Before you leave the U.S. for Canada, you can change your U.S. dollars into Canadian money at banks, airports, Auto Clubs or exchange bureaus in major cities and shopping areas. Many of these same institutions also provide online currency exchange services. You'll get a better exchange rate at automated teller machines in Canada, but changing money ahead of time gives you the cash to make your first purchases without delay.
At Your Bank
Many banks in the U.S. sell Canadian dollars at branch offices, including major banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and U.S. Bank. While some banks use a third-party provider such as Travelex, others, including Wells Fargo, have their own foreign exchange services. Call ahead to find out if your bank sells Canadian currency, whether it's in stock and how long it will take to order it.
You may have to pay additional fees if you aren't a customer of the bank.
At the Auto Club
As part of its travel services, the Automobile Association of America sells Canadian dollars to AAA members in Tip Packs in select AAA branches. Not every AAA sells Canadian money, so call ahead to make sure it's available to pick up the same day. Tip Packs cost $100 each, and you can purchase more than one at a time. However, you can't buy large amounts of foreign currency at AAA branches, only the Tip Packs.
The Tip Packs are intended only as starter money, so the exchange rate is less favorable than other retail sources.
You can buy Canadian dollars in many U.S. airport terminals before flying out to Canada. Some of these airports include Los Angeles International, Dallas/Fort Worth, Pittsburgh International and Baltimore Washington International. Airport exchange services are typically operated by Travelex or another foreign currency exchange business, such as International Currency Exchange, or ICE. These airport booths post their exchange rates for Canadian dollars and other currencies.
Around Town or in Shopping Centers
Travelex and other currency conversion companies also operate retail exchange centers in shopping centers and urban areas throughout the United States. For example, you can exchange U.S. dollars for Canadian money at Travelex stores on Broad Street in Stamford, Connecticut; at the Christiana Mall in Newark, Delaware; or at Union Station in the District of Columbia. In New Jersey, you can find Travelex booths at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison or the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth. Similar to airport outlets, prices are posted.
From Online Sources
You can exchange U.S. dollars for Canadian currency online through many of the same businesses that sell foreign currency at retail. For example, Bank of America sells Canadian dollars online to customers who have both BofA checking and savings accounts. You can have delivery as soon as the next business day.
Although Trip Packs are available only in AAA stores, AAA members can order larger quantities of Canadian money online or by telephone at 1-888-626-2027. Exchange services such as Travelex and ICE also take online orders. Some exchange services have a minimum order, such as $250 worth of foreign currency.
You typically receive your online currency order by mail or parcel service, or you can choose to pick it up at your local bank or foreign exchange store.
Although some exchange services take payment by either debit or credit card, you might have to pay cash advance fees if you choose a credit card.