06/12/2012 10:06 EDT | Updated 08/12/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. cross-border shoppers to get more debit card use

Retailers in northwest Washington are hoping to lure more British Columbian shoppers by making it easier for them to spend money in U.S. stores.

The Bellingham-Whatcom Chamber of Commerce has just launched its Canadian Certified program, which could expand the number of stores that accept Canadian debit cards.

Currently, debit cards are usable at most ATMs, but not at most retail outlets.

The Canadian Certified program will give stores the technology and incentive to start accepting the cards that are much more widely used in Canada than in the U.S.

"We continue to make changes so that [Canadians] can do a number of different things," said chamber of commerce president Ken Oplinger. "In this case, they can go and shop using their preferred form payment."

Retailers who join the program will be able to accept almost any form of Canadian payment.

"[Retailers] are going to be able to pool their resources and really reach up into the Lower Mainland and let folks know what they have to offer," Oplinger said.

A recent Bank of Montreal study says cross border shopping costs the Canadian economy $20 billion, and recent tariff changes could increase the hit on retailers in this country.

As part of March's federal budget, the duty-free limit on stays longer than 24 hours rise to $200 from $50, while the limit on stays longer than 48 hours rises to $800, from the current two-tiered levels of $400 and $750, depending on the length of stay.