Border Agents Prepare for Black Friday Canadian Shoppers

BERLIN - NOVEMBER 22: A woman carries shopping bags through a shopping mall on November 22, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. German retailers are hoping for a strong Christmas season on the heels of a robust German economic turnaround following the financial crisis of 2009. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As Americans get ready to invade retail stores for what’s known as Black Friday, Canadians are also venturing south of the border to take advantage of the amazing in-store deals.

Black Friday, for those not in the know, is America’s biggest shopping day of the year, immediately following U.S. Thanksgiving on Thursday. Comparable to our Boxing Day on December 26, Black Friday is the day shoppers turn off that mechanism in their brain that tells them they really don’t need that particular item, but they’ll buy it anyway because the price is too good to pass up.

The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) expects an influx of Canadians, particularly Manitobans, to swipe their credit cards down south and is preparing for an increase in vehicle traffic.

“The CBSA is expecting higher than normal traffic this weekend, potentially up 40% from last year,” said communications officer Sean Best. “This weekend as well as the weekends leading up to the Christmas holidays usually means longer lines at the border. Be sure to add extra time to your travel itinerary and be prepared when you arrive at the border.”

Besides preparing for longer wait times, the CBSA also says to know the value of the items you’re bringing back into the country, and don’t be surprised if you have to pay duty on them.

Canadians who stay in the U.S. for 48 hours are allowed $400 CDN in duty and tax free items. Twenty-four hours will allow you $50 and seven days brings your exemption level up to $750. There are no exemptions for same day travel.

Goods made in Mexico, the U.S and Canada are duty free — but you must ensure that the goods were actually made in these countries, so check the labels carefully. Applicable provincial and federal taxes still apply to duty-free goods.

To help speed up your time at the border, the CBSA reminds travellers to have their receipts readily available, as well as the final total of how much they’ve spent in Canadian finds. Showing your hotel receipt may also be needed to verify the length of your stay outside Canada, but mostly this last part of information is tracked when American officials key in your licence plate number on the way down, which is then shared with Canadian border agents.

Similar to the lineups seen at the border during the May long weekend, it’s best to check wait times before you return. It may be worth your while to stay a few extra hours to avoid the traffic, or leave earlier to get a head start. Wait times are updated hourly at and on Twitter (Emerson crossing). If you’re not crossing at Emerson, a number of other Twitter feeds are available for your designated point of re-entry. Wait times going down at the Pembina, ND crossing are also available.

With many North Dakota retailers offering the Canadian dollar at par, the pre-Christmas rush is officially on, and consumers are the ones benefiting from it.