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Currency exchanges offer best bang for buck for travellers

Lorraine Graves   Aug-29-2018

Gina Wong from Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange’s Richmond office at 118-6061 No. 3 Rd.

Photo by Chung Chow

How about an extra two per cent to spend on your next foreign trip? Using an exchange house can save you a significant amount of money.

An exchange house tends to offer a better rate than the banks while not charging an extra fee.



“We offer the same exchange services as a bank at a definitely better rate because we deal in such volume,” says Gina Wong, a service leader for Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange’s Richmond office at 118-6061 No. 3 Rd., near Saba Road.

While tremendously convenient, the exchange kiosks at major transportation hubs tend to be less of a bargain, charging a high rate of exchange and often an additional fee. The bottom line: you end up with less money to spend.

“You want to be prepared for your trip and not get dinged at a foreign airport,” says Wong.

For those who mainly use credit cards while travelling, Wong suggests travellers still get at least some cash to use at their destination for tips and fees. Smaller places will not accept credit cards and do not accept out-of-country money. Also, some destinations, like Egypt, suggest travellers also have some small denomination US dollars for tips in larger centres.

While Wong says they routinely have American dollars, Euros, Mexican Pesos and British Pounds in their branches, the exchange does offer less common currencies like the Guatemalan quetzal or Moroccan dirhams.

“Phone ahead for exotic places,” Wong says. “Usually for major currencies, we have plenty of inventory but for more exotic currency, best to double check because it’s on a first-come first-serve basis. I would feel really bad if they came all the way from Delta and we didn’t have enough.”

“If they call me I can always try to arrange extra so we have enough in stock,” Wong says.

In addition to bringing in cash, you can use a local debit card—Canadian, but not American—or a bank draft payable to Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange, says Wong. She also reminds people to bring government-issued photo identification.

Also, do your homework before you travel, Wong says: “Best to research ahead of time so you know what the bills look like.”

She cites one example with Indian money where the 1,000 and 500 rupee bills were taken out of circulation but still used in some areas or given as change to tourists. If you bring the old ones back to Canada, you would be stuck.

“We would be unable to purchase them,” says Wong.

And when you come home, you can change your left-over vacation money back to Canadian currency but Wong cautions travellers not to expect the same rate when they get home and want to change the remains of their travel money back into Canadian dollars.

She also cautions that most banks and exchange houses will not take coins, so spend the coins before coming home otherwise, they are just souvenirs.

The exchange offers in-person exchange or electronic.

“It’s a pretty seamless transaction through the (the exchange) online portal through their laptop. That way, they don’t have to go to a bank and arrange the transaction in person…it can be set up beforehand,” Wong says.

Most common currencies can be exchanged, if you have an account in both currencies, 24/7 she says.

For people living in two countries, like snowbirds, “people can exchange money from a foreign bank. We can take incoming electronic transfers from a foreign bank if it is a currency we deal in,” says Wong.

“We have a lot of foreign customers who may be moving or immigrating to Canada. They can transfer funds for example to purchase a property or other large items like a car. Obviously with large cash amounts like that, we need to understand the transaction, just like a bank would.”

For the locals, there are low fees to do transfers out of the country but none to do transfers within Canada.

“Over a certain dollar value the fees may get waived,” says Wong.

As bullion is in Vancouver Bullion Currency Exchange’s name, it buys and sells gold, silver or platinum bars. Wong advises buyers to check the rate in Canadian dollars because the international market quotes for precious metals are in US dollars. What might seem a good deal can be shaded by the value of the US dollar, so if it goes up, precious metals correspondingly cost more to buy in Canada.

Wong reiterates, “There is no fee for a straight cash exchange. It’s just basically what our exchange rate is—a very competitive and favourable exchange rate.”

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