Tips to Get the Best Vancouver Foreign Exchange Rates

Looking for some good Vancouver foreign exchange tips to get better currency exchange rates in Vancouver?

Whether you're travelling on a shoestring budget or just don't like seeing your hard-earned money going to pay high commission charges or higher foreign exchange rates, the currency exchange tips you'll get here will help you to save on your travel expenses in Vancouver.

So how do you get good exchange rates in Vancouver?

My Tips...

I worked in the banking industry for many years, in South Africa and in Canada, and during that time I discovered some very helpful tips from my colleagues (and the banking procedures we used to follow...) as well as from my own vacations abroad.

US cash with calculator - calculating currency conversion

Money Safety Tips: Pre-Planning

When you're planning your trip, arrange to carry a minimal amount of bank notes, to use just for incidental expenses while you're travelling.

Using travellers cheques and credit cards are safer because you should have the issuing financial institution's replacement guarantee if those are lost or stolen.

Of course, this also means that you should keep up-to-date records of the travellers cheques used, as well as your credit card numbers and recent transactions, to ensure a speedy replacement of those lost or stolen financial instruments. Try to keep those records in a separate, but secure place, so that these records can be accessed when needed to report any losses to your financial institution.

Cash Withdrawals from Bank Machines

If you can have a bank debit card and need additional cash while you're travelling, you should be able to do a withdrawal from a bank machine. However, there will usually be additional Interac charges added to those transactions for the ATM use, and any currency conversion charges, if applicable.

Credit Cards or Debit Cards?

Before leaving home, check with your bank what options are available for using your debit and credit cards when you're travelling, to minimize the need for using Vancouver foreign exchange bureaus.

Some banks offer prepaid cards with the Visa or Mastercard logo on them, which look just like a normal credit card. However, the main difference is that there's no line of credit from a financial institution attached to the card, so essentially these are actually debit cards, not credit cards.

This is an excellent option to use if you're concerned about taking a regular "bank approved" credit card witha line of credit and perhaps spending more than expected while you're away. No one wants to be paying off debt for months or years after a vacation has ended...

Using a prepaid credit card will give you the flexibility of having a card with a readily recognizable credit card logo available for local and online transactions, when other forms of payment may not be acceptable.

US cash with credit cards

Some of these prepaid cards are also available as gift cards in many local stores, so you wouldn't even have to submit an application to the bank to get a prepaid card. They are also available through money lending companies, but please be more cautious about applying for a card that way. When I enquired about their cards, there appeared to be more charges payable and restrictions on the usage.

Charges for these types of prepaid cards will vary according to the issuer's terms and conditions. Please read the fine print carefully for details about the charges, like monthly maintenance fees and withdrawal charges.

A tip for Canadians... check out the BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard (issued by Bank of Montreal), designed specifically for this purpose. I have one of these cards and it's excellent! It's not only useful for travel purposes, it can be used for everyday transactions as well. There's an annual application fee for the card (currently C$6.95), and it's valid for 3 years.

There are a few minor differences between the BMO prepaid travel mastercard card and a regular credit card - for example, no paper statements are mailed to you. Statements for up to 3 months are available online, so you can print copies of the statements from there, for your records.

Watch the Transaction Charges at Vancouver Foreign Exchange Providers...

Many of the currency exchange places charge a commission or "transaction fee", in addition to offering less favourable exchange rates. You could consider going to one of the local banks for better rates, but if you don't maintain an account with them, the bank may charge a "non-client" commission/fee. In addition, you may also have to wait in a longer bank line-up with the locals too! That's not a good use of your vacation time in Vancouver.

Hotels can also assist you with exchanging currency as well, but due to the much less favourable exchange rates usually offered, that should only be a last resort, in my opinion!

Discover the Bankers' Secrets

Here's a few more currency exchange tips to help you save on your Vancouver foreign exchange transactions...

Several years ago, I worked in the Vancouver branch of an international (Dutch corporate) bank, in their international trade finance division (for import and export transactions). The bank provided specialized services for large corporate projects, and forex trading etc., but didn't offer personal banking services to clients, or retail foreign currency exchange services to individuals.

I was quite surprised when I discovered that their local foreign exchange transactions were often processed through a smaller local company called Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange (VBCE), & not one of the other well-established large financial institutions. Whenever the bank's senior executives needed foreign currency for their business trips, that's where they used to arrange the currency exchange!

An Unusual Recommendation...

A few months ago, when I was in one of the downtown branches of a local bank, I was quite amused when I overheard one of the receptionists telling a tourist to go to VBCE instead, for better foreign exchange rates!

Another benefit... unlike many other Vancouver currency exchange services, VBCE doesn't charge a transaction fee for exchanging bank notes, and their forex rates are often better than many local financial institutions.

So if you need to exchange foreign currency to Canadian Dollars want to make your travel dollars stretch further, I recommend you go to one of VBCE's branches for good Vancouver foreign exchange rates. They have branches in downtown Vancouver (West Pender Street), South Granville and Richmond.

I just wish I had known about them sooner, when I visited as a tourist, then later immigrated to Canada. It would have been a big help to get better rates for our Vancouver foreign exchange transactions!