Foreign Exchange Rates

A guide to understanding exchange rates when selecting an international money transfer service.

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Exchange rates can be a bit tricky to grab hold of, especially if you’re not an economist, but we’ll try to break them down into simple terms. When we talk about exchange rates, we’re referring to the amount of one currency that has to be given up in order to acquire another currency.

When you boil it down, an exchange rate is the price of a nation’s currency in terms of another currency, with most exchange rates quoted in value against a major currency, like the euro (EUR) or US dollar (USD). For example, an exchange rate of CAD$1 = USD$0.81 means that if you exchange CAD$1,000 you will get USD$810.00 in return.

XE International Money Transfers

International Money Transfer Offer

XE specializes in a wide range of foreign currency solutions and offers an affordable option when you need to send money overseas.

  • Send money to 170+ countries
  • Competitive exchange rates that are often better than banks
  • Transfer up to $500,000 online
  • See exchange rates in real-time

    Get the latest foreign exchange rates with our transfer calculator

    Enter in the amount you want to transfer overseas and select your preferred currency, and our handy transfer calculator will tell you approximately how much you’ll receive after conversion using real-time interbank rates.

    Rates last updated January 22nd, 2020
    Name Product Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Services Description Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received
    WorldRemit International Money Transfers
    CAD 0
    Within an hour
    Online, Bank Account to Bank Account, Cash Transfer
    Use code FINDERCA and pay zero fees on your first transfer. Conditions apply.
    An online money transfer service with cash pick-up, bank account to bank account and airtime transfers available.
    XE International Money Transfers
    CAD 0
    1 day
    Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account
    Send money in more than 60 currencies. Fee-free international money transfers with a global brand.
    OFX International Money Transfers
    USD 150
    1 day
    Online, Phone, Agent
    Exclusive offer: Discounted exchange rates for your first and ongoing transactions. $0 transfer fee.
    A higher exchange rate applies to non-finder customers. Send money in 45 currencies.
    TorFX International Money Transfers
    CAD 2,000
    1 day
    Online, Phone, Agent
    TorFX guarantee to beat any competitor's exchange rate for a transaction. Conditions apply.

    Send money overseas in 45 currencies.
    CurrencyTransfer International Money Transfers
    GBP 5,000
    1 - 2 days
    Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account, International Money Order
    Aimed at larger transfers, CurrencyTransfer is an online marketplace that lets you shop around for the best exchange rate.
    The ‘Rate’ and ‘Amount Received’ displayed are indicative rates that have been supplied by each brand or gathered by Finder.

    Exchange rates are volatile and change often. As a result, the exchange rate listed on Finder may vary to the actual exchange rate quoted for the brand. Please confirm the actual exchange rate and mention “Finder” before you commit to a brand.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    Interbank rate (mid-market rate) and fluctuating exchange rates

    The interbank exchange rate (also known as the mid-market or spot exchange) is the rate at which banks swap currencies between one another. Banks will typically do this directly or through electronic brokering platforms. As a customer, you will typically not have access to the mid-market rate because the banks “re-sell” exchange rates at a marked-up cost to customers in order to turn a profit.

    When it comes to the global market, exchange rates are governed by a complex system of supply and demand. Put simply, rates float freely against one another and fluctuate in accordance with one another. Currency valuations are determined by the stream of currency as it flows in and out of a country. A high demand for a particular currency usually means that the value of that currency will increase, while a low demand will achieve the reverse.

    Factors that influence exchange rates by country

    For many of us, the technical reasons why exchange rates fluctuate aren’t essential to tracking the market, but it can be useful to have an understanding of why exchange rates are sometimes unpredictable.

    • Inflation rates. When inflation rates are low, a country will typically have higher-valued currency, while the reverse is true for high inflation.
    • Interest rates. Higher interest rates are often more attractive to foreign investors, which subsequently increases the demand for and value of a currency, while low interest rates deter investors and cause demand to fall.
    • Current account deficits. When a country spends more on imports than it earns on exports, it will need to borrow money from other countries to finance its deficit which can cause the value of its currency to decline.
    • Level of public debt. Large budget deficits often result in higher inflation which in turn lowers currency valuation.
    • Stability and economic growth. The level of political stability and economic growth in a country influences foreign investment, which can cause currency valuations to fluctuate.

    Types of exchange rates

    There are two ways the price of a currency can be determined against another currency.

    • Fixed exchange rate. A fixed exchange rate, sometimes called a pegged exchange rate, is when a currency is fixed against either the value of another single currency or to another measure of value, such as gold. A set price will be determined against a major world currency like the US dollar or the euro. Developing economies often use fixed rate systems to stabilize their currencies and limit speculation from foreign investors.
    • Floating exchange rate. A floating exchange rate is set by the forex market based on supply and demand compared with other currencies.

    Banks vs money transfer companies or services

    As mentioned above, while banks do offer international money transfers, they are also known for upselling exchange rates to clients, while simultaneously tacking on high administrative fees. When it comes to transferring funds overseas, many Canadians opt to use online transfer services instead of the bank, since these companies trade in large volumes of currency every day and are better-positioned to offer competitive exchange rates with lower fees. Banks resell currency exchange to clients and add a large markup (between 2.5 – 4%) while non-bank services offer clients lower exchange rates (typically less than 2.5% margin).

    International money transfer comparison for banks

    The table below compares exchange rates and transfer costs for Canada’s five largest banks: Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), Bank of Montreal (BMO) and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

    BankTransfer Fee (CAD)Exchange Rate Markup
    Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD)$9 – $302.64%
    Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)Fee-free3.34%
    Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank)$9 plus 1% of principal2.88%
    Bank of Montreal (BMO)$15+2.65%
    Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)$13.502.60%

    International money transfer comparison for non-banks

    The table below compares exchange rates and transfer costs for five of the major international money transfer services in Canada.

    Money Transfer ServiceTransfer Fee (CAD)Exchange Rate Markup
    TransferWise1% of principalLess than 1%
    Canadian Forex$15Less than 2.5%
    TorFXFee-freeLess than 2.5%
    Currency SolutionsFee-freeLess than 1%
    World First$10Less than 2.5%

    Why choose international money transfer services?

    As outlined above, many banks offer international wire and money transfers, but these are often bogged down by hidden fees, large commissions or heavily marked up exchange rates. International money transfer services, on the other hand, make money by applying a small margin to the exchange rate and lowering transfer fees to compensate. It’s important, before transferring money overseas, to compare your options to ensure that you get the most out of every transaction.

    Where can I find the best exchange rates?

    If you’re planning to travel to a foreign country, you can use the following tips and tricks to save money on exchange rates.

    • Use your credit or debit cards rather than currency exchange kiosks. Using an ATM to withdraw money in the local currency is often cheaper than exchanging money at local kiosks, which often tack on fees and surcharges in order to ensure a margin of profit.
    • Use non-bank exchange services: If you need to send money overseas, international money transfer services offer more competitive exchange rates and lower margins than major Canadian banks.
    • Convert cash when rates are favourable: Monitor rates and exchange currencies when rates are favourable. If you exchange money with a reputable agent with competitive rates, you will save money and the headache that comes along with attempting to convert money at local kiosks.
    • Use a travel money card: A travel money card allows you to lock in an exchange rate when you load money onto your card, meaning you can set your rate in advance and avoid the unpredictable fluctuations of the marketplace.
    What’s next?

    Ask an Expert

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    14 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      BenJuly 3, 2016

      I live in Australia and have received a cheque payment for the sale of some US shares for US$30,000. I’m wanting to cash the cheque in Australia at the best rate. Can this only be done with local banks? Is there an exchange rate comparison to see the best rates and associated fees that you know of?

      • Avatarfinder Customer Care
        ClarizzaJuly 6, 2016Staff

        Hi Ben,

        Thanks for your question.

        You can cash the cheque at banks, currency exchange kiosks or use currency exchange services like OFX and TorFx. Generally, currency exchange services offer more competitive rates than baks and kiosks but be sure to compare the exchange rates on offer. As mentioned on this page, it’s important to note that exchanging currency at such places may incur fees.

        The table on this page also allows you to compare exchange rates. Simply input the $US value and select what the currency you want to exchange to and the table will display the amount you will receive.

        Hope this helps.


    2. Default Gravatar
      BriJune 3, 2016

      I live in Australia, and have an e-wallet that I get paid USD funds to. I also have a credit card associated with the same USD account. Where can I find a list of Australian ATM exchange rate comparisons to find out what my best option is to retain the largest amount of funds being withdrawn?

      • Avatarfinder Customer Care
        ShirleyJune 7, 2016Staff

        Hi Bri,

        Thanks for your question.

        Unfortunately we don’t know of an Australia ATM exchange rate comparison, though we are happy to start a comparison between Visa and MasterCard exchange rates.

        I can send you a direct email when we complete this comparison.

    3. Default Gravatar
      SophiaNovember 21, 2015

      I am traveling to overseas next year in January. Wondering if it is better to do the exchange in Australia before I go or do the majority of the exchange when I am there in America. Because I think maybe I can get a slightly better rate if I change my AUD to US$ in USA.

      • Avatarfinder Customer Care
        ShirleyNovember 23, 2015Staff

        Hi Sophia,

        Thanks for your question.

        This is very hard to say due to the volatile nature of exchange rates and the retailer that facilitates the exchange. If you can find an exchange service in the US that offers competitive rates without charging a commission, then it may be better to exchange there.


    4. Default Gravatar
      RobertOctober 15, 2015

      I have around Euro 800 in notes and about the same in Swiss Francs.
      I wish to sell the notes for $A, but the banks and some forex booths are asking a fee from around $8 to $20 per currency which is deducted from my final figure when they calculate the exchange rate to purchase. Some are even asking on top, a percentage of the $A when the final figure is calculated.
      What is the lowest fee, if any is charged to buy cash currency,when the buyer can on sell the currency at a rate when they make money on the selling rate on top of the fee charged to sellers like myself.

      • Avatarfinder Customer Care
        ShirleyOctober 16, 2015Staff

        Hi Robert,

        Thanks for your question.

        You can use our comparison tool on this page to filter through fees. If you click on ‘online transfer fee’ you can see that a few services don’t charge a fee given that your transfer amount is over a certain threshold.

        All the best,

    5. Default Gravatar
      nicolaApril 13, 2015

      I am currently in Australia I have AUD and GBP, I am travelling to USA, which currency should I be converting to USD to ensure most value for money? GBP to AUD then to USD, or just a straight AUD to USD, help I’m confusing myself

      • Avatarfinder Customer Care
        JodieApril 28, 2015Staff

        Hi Nicola,

        Thank you for getting in touch.

        Each financial institution sets their own exchange rates internally so it would depend on how you are wanting to make the exchange.

        You should contact the financial institution you plan to exchange the funds through to see which of their exchange rates work out the best when converting to USD.


    6. Default Gravatar
      RoseJanuary 14, 2015

      I send money overseas to pay off my student loan debt and in addition to the minimum amount I send weekly, I now want to send a little extra, when I can. Is there any difference in the exchange rate if I made 2 separate payments or is it better if I combined the two? Thanks in advance.

      • Avatarfinder Customer Care
        ShirleyJanuary 14, 2015Staff

        Hi Rose,

        Thanks for your question.

        This will depend on the service or provider that you’re using. Generally the exchange rate at the time applies, unless you’ve agreed on a fixed exchange rate or forward contract for your payments. Please check with your provider.


    7. Default Gravatar
      daveOctober 7, 2014

      is it best to send Australian dollars to my thai bank account and let them calculate or is it best to send thai baht already calculated by an Australian bank

      • Avatarfinder Customer Care
        ShirleyOctober 8, 2014Staff

        Hi Dave,

        Thanks for your question.

        It would be good to look at the exchange rates from each financial institution first. After that, have a look at the fees involved for the transfer to see if the savings you make from the exchange rates are worth it.

        If you have anymore questions, please let us know.


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