Visit the Golden Horseshoe
'The City around the Lake'

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Currency Exchange

1 US$ = 1.4 CAN$ (This varies daily: see money converter)

When you exchange your US funds, or other currency, for Canadian funds, you will receive a different exchange rate at different exchange locations. You might obtain Canadian funds in several ways: 

  • at your local bank 
  • into Cdn$ bank notes or into Cdn$ travellers cheques 
  • at a foreign exchange counter 
  • at the Toronto airport, at a land border crossing, at the convention centre, or at a variety of store front locations in downtown Toronto 
  • into Cdn$ bank notes 
  • at a Toronto bank 
  • into Cdn$ bank notes 
  • by withdrawing Cdn$ bank notes from your bank account at an ATM machine 
  • at the front desk of your hotel 
  • by making a purchase on your credit card 
  • by making a purchase in Canada using US$ bank notes, and receiving Cdn$ bank notes and coins as change

We believe that you will receive better exchange rates in the following order:

Your own bank

You will probably receive the best exchange rate possible from your own bank or credit card company. When you are making your travel plans, talk to your local bank about having them obtain Cdn$ bank notes or travellers cheques for you. Usually, the smaller the bank, the more lead time they need to obtain the currency for you, so do plan ahead.

Credit Cards

Your next best exchange rate is probably to make whatever purchases you can using your credit card. Your credit card company will then translate the purchase into your own currency when it appears on your credit card statement. Bank cards using Interac are a very good tool. The exchange rates on cerdit cards vary a great deal. You can research this at Ultimate Credit Cards.

ATMs

Withdrawing Canadian bank notes from ATMs should also give you a generally favourable exchange rate. However, you should check with your bank before travelling so that you are familiar with what bank charges your will incur. You are usually charged a set fee per transaction, so it is better to make one or two large withdrawals rather than a bunch of small withdrawals.

Toronto Banks

Exchanging your foreign currency into Canadian funds at a bank will generally give you a better exchange rate than at foreign exchange offices or hotels, and perhaps as good a rate as you can get on your plastic or at your home bank. However, some banks may charge an additional transaction fee; if this is the case, you are better to convert your currency in fewer transactions. (As an example, the Royal Bank of Canada charges a service charge of Cdn$3.00 per transaction for all persons who are not Royal Bank customers.)

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is located in downtown Toronto, right near the main business area. There are a number of bank locations, mostly to the east and north of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. You may walk into any of these branches, join the line for the tellers and then exchange your US or other currency into Canadian funds. You should expect to have to show some identification.

All bank locations will be closed on (Sunday and) Monday. Most bank locations in the downtown area will also be closed on the Saturday and on National Holidays.

As an example of bank hours, the Main Branch of the Royal Bank of Canada (the convention's own bank), located at Royal Bank Plaza which is immediately east of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel will be 9:00 am to 5:00 pm weekdays, closed on Saturday and Sunday and also closed on National holidays. The Royal Bank also has a branch located across the street from the west end of the convention centre which will have similar hours.

On the days that they are open, most bank locations in the downtown business core will be open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm or so, but some may have shorter hours and some may have longer hours. Check with each location to determine their exact hours, if that is important to you.

Also, note that Toronto's downtown business area has a large network of interconnecting shopping areas below ground level (under the office towers) where you will find lots of shops, restaurants -- plus banks and ATM machines. This is the PATH system, on which a lot more is written elsewhere on our website. So don't just go looking at ground level for a bank - check the concourse level as well. Note however, that these businesses cater to the people who work in the office towers and are generally closed on weekends and after business hours on weekdays.

Further information regarding Travellers Cheques: The brand of Travellers Cheques you are carrying, may determine which local bank you will need to deal with if you want to turn them into Canadian bank notes. For example, the Royal Bank of Canada ("RBC")is an agent for American Express Travellers Cheques and non-RBC clients may cash American Express Travellers Cheques at the Royal Bank (but you must show at least a current valid passport and may be asked for further identification as well). The Royal Bank of Canada will only cash other brands of Travellers Cheques for their own clients, so if you are a visitor to Canada, you will need to seek out a different bank to cash your Travellers Cheques.

Your Hotel

We contacted the hotels in our room block and asked them about their policies on exchanging foreign currency into Canadian funds. All of our hotels indicate that they will do so, but only for hotel guests. Each hotel indicated that they will cash travellers cheques or exchange cash to a maximum of Cdn$100.00 per day per room.

When we enquired as to the rates of exchange that they give, all hotels indicated that the rate is the same whether they are converting foreign cash, or foreign travellers cheques. As to the actual rates used, compared to the rates given by major banks, the hotels responded as follows: 

  • "Our rate is similar, we do not charge service fee." 
  • "Generally, the bank's exchange rate is more favourable." 
  • "Competitive" 
  • "The variance between the hotel and a major bank on the exchange rate would be approx 3%."

Foreign exchange office

Toronto is a very popular tourist destination. It is also an international business centre and one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. There are many visitors coming to Toronto and leaving Toronto who want to convert their currency to or from Canadian funds.

As a result there are a large number of store-front foreign exchange businesses where you can walk up to a counter, similar to a bank teller and buy and sell many foreign currencies.

There is a Foreign Exchange Centre located in the MTCC convention centre. They are open weekdays 9 AM - 7 PM, Sunday 10 AM- 7 PM, Victoria Day 10 AM - 7 PM. (They have an outside entrance). Phone # 416-260-1396.

American Express operates a travel centre, including a foreign exchange counter on the concourse level of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Similar offices are located in various locations in the downtown business area and along Toronto's most popular downtown shopping street, Yonge Street.

Keep in mind that these foreign exchange businesses may not be open on Sunday and Monday, and those in the downtown business area will most likely not be open on Saturday. (The Yonge Street businesses will probably be open Sunday due to tourist shopping in the area.)

Also keep in mind that these businesses primarily make their income by buying currency from you and selling other currency to you. That means that they probably need to make a bigger profit margin on every transaction - which in turn means that they will not give you as good an exchange rate as you would get at a bank or at your hotel.

As an example, on the evening of February 16, 2003, at the Toronto airport, the foreign exchange offices were giving Cdn$1.43 for every US$1.00 converted, but it took Cdn$1.59 to purchase US$1.00 from them - a spread of 16 - which means that the foreign exchange office makes about 8 off of you each time they buy or sell currency from you - a higher spread than the banks usually charge. Good news: We have confirmed with the foreign exchange office in the convention centre that they will generally be open 9 am to 9 pm on all days of the convention, including the holiday Monday. And their spread between buy and sell rates is only about 5, which is as good as the banks are offering.

Paying with your US bank notes, coins and travellers cheques

Most (but not all) restaurants and stores in Toronto and the surrounding region will accept US bills and coins. However, whereas at a bank you might expect to receive Cdn$1.48 or Cdn$1.52 for every US$1.00 (roughly the rates of exchange when this article was written in early-February 2003), you will find that when you are spending US currency directly at a store or restaurant, the exchange rate given will be to your disadvantage. You might receive Cdn$1.50, or only Cdn$1.40 or maybe just Cdn$1.25 or even just Cdn$1.00. There are no laws governing the exchange of currency at the retail level. You are subject to whatever rate the establishment has self-determined. Those that deal frequently with US tourists will usually post their exchange rate where you can see it. If you don't see it, ask before committing to a purchase.

If you pay for a purchase with US funds, you will receive your change in Canadian funds. So if the exchange rate the seller uses is not favourable, remember that you are losing value not just on the purchase price but on the full amount of the US funds that you use for your payment.

Actually, the above discussion really pertains to US bills. If you want to spend your US$ coins, you will only get value equal to exactly the same Canadian coins.

After the convention - Going home

When you are ready to return home you may have Canadian funds left over which you would like to convert into US or other funds. Most people try to plan their spending so that they have very little left over and usually end up purchasing a candy bar or other small items at the airport to use up the last of their "funny money."

However, if you have enough Canadian currency left over that you want to convert it, please keep several things in mind ....

First, before leaving home, check with your own local bank as to their policy on handling Canadian cash and cheques drawn in Canadian funds on Canadian banks.

You can convert your Canadian funds back into your own currency at banks or foreign exchange offices. Please note that none of the hotels in our convention block will convert Canadian funds to foreign funds.

Banks and foreign exchange offices will only sell you foreign bank notes. So you will most likely still end up with a bit of Canadian funds left over.

Banks and foreign exchange offices will not sell you foreign currency at the same exchange rate that they will use when purchasing it from you. There is usually a rate difference of at least 5% and perhaps higher.

If you are a dealer or other person who may have a large amount of Canadian currency which you wish to convert to a foreign currency (cash or bank draft), you should make contact with a local bank prior to the convention and find out their specific policies in this regard. You may be asked a lot of questions due to new money laundering rules that have gone into effect. In fact, you may find it difficult to find a bank which will handle the transaction for you.

(From 'Torcon 3')


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