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I want to buy US dollar with swiss francs. I have the opportunity to make this change in Switzerland (Geneva), in the USA (Seattle) or in Canada (Vancouver). Where will I likely get the best change?

Here is a related question that does not contain a third country (Canada) in the list of choice.

marked as duplicate by Andrew Ferrier, Mark Mayo, Karlson, JoErNanO, choster Jan 4 '15 at 7:03

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    This is opinion based on substantial observation: Who you do it with may matter more than where. If you use eg Travelex anywhere you will be ripped off compared to rates you can get elsewhere. Western Union similarly. Anything at an airport is probably bad. Small money-changing businesses are often but not always better value. Watch for flat fees and commissions on top of advertised rates - in Asia this is illegal, in Australia it seems to be universal. Elsewhere YMMV. It's very likely you can find rate online. | The people at XE.com CLAIM to be amongst the best. Compare bank rates too. – Russell McMahon Jan 1 '15 at 10:32
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    @RussellMcMahon Thanks. I think you can make an answer out of your comment. – Remi.b Jan 1 '15 at 10:48
  • Is there a reason why you're not following our standard advice, and withdrawing the USD from your swiss bank account with a low fees card? – Gagravarr Jan 1 '15 at 11:00
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This is opinion based on substantial observation:

Who you do it with may matter more than where.
If you use eg Travelex anywhere you will be ripped off compared to rates you can get elsewhere. Western Union similarly.

Anything at an airport is probably bad.
Small money-changing businesses are often but not always better value.

Watch for flat fees and commissions on top of advertised rates - in Asia this is illegal, in Australia it seems to be universal. Elsewhere YMMV.

It's very likely you can find rates online. @User82 suggested cardsfortravel.com as a good place to find out comparative rates.
They categorise cards under headings: All the Cards, Current Hot Cards, Flexible Reward Cards, Airline Credit Cards, Hotel Credit Cards, Cash Back Cards, Business Credit Cards, Cards for Canada.

The people at XE.COM CLAIM to be amongst the best for low cost money transfer.
I've never used their services but their currency converter is useful and the name is easy (no doubt by design) to remember.

Talking to your bank once you know what deals are available may help you to remind them that they have a service they had forgotten to tell you about. [eg my bank offered to add access to my EFTPOS accounts via my VISA card only after other banks started offering similar facilities publicly. I now have a combined VISA/EFTPOS card even though it appears to be just a VISA card.]

Note that the cost of ATM withdrawals can vary with bank and country and can be free in some cases (as above). Where fees apply they are often flat rate and taking out small amounts at a time results in a large percentage cost. Taking large $ amounts out risks the usual hazards.


Related:

When getting cash from an ATM I always check who is where, do not wave the 'wad' around, prearrange a place nearby that I'm going to go to to check and stow the $, keep it well tucked in and out of sight until securely stowed, and have a zipped hard to access pocket to put it in. When travelling casually abroad I often wear multipocket "cargo pants" (some of us have no shame). On one or more front pockets with zips I have cut off the zip-pull making it annoyingly hard for me to open and, hopefully, even harder for a pickpocket. It also need a "hand on my knee" top access. Seems to have worked so far.

  • Commission is not illegal across all of Asia. Maybe in some places (where?), but definitely not all. For example it is standard practice at all money changes in the airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka. – John Zwinck Jan 2 '15 at 1:15
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In any case, do it in Genève. And do it at a bank, not at a currency exchange booth in town or at the airport.

The banks will charge a commission (CHF 3 to 5 or so) if you are not a client of theirs and you do the change at a counter. The other possibility is the money exchange at the train station (which also will charge a commision). You may also get a decent rate (but verify) at the Post Offices which have currency exchange.

A measure whether you get a good exchange rate is the difference between the Buy and Sell rates. For CHF <--> USD, for cash, it is about 0.07 CHF per CHF/USD (I checked this data with the Migrosbank, which has a branch near the Cornavin station). I would say, any place where this span is greater than 0.1 CHF per CHF/USD is a rip-off. Note: this is as of today, and for USD. Traditionally, Migrosbank and the Post Office/PostBank (which is also nearby the Cornavin station) have the best exchange rates, and it seems that the Post Office/PostBank also has the lowest commission.

The banks have boards either in the windows or inside where they do show the rates. If you have enough time, do a little shopping around.

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