Canadian money comes in the same denominations as American money, with the same names: penny, nickel, dime, quarter and so forth. However, there are a couple of notable exceptions.
1. In the fall of 2012, Canada will phase out the penny. No more pennies will be minted, they cost more to produce than they’re worth and deemed a nuisance, and merchants will be asked to round off all prices so there will be no stray cents.
2. There is no paper Canadian one-dollar bill. Instead, there is a one dollar coin, nicknamed the Loonie because it has a picture of a Loon on one side. The Loonie, slightly larger than a quarter, is brass coloured instead of silver and has 12 sides, presumably so it doesn’t feel like a quarter.
3. Beside the Loonie, there is the Toonie, or two-dollar coin. The Toonie is slightly larger than the Loonie, round, and made of brass and silver coloured metal. It consists of a brass centre, about the size of a dime, surrounded by a silver coloured band.
Although some people complain about having to carry larger and heavier coins, both the Loonie and Toonie are extremely useful. They work in vending machines and parking meters. For better or worse, the Loonie and Toonie are easy to spend, more like pocket change than real money.
5. Canadian currency is going plastic. New Canadian bills are no longer made of paper. Instead, each one is a single piece of polymer, part of which is transparent. The new bills are more durable than paper money and much more difficult to counterfeit. $50 and $100 bills are already in circulation. And as a bonus, the $100 notes smell like maple syrup!! (not a joke)
6. The Royal Canadian mint is in the process of creating a digital currency system, called MintChip, for small (under $200) transactions. They have put out a challenge on the web. The winner of the challenge gets $50,000 in gold.
Have an accurate idea of the current currency exchange rates before you change money. That way you’ll be able to gauge the rate you’re getting. You can get an accurate exchange rate at the XE Currency Exchange site.
The most convenient way to exchange money is to use your ATM card at a Vancouver bank or credit union. Most ATM machines accept ATM cards from other countries. If your ATM card doesn’t work, try your credit card.
For a better rate, go into the bank or credit union and make a direct money exchange by using cash or traveler’s checks.
In general currency exchange shops, especially those in tourist areas, don’t give good currency exchange rates. However, Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange at 800 West Pender gives the best rate in Vancouver. You can call them at 604-682-7921 for quotes.
They are conveniently located close to Canada Place and the Cruise Ship terminals. There are other branches of this company; however, this location gives the best currency exchange rates.