier to find out what roaming charges will be applicable when travelling abroad
  • Some carriers offer travel packages and you can also buy a travel package from third party carriers
  • Read the fine print

2. Should I purchase travel insurance?

  • If you are travelling in a personal vehicle, buying travel insurance is a personal choice.
  • If you are part of a tour group, you may want to consider travel insurance if the tour company doesn’t already offer protection.

3. Should I purchase medical insurance?

It’s smart to assume your Canadian Government Health Care Plan is not valid abroad. If it is, only a small portion of medical expenses are likely covered. It is recommended that you purchase additional insurance for your trip to the U.S.

For additional information please visit: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/documents/travel-insurance

4. What am I allowed to Cross the Border with?

Food

  • Travellers to the U.S. must declare all food, plants and animals. This includes fruit, vegetables, snacks and beverages.
  • Food prepared at home is exempt. However, to avoid any issues it is a good idea to declare all food items. If the value of food is above your allowance you may be required to pay duty.
  • read more

Firearms

Prescription Medicine

You can bring your prescription medicine and should be mindful of the following guidelines:

  • Keep medicine in the original container with an identification label
  • If possible, carry a copy of the prescription. This may also be helpful if you lose your medicine abroad and need a replacement
  • You should always check to ensure your medication is legal (type and quantity) in the county you will be entering
  • For more information please visit: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/medication

Animals

You can bring Pets into the U.S. and should have the proper vaccination documentation. U.S. CBP and Canada Customs have the right to ask for an independent Veterinarian Inspection should they suspect your pet has an illness.

For all other animals and further information please visit:

Money

  • You can import up to $10,000USD without declaring it to Canada Customs and U.S. CBP. You may import more, but must declare the entire amount.
  • For more information please visit: cbsa.gc.ca or help.cbp.gov

5. How much duty will I be charged on purchases over my Duty Free Allowance Limit

6. How to Maximize your Personal Exemption

Since you are limited to what you can return to Canada or the U.S. with, there is some strategy involved to maximize your personal allowance. It makes sense to purchase items that have a maximum amount of savings vs. the same item at home. For instance, some products with the largest gap in Canadian prices vs. U.S. prices are baby items, footwear, hardware and alcohol so if you have to decide which items to purchase focus on these items that save you the most money.

(Government documents are updated regularly so please check back prior to each trip to ensure you have the most relevant information)

1. What documents do I need to cross into the U.S.?

You need ONE of the following documents to cross into the U.S.

  • Passport
  • NEXUS
  • Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) - will vary by state or province
  • U.S. Passport Card - Issued by U.S. Department of State

For more information please visit: http://getyouhome.gov/html/lang_can/index.html

2. What documents do I need to cross into Canada?

You need ONE of the following documents to cross into Canada

  • Passport (recommended)
  • NEXUS (recommended)
  • Birth certificate
  • Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization
  • U.S. Permanent Resident Card
  • Certificate of Indian Status along with photo identification

For more information please visit: http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/

3. Do Canadian children need Passports?

  • Canadians 15 years old and under can enter the U.S. with an original (or a photocopy) of a birth certificate, or an original citizenship card.
  • Canadians 16 years old and over will require a passport, NEXUS pass, FAST pass, enhanced driver’s licence (EDL) or enhanced identification card (EIC).

4. How do I apply for a Passport?

For more information please visit your respective Country’s page:
Passport Canada - http://www.ppt.gc.ca/
US - http://www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/english.html

5. How do I apply for NEXUS?

If you cross the border often and/or fly international often it may make sense for you to apply for a NEXUS card which will help expedite your travel.

For more information please visit: http://goo.gl/lBYa or http://goo.gl/pxvQY

6. Can I use NEXUS lane if I have alcohol or tobacco?

You are permitted to use the Nexus lane provided the alcohol you possess is within your personal allowance and the tobacco products are marked “Canada-Duty Paid”.

Canadians - What are the dos and don’ts of money exchange and payments in the U.S.?

Exchanging Funds

  • You will save more by converting your Canadian dollars (CAD) to American dollars (USD) before you leave Canada vs. exchanging it at a bank, hotel or currency exchange kiosk in the U.S.. American Banks don’t hold or handle foreign currency as regularly as Canadian banks and Exchange Firms resulting in higher exchange fees and costs.

U.S. ATM

  • You will be charged approximately $3 per transaction by your bank, a fee by the ATM Operator and an exchange rate which is typically uncompetitive. This is an expensive option and should be avoided.

ATM Cards

  • The amount of your purchase is debited immediately from your account at the U.S.-Canadian exchange rate in effect that day. There is also an additional fee depending on your bank and/or plan and could be between $1 and $2.50 per $100. This is an expensive option and should be avoided.

Credit Cards

  • When you use a Canadian Credit Card in the U.S., your purchases are converted at your Banks exchange rate of the day. This is typically a fair exchange rate and is a good option.

Americans - What are the dos and don’ts of money exchange and payments in the Canada?

Exchanging Funds

  • Since U.S. funds are exchanged so readily and in large quantities by Canadian Banks and Exchange Firms it is cost effective for you to exchange your USD to CAD in Canada. Please stop in at the Exchange House on the Canadian side of the Queenston-Lewiston bridge on your way into Canada to exchange your USD for CAD.
  • Prior to returning to the U.S. you can stop at the Queenston-Lewiston Duty Free and either use your remaining CAD for purchases or exchange it back to USD.

Canadian ATM

  • You will be charged a fee by the ATM Operator along with the exchange rate set by the ATM Operator and a fee by your bank. This is an expensive option and should be avoided.

ATM Cards

  • The amount of your purchase is debited immediately from your account at the Canadian-U.S. exchange rate in effect that day. There is also an additional fee depending on your bank and/or plan. This is an expensive option and should be avoided.

Credit Cards

  • When you use a U.S. Credit Card in Canada, your purchases are converted at your banks exchange rate of the day. This is typically a fair exchange rate and is a good option.

Recommendation
It is recommended you carry a minimum amount of CAD for smaller purchases and emergencies. Cash is still a hassle free form of payment where ever you travel. For mid to larger purchases, Credit Cards are also a good option.