Best places to exchange currency in Seattle

10.04.17
4 minute read
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While Seattle is probably best known for endless rain, Nirvana and coffee, that’s only a very small part of what this city has to offer.

A major west coast business hub - home to the likes of Amazon, Starbucks and Nordstrom - it’s also a great place to visit if you’re looking to just kick back and unwind.

Sounds like the perfect place to mix business and pleasure, right?

If you’re heading to Seattle anytime soon, read this guide to get the best deal possible on foreign currency exchange.

Things to know before exchanging your money

Before rushing to the nearest exchange service, spend some time understanding how exchange rates work. Here are few helpful facts that will better prepare you.

About the US Dollar

The US Dollar is the world’s main reserve currency. It’s also the most traded currency on the international markets, which means it’s always in high demand.

The Dollar has a floating exchange rate, so its value is fully dependent on market forces. Take the time to monitor its fluctuations in the weeks before your trip. To make this easier you can sign up for exchange rate notifications to better keep track of changes in the rate. You then might be able to pick the ultimate time to make your conversion.

Always compare to the mid-market rate

Even though the Dollar’s value tends to fluctuate, you can still find out what the fairest exchange rate is by checking the mid-market rate. Put simply, this is the midpoint between supply and demand, and the fairest exchange rate you could possibly get.  

Finding out the current mid-market rate couldn’t be easier. Just use this TransferWise currency converter or search your currency pairing on google. You can spot the extent of hidden fees in an offered tourist rate by deducting it from the live mid-market rate at the time. Also be sure to consider any upfront commission applied to a service.

Avoid airport and hotel currency exchanges

Exchanging currency at the airport or from your hotel is rarely a good deal.

If you insist on doing so, though, you’ll find four foreign exchange kiosks at Seattle Tacoma International Airport. There are two in the main terminal, one next to baggage reclaim and another one on concourse A. Some hotels also offer currency exchange in Seattle, but as with airports, beware of higher fees and less favourable exchange rates.

ATM withdrawals

Withdrawing money from an ATM is often one of the cheapest ways to get foreign currency, provided you’re aware of any foreign ATM fees and charges.

It’s a good idea to check with your bank about any applicable fees for using ATMs abroad. Some banks have special arrangements with foreign banks that allow their customers to make withdrawals fee-free or at a reduced cost.

In addition, Bank of America, which is part of the Global ATM Alliance, offers fee-free withdrawals to customers of other banks that are part of the alliance. You can see a list of Bank of America’s ATM machines in Seattle here.

Using an ATM in Seattle is only a good idea if you perform the transaction in dollars. If an ATM asks you to choose whether to be charged in dollars or in your home currency, you should always choose dollars. Otherwise, you’ll be facing a very unfavourable exchange rate.

Budgeting for your trip

While it may sound counter-intuitive, it’ll probably work out cheaper if you spend all your Dollars during your trip. This is the case because buying back your home currency will often incur additional charges.

Alternatively, you can sell the money to a friend at the same rate you bought it, or save it up for future trips to Seattle or other cities in the US.

Where to exchange money in Seattle

The two best known foreign currency exchange companies in Seattle are Currency Exchange International and Travelex. Their details are included in the table below.

While both companies claim to offer the best deals on foreign currency, you shouldn’t take their word for it. Compare their rates to the mid-market rate, so you’ll know whether they’re offering you a fair deal or building a profit into the exchange rate.

Currency Bureau Address Contact Information
Currency Exchange International 2800 Southcenter Mall, Tukwila 98188 +1 206-246-4000
Travelex 10630 N E 8th Street, Airline Ticket Center, Bellevue 98004 +1 425-462-2817
International Currency Exchange Seattle Tacoma International Airport, 17801 International Blvd, Seattle 98158 +1 206-248-9329; +1 206-241-4571

The bottom line

If you’re looking for the best deal on the exchange rate, using an ATM is a good option. Just be sure to pay for transactions in USD while in Seattle, and avoid having the ATM’s bank perform the conversion for you.

Buying currency at the airport, from your hotel or using a foreign exchange company, on the other hand, will rarely be a good deal. If you really have to use a foreign exchange company, try shopping around and comparing what you’re offered to the mid-market rate.

Or, even better, if either you or a friend has access to a USD account in Seattle, use TransferWise and make the transfer ahead of time. Not only does TransferWise use the real mid-market exchange rate to convert your money (which almost always beat the banks), your money will also be sent and received using local banks, bypassing those nasty international banking fees.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more