If you are visiting Phoenix from another country, you may be surprised that there aren't many places where a person can exchange their foreign currency for U.S. Dollars (USD). Unlike some other countries, our retailers won't do that for you. They only deal with U.S. currency and coin. Here are some of your options.
Foreign Currency at Banks
All the major banks in the area--Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and others--have the capability to buy foreign currency in exchange for USD. Of course, they have plenty of USD around, and they get daily buy rates from their traders. The problem is that if you are not a customer of the bank, they may not do the exchange since they are at risk if there is a problem with the currency. For instance, it has been known to happen that people will try to exchange counterfeit bills or bills that are out of circulation.
It is possible that some branches may exchange small quantities of foreign currency for you as a non-customer, but don't be surprised if they decline.
If the bank won't exchange currency, they might still give you a cash advance against a Visa or Mastercard. Keep in mind that exchange rates will be determined by the credit card company, fees may apply, and finance charges on cash advances apply until they are paid off.
Foreign Currency at Local Hotels and Resorts
All the larger hotels and resorts will accommodate those wanting to exchange major currencies for USD. They receive daily rates from their banks, add a spread to the rates for their trouble, and will give you USD. Hotels are notorious for having bad foreign exchange rates, since they handle small amounts, keep it around longer than major traders, and pay additional fees to the bank for processing. Still, the rate difference might be worth the convenience, and that's why they do it.
Local Currency Exchange Businesses
There are very few currency exchange businesses in the Phoenix area.
- Travelex at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix is located in downtown Phoenix at Sky Harbor International Airport. There are two locations at Terminal 4. One location is on Level 3, pre-security, just outside the B checkpoint. The other location in Terminal 4 is located past security next to gate B-15. They are open seven days per week (but not 24 hours). Phone: 602-275-8767
- Travelex in Scottsdale is located at 4253 N Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale inside the branch of U.S. Bank. Regular branch hours, Monday through Friday and half a day on Saturday. Phone: 480-990-1707
Automated Teller Machines
Always your best bet for convenience and the best foreign exchange rates, when you visit Arizona bring an ATM card that can be used at one of the hundreds of ATMs in the city at any time of the day or night. Check with your bank before you leave for the U.S. to see which ATMs your card can access and which symbols to look for on the ATM. Cirrus, Plus, and Star are examples of names of ATM systems accepted by ATMs in Arizona.
Obviously, this article was written for people visiting Phoenix, but if you live in Phoenix and plan to travel to another country, you might want to purchase foreign currency. That is, exchange your U.S. Dollars for the currency of the country you'll be visiting. You can do that during business hours at the retail Currency Exchange Business mentioned above. In addition, every branch of a major bank in the Valley can order foreign currency for you, and arrange for you to pick it up at your branch.
You will need a few days notice to do that. Using ATMs in foreign countries to get local currencies usually provides good exchange rates, but you should be aware of the risks of atm fraud.