Canadian Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee

The Foreign Transaction Fee is the charge applied to your credit card when paying for a service or product in a foreign (non-local) currency. 

The currency in Canada is the Canadian Dollar. If you pay for something in a different currency; let’s say US Dollars, Euros, Pound Sterling, etc., then you might get charged with a Foreign Transaction Fee.

The Foreign Transaction Fee is apparently a big business for banks and other credit cards issuers in Canada. They charge a 2.5% of the amount spent that is NOT in Canadian Dollars. So, be advised that if you pay in US Dollars, Euros, or any other currency that’s not the Canadian currency, then you‘ll get busted with the 2.5% Foreign Transaction Fee.

As far as I know, to this date, the only issuer of credits cards in Canada that do NOT charge a Foreign Transaction Fee is Chase. Chase is an American bank authorized to conduct businesses in Canada.

Chase offers various credit cards with No Foreign Currency Transaction Fee. These are some examples:
  • Rewards Visa Card
  • Sears Financial™ MasterCard®
  • Marriott Rewards® Premier Visa® Card
  • Sears Financial™ Voyage™ MasterCard®

For the more information about the cards provided by Chase visit: Chase for Canadian customers.

I got myself an Rewards Visa Card. In the details of the card you can read:

Foreign Currency Conversion: We will bill you in Canadian Currency if you use your account to make a transaction in foreign currency. We will convert it into Canadian currency at the exchange rate set by Visa International in effect at the time we post the transaction to your account. This exchange rate may be different from the rate in effect on the transaction date. We will not charge you any additional foreign currency conversion charge.

This is the card I use whenever I pay for something in non-Canadian dollars; thus avoiding the sneaky Foreign Transaction Fee. You can do the same and save yourself a few bucks ;-)

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How to buy prescription drugs in Canada prescribed by an international licensed physician

My grandfather who lives in Cuba has Alzheimer. His treatment requires Donepezil, a prescription drug almost impossible to acquire in Cuba.

I live in Canada; and I put myself to the task of acquiring this medicine for him. The main issue is that Canadian pharmacies require a medical prescription in order to dispense Donepezil. So, I asked my family in Cuba to email me a scanned copy of my grandfather Donepezil’s prescription.

After this, I went online and found; which is an online Canadian pharmacy. This pharmacy is accredited by BBB, CIPA,, MIPA and These accreditations give credibility; letting you know that this pharmacy is legal and not another Internet fraud.

I registered online with and placed an order of Donepezil. I paid with Credit Card, but there are other methods of payment from which you can choose.

After I placed my order, I had to email them my grandfather’s prescription. accepts prescriptions written by international licensed physicians, preferably in English or Spanish, but they can also translate prescriptions from most other languages.

To be considered valid all prescriptions must contain the following (I know this because I asked them by email prior to placing my order):
  • Prescribing doctor's contact information (i.e. doctor’s first and last name, clinic name and address, fax number, phone number and email address if possible)
  • Patient's name
  • Date prescription was written
  • Medication name
  • Strength
  • Directions for use
  • Dispensing amount
  • Refills
  • Doctor's signature will run some validation on the information provided and if all is ok, then the prescription drug will be mailed to you by postal mail. It took me around a week to get the Donepezil pills that I bought for my grandpa.

I am really glad with the service provided by I have placed only one order with them so far, but the purchase process was straightforward and clean. I am planning on refilling my grandpa’s Donepezil pills with in the near future. has also a Referral Reward Program in place. This program seeks to spread the word about the services provided by by giving money incentives to their customers.

What’s in it for me? If I refer you, I will get 5% of the value of every single order that you place.

What’s in it for you? You will get a 25% discount on your first purchase if you are referred by an active customer of  

Let me say it in a different way, if you are not referred, you will have to pay 100% of the price of you first order; but if you are referred by an active customer, you will get a 25% discount; that is, you will be paying only 75% of the original price.

I am an active customer of; so, I can refer you. Yes, I am making a few bucks if I refer you, but please, note that I am a serious person and I wouldn’t recommend a crappy service just to earn a few dollars.

If you want to place an order through and you want to save 25% on your first order; then register yourself online by filling this online form

At the end of that form, you will notice that the Referrer's Name is pre-filled with Roberto Osvaldo Alvarez Arias (that’s the name of my grandpa) and the Referrer's Referral Number is pre-filled with 2830871. You must leave that information right there, if you want to be referred by me, hence getting a 25% discount on your first purchase.

Once you have completed your first purchase; you can also refer your friends, family and whoever might be interested in buying through This will reward you with some referral money and also, it will help the people you refer to get a 25% discount on their first purchase.

Finally, I want to stress the fact that I recommend because of the quality and seriousness of their business. I am not doing this just to earn the referral money. The referral money is a nice perk, but the real value is in the simplicity and transparency of buying medicine through

How to open a checking account at Tangerine?

Everything at Tangerine is done online… opening a checking account is no different: you can do it in 10 minutes (at the most) from the comfort of your home computer while you are in your pajamas. What I have found so far about Tangerine (formerly ING DIRECT) is that all procedures can be done with an extreme simplicity and from the comfort of your home.

Tangerine calls its checking account: Tangerine Checking Account. It was called THRiVE Chequing Account in the times when the bank was called  ING DIRECT.

Most checking accounts in Canadian banking institutions charge you a monthly fee. This is ridiculous if you ask me: banks are profiting from our own money, but that’s not enough for them: they still charge us a monthly fee for having our own money within their grasp, money from which they are profiting already.

This is what a Tangerine Checking Account has to offer:
  • NO MONTHLY FEES. Ask yourself if your current bank charges you a monthly fee and ask yourself if you should be paying for it?
  • Unlimited transitions: once again, you can perform unlimited transitions at Tangerine for free.
  • Earn interest on the money you put on your Tangerine Checking Account (yes, you heard well: this is a checking account that pays interest, just as saving accounts do).
I am not going to load you with more details…if you want to know more about the benefits of opening a Tangerine Checking Account come here:

Now, in order to open a Tangerine Checking Account you have to do only TWO things:
  1. Complete an online form that won’t take you more than 10 minutes. I am not exaggerating: this form won’t take you more than 10 minutes to fill. In order to fill the form click here: Open a new Tangerine Checking Account.
  2. Write your initial deposit cheque (payable to yourself) for at least $250, and mail it to Tangerine Bank, 3389 Steeles Avenue East, Toronto, Ontario, M2H 3S8. Note: all new clients of Tangerine opening accounts for at least $250 bucks get a $50 bonus. What does this means? It means that you open your account with $250, but you are credited with $300; so Tangerine welcomes you with $50 bucks.
That’s all: by completing the two steps above you will open a Tangerine Checking Account, that will treat you with unlimited transactions, no monthly fees, saving interests and a $50 bucks welcome gift.

If you have any questions, drop a line in the comments section below. I’ll do my best to answer.

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HMAC functions in Delphi (HMAC_SHA256, HMAC_SHA1)

I came across HMAC (Hash-based message authentication code) functions when developing a RESTful client application in Delphi. The RESTful Web Service API required me to send HMAC_SHA256 signatures (Base64 encoded) with each HTTP request.

HMAC functions take two parameters: a key and a message. The purpose of the HMAC function is to authenticate the message and guarantee the data integrity of the message.

The cryptographic strength of the HMAC function lies on the underlying hashing function that it uses: MD5, SHA1, SHA256, etc.

So, these functions are usually are termed HMAC_SHA256, HMAC_SHA1, HMAC_MD5 to connote the core hashing function being used.

The outcome of a HMAC function is basically an array of bytes, but it is usually represented as a hexadecimal string or encoded as a Base64 string. (The RESTful Web Service API needed the Base64 encoded output).

I Googled around for a bit, but I didn’t get a clean implementation of HMAC_SHA256 in Delphi (encoded as Base64). I glued together the pieces from some questions on StackOverflow and coded an Indy based implementation that uses generics to specify the core hashing function.

Brief description: I created a helper class called THMACUtils. Note that this class uses generics to indicate the hashing algorithm (TIdHMACSHA256, TIdHMACSHA1). Three functions are provided:  the main thing happens in the HMAC(...) function; HMAC_HexStr(...) and HMAC_Base64(...) are simply decorations of the output.

unit HMAC;



  THMACUtils<T: TIdHMAC, constructor> = class
    class function HMAC(aKey, aMessage: RawByteString): TBytes;
    class function HMAC_HexStr(aKey, aMessage: RawByteString): RawByteString;
    class function HMAC_Base64(aKey, aMessage: RawByteString): RawByteString;


class function THMACUtils<T>.HMAC(aKey, aMessage: RawByteString): TBytes;
  _HMAC: T;
  if not IdSSLOpenSSL.LoadOpenSSLLibrary then Exit;
  _HMAC:= T.Create;
    _HMAC.Key := BytesOf(aKey);
    Result:= _HMAC.HashValue(BytesOf(aMessage));

class function THMACUtils<T>.HMAC_HexStr(aKey, aMessage: RawByteString): RawByteString;
  I: Byte;
  Result:= '0x';
  for I in HMAC(aKey, aMessage) do
    Result:= Result + IntToHex(I, 2);

class function THMACUtils<T>.HMAC_Base64(aKey, aMessage: RawByteString): RawByteString;
  _HMAC: TBytes;
  _HMAC:= HMAC(aKey, aMessage);
  Result:= EncodeBase64(_HMAC, Length(_HMAC));


Below there’s an example of how to use the THMACUtils class.

program HMACSample;


{$R *.res}


    Write('HMAC_SHA1("key", "message")'#9#9'= ');
    Writeln(THMACUtils<TIdHMACSHA1>.HMAC_HexStr('key', 'message' ));

    Write('HMAC_SHA256("key", "message")'#9#9'= ');
    Writeln(THMACUtils<TIdHMACSHA256>.HMAC_HexStr('key', 'message' ));

    Write('HMAC_SHA1_Base64("key", "message")'#9'= ');
    Writeln(THMACUtils<TIdHMACSHA1>.HMAC_Base64('key', 'message' ));

    Write('HMAC_SHA256_Base64("key", "message")'#9'= ');
    Writeln(THMACUtils<TIdHMACSHA256>.HMAC_Base64('key', 'message' ));


    on E: Exception do
      Writeln(E.ClassName, ': ', E.Message);

The console application above looks like this:

HMAC Sample Application Delphi
HMAC Sample Application Delphi

How to obtain an “Option C Printout” for the most recent taxation year?

When you are sponsoring a family member to come to Canada, you are required to provide an Option C Printout of your last Notice of Assessment for the most recent taxation year.

An Option C Printout is not a Notice of Assessment. An Option C Printout is a document that summarizes your income and deductions for a particular taxation year.

How to obtain an Option C Printout?

Call Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) at this number: 1 (800) 959-8281. Sometimes the number is busy; in which case try again a few minutes later until you get connected.

You will be listening to an interactive recorded message; hence, a computer will be doing the talking...

Listen carefully and select the option that allows you to get the Option C Printout.

You will need to type these three pieces of information over the phone:
  1. Social Insurance Number. 
  2. Date of Birth.
  3. Amount of Income you reported on Line 150 of your most recent taxation year.
Make sure you have the information above otherwise the computer won’t be able to authenticate you.

Once you finally enter the info, the automatic system (computer) will tell you that you have succeeded, in which case the Option C Printout will be mailed by postal mail to the address you have on record with the CRA.

For instructions about how to update (change) your address with the CRA refer to the following link:

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Coin collection - 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (year 2013)

I got the 14k Gold Coin as a wedding gift from a friend. I loved that coin immediately. Later on I bought the remaining silver coins in this collection from the Royal Canadian Mint. I must say the quality of the images below is not really good. The real coins are impeccably beautiful.

Coins from left to right, top to bottom:
  • Brilliant Fine Silver Dollar  (Mintage: 02610/20000 )
  • 14k Gold Coin (Mintage: 0218/2500)
  • Proof Fine Silver Dollar (Mintage: 12866/40000)
  • Fine Silver Proof Set (Mintage: 21285/25000)
Coin collection - 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (year 2013) - [Reverse]
Coin collection - 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (year 2013) - [Reverse]

Coin collection - 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (year 2013) - [Obverse]
Coin collection - 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (year 2013) - [Obverse]

The Canadian Arctic  Expedition 1913-1916

On the antique celluloid, the light flickers. Sled dogs move silently across the Arctic tundra. A man perched on an ice floe surveys the horizon as teams of men and dogs prepare for ice-bound travel behind him. In the distance snow-capped mountains rise into the sky like jagged shards of ice.

In grainy photos, men stand alongside makeshift fences, before shelters made of skins and furs, in open ice fields, atop sleds packed with gear. Some smile; others stare silently into the lens, arms crossed, thoughts unfathomable.

These are only a few of the approximately 4,000 photographs and more than 2,700 metres of film capturing one of the twentieth century’s most exciting moments in exploration: the Canadian Arctic  Expedition.

In 1913, Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden commissioned an expedition, led by Manitoba-born ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson, to explore and map the western Canadian Arctic. Stefansson and zoologist Rudolph Anderson had travelled through the Far North the previous decade. Knowing that there was a great deal of unexplored potential in the region, Stefansson planned to continue his earlier journey, but the Government of Canada, recognizing the importance of new sovereign territory, hosted the Expedition and broadened its mission significantly. A Northern Party led by Stefansson would undertake the mapping exercise while a Southern Party led by Anderson would explorer the geology, resources, and native inhabitants of the northern mainland.

Traveling by sea and despite significant hardships, the Northern Party covered thousands of kilometres, mapping land that even the local inhabitants had never seen. The Northern Party discovered four new islands and proved that some of the geography proposed by nineteenth century expeditions was erroneous.

The Southern Party completed the full mapping of the mainland and produced 14 volumes of scientific data as well as thousands of specimens and artefacts, opening up a new world of wonder for Canadians. Their findings included information about flora and fauna never before recorded, fossil samples, and more. Their cultural research familiarized the world for the first time with the culture and way of life of the Copper Inuit and the aboriginal peoples of the Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, Alaska and Siberia. From these Aboriginal peoples – some of whom participated in the Expedition as guides and other assistants- they collected artistic artefacts, tools, knowledge, and thousands of photographs as well as extensive film footage.

The Expedition’s artefacts, photos, and recordings enabled researchers to introduce to the rest of the world cultures that had been virtually inaccessible until that time. The artefacts have also had a broad educational legacy, forming the basis of numerous educational programs and museum exhibits, and are an important pillar of the permanent National collections of the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

14k Gold Coin - 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition

This 100-dollar coin is certified to be 14-karat gold with a metal content of 12 grams and a diameter of 27 millimetres. In this design, Canadian artist Bonnie Ross depicts several key images representative of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, including a survey team atop an ice floe taking research measurements and, in the background a stylized map of the Canadian Arctic. The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.

Brilliant Fine Silver Dollar / Proof Fine Silver Dollar - 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition

Both the brilliant uncirculated  silver dollar and the proof silver dollar in this collection  are certified to be 99.99% pure silver with a diameter of 36.07 millimetres and a weight of 23.17 grams. Designated by Canadian artist Bonnie Ross, the reverse image draws on photography from the Canadian Arctic Expedition, depicting a group of three men aboard  a dogsled, the waiting dog team before them listening for the command to move across the Arctic tundra. The skyline and horizon behind this portrait are filled with a stylized image of a compass. The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susana Blunt.

Fine Silver Proof Set - 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition

This is the 2013 fine silver proof set of Canadian coinage. This is the only set that features the commemorative silver dollar selectively gold-plated and the gold-plated one-dollar coin depicting the common loon.

The chart below shows the characteristics of each coin in the 2013 Fine Silver Proof Set of Canadian Coinage.

Characteristics of each coin in the 2013 Fine Silver Proof Set of Canadian Coinage

Economical phone calls to Cuba

I am a Cuban immigrant living in Toronto, Canada. The most cost-effective option that I have found so far to call my family and friends in the island is Rebtel.

Your first call with Rebtel is free: once you register an account you will be given a 3 minutes free phone call. You can use these 3 minutes to call anywhere in the world for free. I used mine to call to Cuba, but you can use them to call to any international destination, including Cuba, of course.

This free call will allow you to test the quality of the service without spending any money. You are not required to enter any credit card information in order to get your 3 free minutes. So, free is free, with no compromises.

Rebtel calls to Cuba have a decent quality. It’s unusual to hear noise, broken speech or other undesirable artifacts during the call.

What about the paid calls?

Once you have exhausted your initial 3 minutes (the free ones), then you will have to pay for further calls to Cuba.

There are several options to choose from:
  • Pay as you go: this option allows you to call to mobile (cell) phones at a rate of 79.9¢ /min and fixed (land) phones at a rate of 74.9¢ /min. I really don’t use this option since it’s too expensive.
  • Cuba - Big Saver 50 minutes - 30 days: this option will allow you to buy 50 minutes for $29.90. Make the math: the rate will be 59.8¢/min. The catch here is that you will have to use these minutes within one month (30 days) of the purchase. This option is better in price, but still it is not the one I use.
  • Cuba - Max Saver 50 minutes - 7 days: this option will allow you to buy 50 minutes for $24.90. This is the best rate you will get, as low as 49.8¢/min. The only problem is that you have to consume all the minutes within one week (7 days) of the purchase. This is the option I personally use.
Choose the option that suits you best depending on how often you call to Cuba, and how long your calls are. One tip, you could buy a 50 minutes package with a friend and then split the minutes and the cost. This way you and your friend will get 25 minutes for half the price. Get it?

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