Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW) Currency Exchange: Locations & Tips

Claire Millard
Ileana Ionescu
Last updated
May 9, 2024

If you’re flying in or out of Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW), you may be planning on getting your foreign currency as you pass through the airport. Most major airports have several different currency exchange options, as well as other ways to get your hands on cash, such as ATMs. However, it’s worth comparing a few options before you decide to exchange your money at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport to make sure you get the best available deal.

This full guide to currency exchange at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW) covers all you need to know.

Wise travel card - A low cost alternative to airport exchanges

Mid-market rateMid-market rateVisa Debit CardVisa Debit Card

Using a multi-currency card from Wise for your travels is often a more cost-effective option than exchanging physical currency at an airport. Wise provides conversions at the mid-market exchange rate without any markups or hidden fees, ensuring you get the best possible value for your money.

Does Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW) have currency exchange?

Yes. Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW) has 1 currency exchange locations you can choose from. However, as airport currency exchange services don’t usually have a lot of competition it’s common to find that the overall costs of switching your funds at the airport can be on the high side. Fees might not be obvious as they can be added to the available exchange rate. To figure out the true cost of using the currency exchange services at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport you’ll need to look at both the fees quoted and the rate being used to switch your money between currencies.

We’ll look at a few alternatives you might want to check and compare a little later - first, here’s a rundown of the available currency exchange options at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport:

NameAddressPhone numberGoogle rating
ICE International Currency ExchangeTerminal, 1000 Airport Parkway Private, Ottawa(613) 249-85673.8 out of 5 stars

ICE International Currency Exchange

Opening hours
  • Monday: 4:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 4:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 4:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Thursday: 4:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Friday: 4:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Saturday: 4:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Sunday: 4:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Cookies consent must be granted in order for the map to be displayed.

How we rated the currency exchanges at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport?

To rank the currency exchange options available to you, we’ve used factors including Google review ratings, which are dynamically updated as previous customers leave feedback.

Customers tend to rank exchange places on features such as cost, convenience, and ease of use. As ratings change over time, it’s worth double checking the most up to date details online before you choose the currency exchange service that’s right for you.

How to exchange money at YOW:

You’ll have a few options for exchanging money at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, including:

  • Over-the-Counter Service: exchange money on the spot by visiting a currency exchange location and paying in cash or with a card for your foreign currency. This is a fast and convenient choice if the exchange office has the currency you need in stock - but can also be pretty expensive thanks to high fees and hiked up exchange rates.
  • Online Pre-Order: some providers, such as CXI, allow customers to order their foreign currency online for airport collection. This can mean you get a better exchange rate compared to an on the spot exchange, and means you’re guaranteed the exchange office will have the currency needed. 
  • ATMs: a final option is to use an ATM to withdraw cash in the local currency in your destination, on arrival at the airport. ATMs are commonly available and can offer a fair exchange rate. However, you’ll need to make sure your own card issuer doesn’t impose high fees on foreign currency transactions and withdrawals, to make sure you get a good deal in the end.

Understanding Exchange Rates and Costs at YOW

When you exchange money, the amount of foreign currency you get in the end is determined by the exchange rate you’re offered, minus any fees you have to pay.

Exchange rates can be tricky as they move around all the time depending on changes in global markets. However, the rate to look out for is the mid-market exchange rate, which is the one you’ll see on Google and with a currency converter tool. Finding a provider which uses this rate - or as close as possible to it - will usually mean you get the best available deal.

Multi-currency cards vs airport exchanges

Unfortunately - and particularly at airport exchange offices - you’ll find very often that the exchange rate you’re quoted in the end is quite different to the mid-market rate for your currency. That’s because the exchange service has added an extra percentage fee to the rate used for conversion. This pushes up the overall cost to you, and also makes it very different to work out what you’re really paying for exchange.

Here’s a quick comparison between the Wise multi-currency card and one of the popular exchange services widely available at airports, (ICE - International Currency Exchange), you might consider to show you how fees and rates can make a difference to the amount of money you’d get in the end.

Exchange amount and currencyWith ICE you’d get*With Wise you’d get*DifferenceWhich is best?
1,000 USD to EUR€792.95€924.92€131.97Wise
5,000 USD to EUR€3,964.76€4,626.78€662.02Wise
1,000 USD to CAD$1,162.50$1,357.60$195.10Wise
5,000 USD to CAD$5,812.50$6,792.39$979.89Wise
1,000 USD to GBP£678.17£790.88£112.71Wise
5,000 USD to GBP£3,390.84£3,956.52£565.68Wise
1,000 USD to JPY¥131,084¥151,817¥20,733Wise
5,000 USD to JPY¥655,420¥760,239¥104,819Wise

*Data taken from and, 3rd of May 2024

Aside from fees added into the exchange rate you may also run into a couple of other costs, such as an exchange fee or delivery fee if you’re ordering online. These fees can be called commission or administration charges - but they’re usually pretty easy to spot when you arrange your currency exchange.

What’s the best way to exchange money at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport?

If you need to exchange money quickly right before you travel, exchanging cash at the airport might be an appealing option. However, airport exchange rates aren’t usually the best option out there, which can mean that your exchange costs more at the airport compared to using other methods. Here are a few alternatives you might want to look into:

  • Multi-currency cards: A multi-currency card from a provider like Wise or Revolut allows you to hold foreign currencies in a digital account and then tap to pay with a physical or virtual card. You’ll also be able to make local currency ATM withdrawals when you need cash. Different card providers have their own limits for spending and withdrawals - for Wise US card holders you can withdraw up to 1,000 USD a day for example, while Revolut limits withdrawals to the equivalent of 3,000 GBP daily

  • Travel cards: Travel cards have been designed to allow customers to load popular foreign currencies to spend and withdraw later. They can function in a similar way to a multi-currency card, but usually have more limited features and support fewer currencies. Some providers let you collect a travel card instantly in person so you can start spending right away

  • ATMs: Getting cash from an ATM when you arrive at your destination can be a good option as long as your own card doesn’t have high fees for overseas use. It’s also helpful to know that some ATM networks have high fixed fees for withdrawals, which can mean you spend more than you need to in the end

Tips and tools to save your money

Let’s look at a few smart ideas to help you make your money go further when you travel.

  • Plan ahead: Planning your travel money ahead of time gives you more options, and can mean you end up with more in your wallet in the end. Don’t be pressured into exchanging at the airport at the last moment - planning in advance means you can get a multi-currency card or travel card to make life easier and cheaper.

  • Compare exchange rates: Every exchange service sets their own exchange rate. This means it’s crucial to compare the different rates available so you can find the best deal for your specific needs. You can get the mid-market exchange rate for your currency with a simple Google search, and look for a provider which offers this rate - or as close as possible to it.

  • Watch out for fees: A few different fees might apply when you exchange foreign currency, including commission, an exchange charge, and delivery costs if you opt to collect your money at a convenient location close to home or in the airport.

  • Use multi-currency accounts or travel cards: Providers like Wise and Revolut let you hold dozens of foreign currencies - often with low or no ongoing fees. You can add a balance in the currency you need and spend freely. If you don’t spend all the money you had loaded onto your account you can leave it for next time you travel, withdraw to your bank, or spend it at home.

Learn more about the Wise multi-currency card

Should you exchange foreign currency after your travels at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport?

It’s not usually a great idea to exchange money at airports as the exchange rates available can be less favourable than those you’d get in a city exchange where competition drives the cost down.

Looking for the best places to exchange currency in Ottawa?

Mobile Apps and Tools for Currency Exchange

Here are a few helpful tools you can use to check and compare currency exchange services, to make sure you get a good deal:

  • TransferWise (now Wise): Open an account and order a multi-currency debit card, hold 40+ currencies and spend in 150+ countries, with mid-market exchange rates and low fees

  • Revolut: Choose from different account and card types depending on your specific needs, to hold and exchange dozens of currencies and spend conveniently around the world

  • View, check and compare currency exchange rates for different currencies and from different services so you can see which is best for you

Mobile Phone

Security tips for carrying cash at airports

As with anywhere, you’ll need to be very careful if you’re carrying cash with you as you pass through Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport. Travelers are often targets for petty thieves because they’re distracted and in an unfamiliar place - keeping your wits about you is essential to make sure you’re not a victim. Here are a few pointers:

  • Use airport lockers: Some airports offer lockers where travellers can securely store cash and other valuables. Using these may mean you need to pay a small fee, but can offer reassurance if you’re in the airport for an extended layover.

  • Travel insurance: Ensure your travel insurance policy includes coverage for theft of cash to recover some losses in case of an incident. Remember, if you’re the victim of crime, you’ll need to make a police report as soon as possible to make an insurance claim

  • Split the amount: Spread your cash among several secure places on your person and in your carry-on luggage to minimize potential losses. Do not include cash or valuables in hold luggage.

  • Use a money belt: A money belt worn under clothing is a safer alternative to a wallet, which can be easily targeted by pickpockets.


So, while you do have options for currency exchange at YOW, the exchange rates and fees on offer at the airport aren’t always the best available. A little advance planning can mean your money goes further in the end. Consider opening a multi-currency account or ordering a travel card which can help you get a better exchange rate, and offers flexible spending and withdrawal with low overall costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I change money at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW)

Yes, there are 1 currency exchange counters available at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport. However, you might find that you can get better rates and lower fees by avoiding the airport currency exchange and using a multi-currency account and card instead.

How much does the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport charge to exchange currency?

Currency exchange fees vary depending on the specific currency you need, and can include an exchange rate markup as well as commission or an exchange fee. Some providers state that there are no fees to pay - in this case, look carefully at the exchange rate available as the chances are that there are extra costs added here.

How to exchange currency at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport?

You can make an in person currency exchange at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport by visiting a physical location and handing over cash or paying by card. You’ll be given your foreign currency in cash instantly. Some currency exchange services also allow customers to order foreign currency in advance for collection. Where this service is available you can order online or by phone, and pick up your money when you arrive at the airport.