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International Vacation? Tips to Exchange Currency for the Best Rates

July 30, 2019
3 mins
A woman looks at souvenirs outside a shop

Whether it's to the U.S. or elsewhere outside of Canada, your travel will mean transactions in another currency. You can get foreign cash before you leave, use local ATMs, put everything on your credit card, or depend on currency exchange brokers, to name a few. Here are the pros and cons of each option before you leave for that summer trip.

OFX Money Transfer

Many local cafés, hotels, and attractions offer free Wi-Fi. That means accessing an app like OFX Money Transfer is simple. It's free to use and provides real-time rates for both Canadian and global currencies. Once you know what the current exchange rate is you can search for agencies, banks, and local shops, for the best exchange rate. However, fees associated with the method you choose will still apply.

OFX Currency Converter even has a handy calculator feature that is great for helping you make price-tag comparisons when shopping. It seems like the only thing you’ll need help with is directions.

Cash at Your Bank Before You Leave

It seems sensible to get U.S. cash or foreign currency from your financial institution. But rates are typically high. You may or may not see an additional fee come out of your bank account. After all, the bank has to make money somehow.

Cash at Currency Exchanges

Currency exchanges post their rates and fees. So you won't be caught unaware by receiving a relatively small supply of cash compared to your Canadian dollars. But those rates and fees can add up, especially if you want to change large amounts. The good thing about exchanges is their availability.

They are at every airport so give you a last-minute option if you don't want to arrive at your destination without local cash.

Cash from Local ATMs

Many Canadian networks, like Interac Plus, are available abroad. That means you can use your home bank card and withdraw cash when you need it. Just have a look at the logos on the back of your card and compare them to what's displayed on the machines at your destination.

Typically, however, there's a one-time transaction fee charged by your bank as well as any fees charged by the ATM provider. That's on top of the exchange rate. But if you want cash last minute, this is another good option.

Using Your Credit Card

Many travellers simply opt to use their credit card for everything while they travel. This can provide convenience and peace of mind, since you can usually get some level of insurance protection for purchases. You typically won't have to pay a fee for out of country transactions.

Your credit card may give you one of the best exchange rates. If you're curious, you can call up your provider and ask ahead of time how they set foreign transaction rates. Of course, if you are travelling to an out-of-the-way place, you may still have to get cash. It may be hard to find a Visa or Mastercard logo.

Local Shops

Many Canadian travellers are still in the habit of carrying U.S. cash, even when they are not visiting the United States. This might come in handy at local stores at your destination, which probably accepts U.S. cash. The exchange won't be the best, however, and you'll have to keep track of two rates -- U.S. to Canadian and U.S. to local currency. But it may be another emergency option to have in your back pocket.

Find the Best Financial Products

Before you head abroad, get the latest financial products and advice on RATESDOTCA. You'll find up-to-date quotes on travel insurance and everything you need to know about credit cards and banking.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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