Currency exchange considerations when visiting Canada

Updated: Feb 02, 2024 | Tags: Canada Tourism, Currency Exchange

Traveling to Canada, with its vibrant cities and stunning natural landscapes, is an exciting adventure. However, navigating currency exchange can be a complex aspect of travel. This article provides essential tips for travellers on how to get the best currency exchange rates when visiting Canada. Before embarking on any trip to Canada, check the travel requirements to see if you need an eTA or a visa.

Understanding Currency Exchange

The Basics of Currency Exchange

Currency exchange is the process of converting one currency into another. The rates for this exchange can vary based on economic factors, supply and demand, and the service providers.

Importance of Exchange Rates

Getting a favorable exchange rate can significantly impact your travel budget. Understanding how exchange rates work and knowing where to exchange money can help save costs.

Preparing Before the Trip

Research and Compare Rates

Before traveling, check the current exchange rates using online currency converters. Compare rates offered by different banks and exchange services to get a general idea of what to expect.

Get in Touch with your Bank

Many banks have international partnerships that allow for reduced fees on ATM withdrawals abroad. Check if your bank has such agreements in Canada. Also, speak to your bank about their foreign exchange services. Some banks offer competitive exchange rates and lower fees for their customers. Also, inquire about partnership banks in Canada that may offer fee-free ATM withdrawals.

Exchanging Money Upon Arrival in Canada

Using ATMs for Local Currency

ATMs often offer competitive exchange rates and are widely available across Canada. However, be aware of potential fees from both your bank and the ATM provider. To minimize costs, withdraw larger amounts less frequently.

Avoiding Airport and Hotel Exchanges

Currency exchange services at airports and hotels are convenient but often come with higher fees and less favorable rates. Use them only as a last resort.

Smart Practices While in Canada

Using Credit Cards Wisely

Credit cards are widely accepted in Canada and can offer good exchange rates. Ensure your card has low foreign transaction fees and inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid fraud alerts.

Limiting Frequent Exchanges

Frequent currency exchanges can add up in transaction fees. Try to estimate your cash needs to minimize the number of times you need to exchange money.

Keeping Track of Exchange Rates

Exchange rates fluctuate. Use a currency conversion app to stay updated and decide when it's a good time to exchange more money.

Alternative Currency Exchange Options

Online Currency Exchange Services

Online platforms can offer competitive rates with the convenience of arranging the exchange before you travel or even while in Canada.

Peer-to-Peer Exchange Services

These platforms match individuals looking to exchange currencies, potentially offering better rates than traditional services. However, exercise caution and use reputable services.

Understanding Taxes and Refunds

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Be aware of the GST in Canada, which affects the price of goods and services. This can impact your overall spending.

Tax Refund for Visitors

Some tourists may be eligible for a refund of GST paid on specific goods. Check the Canada Revenue Agency's website for eligibility criteria and the refund process.

Cultural and Practical Tips

Cash and Tipping Culture

In Canada, tipping is customary in services like restaurants, hotels, and taxis. It's useful to have some cash on hand for these expenses.

Local Currency Practices

Understand local currency practices, like the rounding rule for cash transactions, to avoid confusion. Familiarize yourself with Canadian currency denominations, especially coins like loonies (one-dollar coins) and toonies (two-dollar coins), as they are widely used for small transactions.

Staying Safe

Protecting Your Finances

Always exchange currency at reputable places, guard your financial information, and be cautious when carrying large amounts of cash.

Safeguarding Your Money

Be vigilant when exchanging currency and carrying cash.

Emergency Financial Plan

Have a backup plan in case of financial emergencies, such as a lost or stolen wallet. Keep a separate stash of emergency cash and have a list of important contacts, like your bank's international helpline.


Navigating currency exchange in Canada can be straightforward with a bit of planning. By planning ahead, staying informed, and using the right exchange services, travellers can ensure they get the most value out of their money. With these tips in mind, you can focus on enjoying the diverse and rich experiences that Canada has to offer.