A trip to Canada requires some amount of Canadian cash. Although currency is readily accessible in Canada for U.S. travelers, taking the time to get Canadian currency before you leave can save you money. In a pinch, you can get Canadian dollars at many financial institutions, bank machines or retailers in Canada.
Through Your Bank
You can get Canadian currency from most major banks. Some, such as Bank of America, offer online ordering with the option to hold the Canadian cash for pickup or have it mailed to your home address. For this service, however, you might have to be a client of the bank.
Check with your local branch about its foreign currency purchase options and the associated fees. Bank of America, for example, charges a delivery fee of $7.50 on all foreign currency orders of less than $1,000 as of 2019. The fee is waived on orders of $1,000 or more. Going through your bank is likely to be the cheapest way to buy Canadian cash.
Currency Exchange Counters
Most large cities in Canada and the U.S., as well as airports and transit hubs, will have currency exchange counters. Buying foreign currency at these businesses usually costs more than buying currency through your bank, but they can be a convenient way to get Canadian cash. Like some U.S. banks, some currency exchange businesses, such as Travelex, offer online ordering options, although you can also pick up your cash in person.
ATMs in Canada
You can use Canadian bank machines to get cash as long as your bank card is on the right international network, such as Plus or Cirrus. Contact your bank to ask what system your card is associated with. When you use a bank machine, check to make sure the logo of the right system is displayed so you know your card will work. TripAdvisor also notes that some Canadian banks may waive the foreign transaction fee. For example, Scotiabank may waive the fee for Bank of America customers.
At the Checkout
As a courtesy, many retailers will accept U.S. currency and you will receive change in Canadian currency. While this might be an easy way to get Canadian dollars, you will likely lose money on the exchange rate. Both large and small stores set an exchange rate that weighs heavily in their favor. Not all small businesses accept U.S. dollars, so be aware of a store's policy before paying.