Currency Exchange at Vancouver Airport: Fees To Watch Out for

Diane Rekker

Vancouver Airport is the second busiest in Canada, serving customers from all corners of the globe. If you’re about to pass through Vancouver Airport on your travels, you might be wondering if you can pick up your foreign currency as you pass through.

This guide will tell you all you need to know about getting travel money at Vancouver Airport. We’ll also look at a few alternative ways to get your foreign currency - even if you don’t have much time left before you leave - including using Wise.

This article will cover:

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

If you want to exchange money before you go, and you don’t want to bring a lot of cash with you, Wise could be an alternative to exchanging money at the airport. Especially when you travel to visit friends or family abroad, and they have a bank account in the country you’re visiting.

You can send money from Canada to a large number of countries around the world, and your Canadian dollars will always be exchanged with the mid-market exchange rate, which is the most fair rate out there. The fees you pay depend on how you send the money to Wise, but you’ll always see them before you complete your payment.

If you’d also like to be able to receive money in foreign currencies, such as US dollars, British pounds, euros, Australian or New Zealand dollars, or Polish zloty, you can also open a multi-currency account with Wise. You can then get local account details for these currencies, which means receiving them will be free in most cases, or will cost the same as a domestic transfer in those countries.

Sign up with Wise, and start saving on your international money transfers straight away!


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

Buying your travel money when you’re waiting for your flight is a convenient option. However, it might not be the cheapest way to get your foreign currency, so you’ll want to check the fees applied before you complete the transaction. Here are a couple of things to consider when you’re looking for the best deal available.

Is there an upfront fee or commission?

The obvious place to start is with the listed fees or commission charges. These may be a flat fee or a percentage added to your conversion costs.

However, it’s very common for currency services to advertise deals like “zero percent commission” or “fee free” foreign exchange. If you think this sounds too good to be true, you’re probably right. Foreign exchange services are businesses and need to cover their costs and make a profit - so their services are not free.

Providers which claim to charge no commission or fees often simply add their profit margin to the exchange rate they pass to customers. That makes it harder to see the true cost of your currency conversion, and can mean that you get less travel money than you expect.

What is the exchange rate you get?

As we have said, the upfront fees only tell half the story when it comes to the costs of currency conversion. You also need to scrutinise the exchange rates available.

Because exchange rates constantly move up and down, the easiest way to find the current rate you need is with an online currency converter or by Googling your currency pair. This gives you the mid-market exchange rate for your selected currencies.

If the rate on offer from your chosen provider looks poor compared to the mid-market rate, it’s probably because a margin has been added. This is something that’s very common amongst banks and providers that offer currency exchange or international payments. Instead of passing on the mid-market rate, the provider has bumped up the cost of exchange to let them earn an extra fee.

It’s worth knowing that some currency services - like Wise - prefer to charge a transparent and upfront fee and use the mid-market rate for conversion. This makes it easier to see the costs involved, and can work out much cheaper than using a regular bank or alternative provider. More on that later.

Where on Vancouver airport can you exchange currency?

There are plenty of locations for currency exchange in Vancouver Airport - however, they’re all run by the same provider¹. That means that, although you’ll not struggle to find a place to change your money, the deals on offer are all likely to be similar.

It’s worth noting that airport currency exchange is typically not great value because there’s such limited competition. Check out the fees and exchange rates carefully before you commit - and take a look at our alternative options, below, if you can’t find a deal that suits you.

International Currency Exchange (ICE)

All foreign currency services at Vancouver Airport are managed by International Currency Exchange (ICE). However, Vancouver Airport does also have an ATM operated by Royal Bank of Canada in the International Terminal on level 3, before security.¹

You’ll find ICE services in a few locations throughout the airport¹:

Domestic Terminal

  • After security at gate B17

International Terminal

  • Before security on Floor 2
  • Before security on Floor 3 (at 2 different locations)

The operating hours of the different ICE locations vary according to the flight schedule, so check the details online before you go to the airport. If you need out of hours currency services, the ICE location before security in the international terminal (Level 3) operates 24 hours a day - the only one in British Columbia, according to ICE².

You can get foreign currency and travel cheques, as well as other services such as calling cards and photocopying. It’s possible to use the click and collect service to order your foreign currency online and then pick it up as you pass through the airport². Many providers - including ICE - state that they offer a better exchange rate for customers using click and collect compared to just walking into a branch, although you’ll still want to shop around to make sure it’s the best deal available.


Are there alternatives to exchanging money at Vancouver airport?

Even if you’ve left it late to get your foreign currency, changing money at the airport isn’t your only option. You may be able to get a better deal if you try any of these alternatives.

Use an ATM

ATM exchange rates are usually set by the network which issued your card - Visa or Mastercard, for example. These rates are generally pretty fair - after all, your card provider wants to keep you happy.

Using an ATM at your destination can be a good way to get your local currency, as long as you’re not hit by high fees from your own bank or the ATM provider and you watch out for Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). Check your card terms and conditions before you travel to find out the costs, and keep an eye on screen when using an ATM to see if there are extra charges added by the ATM operator.

Exchange upon arrival

An alternative, if you can’t find a good deal at Vancouver Airport, is to simply hold onto your cash and change it when you arrive. If you can wait until you get to a city centre this can be a smart way to save. Avoid using your hotel’s exchange service, though, as this is likely to be costly.

Try Wise for convenient, low cost international payments

If you’re going to meet friends or family on your trip, you could use Wise to access currency exchange with the mid-market rate, and get a better deal.

Transfer money using Wise to someone you trust with a local bank account in your destination, and withdraw the money from fee free ATMs when you arrive. You’ll get currency conversion with the mid-market exchange rate, and pay just a low transparent fee.

Make international payments even more convenient with the Wise multi-currency account. Hold dozens of different currencies, and manage your balance online for convenience. You can also receive payments in British Pounds, Euros, Polish Zloty, and US, Australian and New Zealand dollars for the same cost as a domestic transfer, which in most cases means it’s for free. You can then easily convert the money in your account, and send payments all over the world, using the mid-market exchange rate with no hidden fees.

See if you can save money with Wise, today.

Sources used for this article:
1]Vancouver Airport services
2]ICE currency exchange Vancouver Airport
*Sources checked on March 27, 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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