Currency Exchange at Calgary Airport: Fees To Watch Out For

Diane Rekker

Calgary airport is the busiest in Alberta, and the 4th busiest in the country. If you’re headed on a trip via Calgary, you might be wondering how best to get the currency you need for your destination.

We have all you need to know right here.

Jump straight to:

Wise: An alternative to exchanging your currency at the airport.

Although we’ll cover several alternatives in this article, one of them can be to send money to a trusted family member or friend, who has a local bank account, before you leave. You can do so with Wise.

With Wise you can easily make your international money transfer online, and you can be sure that your money will be converted with the mid-market exchange rate, the same rate you can find on Google or sites like: Reuters and XE. The fees you’ll be charged for your transfer will always be shown to you upfront, so you don’t pay more than you expect.

Find out more about how Wise works, and why not give it a try with your next transfer.

Signing up is easy, and it’s completely free!


What should you be aware of when you exchange money at Calgary airport?

Getting your foreign currency at the airport is convenient - but it may not be the cheapest choice. Here are some things to look at, to decide if the airport exchange is your best option.

Is there an upfront fee or commission?

Before you decide to use any exchange service, you’ll need to check out the fees and charges.

First up, take a look at whether or not your provider charges an upfront fee or commission for currency exchange. This may be a flat fee or a percentage charge based on the amount you’re exchanging.

It helps to know that many exchange services advertise zero commission or fee free exchange - but that doesn’t actually mean you’ll get your currency converted for nothing. Instead, these providers may simply roll up their fee in the exchange rate they offer - making it harder to see exactly what you’re paying for the service. Tips on how to spot - and avoid - this markup, coming right up.

What is the exchange rate you get?

Now you’ll need to check whether the exchange rate you’re being offered is the best available.

Take the quote you’re given, and compare it against the mid market rate for your currency pairing. Exchange rates change all the time - but you can find the current rate you need, using an online currency converter, or by simply Googling your currency pair. If there’s a difference between the mid-market rate and the one you’ve been offered, this is likely to be because the provider has added a markup.

Here’s how it works. Banks and currency specialists buy and sell foreign currencies amongst themselves, using the mid-market rate. This is also the rate you’ll find on Google. However, providers don’t necessarily pass this exchange rate on to their customers. Instead, they add a markup, which they keep as profit. That makes it tricky to see what you’re really being charged, and can come as a surprise if you expect to get the rate you found using a google search.

The good news is that the mid-market exchange rate is accessible through some providers. You can choose a service like Wise to convert your currency using the mid-market rate, with a low transparent fee that you’ll always see upfront. This makes it simple to understand the true cost of the transaction, and can work out much cheaper, too.

Where on Calgary airport can you exchange currency?

All currency exchange in Calgary airport is provided by Travelex. You’ll be able to get an idea of the exchange rates available online, and may be able to order currency for collection, depending on which outlet you want to use.

If you don’t have time to arrange anything in advance, you’ll usually be able to buy common currencies simply by turning up at a kiosk - if you need something more exotic, it pays to talk to Travelex before you head off.

Here’s where to find currency exchange in Calgary airport:

Travelex Worldwide Money - International Departures

Travelex has a kiosk in Concourse D, International Departures. The outlet is after security, and open for all flight departure times - 4:00am to 9:00pm¹.

Travelex Worldwide Money - Departures USA

Travelex has an outlet in the US departures area, open in line with outgoing flight times, 4:30am - 7:30pm².

Travelex Worldwide Money - Arrivals

There are also 2 Travelex kiosks in the arrivals area - handy if you have visitors coming to Canada who want to change cash before leaving the airport. These are before security clearance.

In the international arrivals area you can change money from 9:30am - 1:00am³.

If you have visitors arriving on a connection from within Canada, there is also a Travelex outlet in domestic arrivals, open 8:30am to 1:00am⁴.


If you’re looking to take cash out of an ATM, you’ll find various options throughout the airport, from Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank, TD and CIBC⁵.


Are there alternatives to exchanging money at Calgary airport?

No matter where you’re headed to, it makes sense to look at alternative ways to see if you can get your travel money cheaper.

Try Transferwise

If you’re headed off to meet family or friends, another option is to make a low cost international transfer with Wise to cover your travel money. Send money to a bank account in your destination, and you’ll get the mid-market rate with no markup, and only pay a low fee. You can then withdraw money from fee free ATMs when you arrive.

Let’s say you’re off to see your sister in France. Transfer your money to her local account for a low fee, and have her help you withdraw it from fee free ATMs as you need it once you arrive. Simple - and because transfers usually arrive quickly, you could do this even if you forget to set up your travel money in advance. Check out the fees and rates on offer for your specific transfer, online.

Exchange money before hitting the airport

You might get a better deal on your currency exchange if you find an exchange office in Calgary before you leave. There are plenty of choices downtown, including, for example, branches of RBC⁶.

Exchange money at your destination

If you’ve left it late to get your money, it might be reassuring to know that you always have the option of going to an exchange office in your destination. Just make sure any cash you’re carrying is in pristine condition, as international exchange offices are reluctant to take notes which are damaged or marked.

It’s also good to know that the exchange rates at hotels are typically not all that great - if you can wait, head into the city to get your local currency at a better price.

Use an ATM when you arrive

Another option is to get money from an ATM in your destination. You’ll usually find many options at your destination airport, and withdrawing in local currency overseas will get you the exchange rate set by your card network.

Using a card issued by a large global network like Visa or Mastercard usually means you’ll get a good rate. The card provider has every reason to keep you happy after all.

Read the small print on your card before you travel to make sure your own bank won’t hit you with high charges, and watch the on screen messages to check the ATM provider won’t charge extra fees.

One important thing to be aware of when you get foreign currency at an ATM, is Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). DCC is when the ATM asks you if you want to be charged in the local currency or your home currency. In this case you should always say that you want to be charged in the local currency, so your home bank will do the currency conversion, and not the machine, as your home bank will most likely give you a more favorable exchange rate than the machine.

Travel is great. Arranging your travel money often is not. Reduce the headache - and pay less in fees - by thinking ahead, and planning the best way to get the money you need for your trip. And don’t forget to check out the fast, safe and cheap transfers available from Wise.

Sources used for this article:
1.Travelex International Departures
2.Travelex Departures USA
3.Travelex International Arrivals
4.Travelex Domestic Arrivals
5.Calgary International Airport FAQ → Currency Exchange
All sources checked on January 15, 2020

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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