Currency Exchange in Chicago: A Comprehensive Guide

So you’ve got your bags all packed and the perfect itinerary planned for your trip to Chicago. Next thing on your list? Getting your hands on the currency of Chicago so that you can experience the Windy City life the best way, right?  Before planning your itinerary for Chicago, it is important to know where and how to get the currency exchanged to ensure a smooth and memorable trip. In this guide, we tell you all you need to know about currency exchange in Chicago. Keep reading to learn all about the best deals on currencies in Chicago!

Official Currency of Chicago and its Denominations


The official currency of Chicago is US Dollar, as in any other city in the United States.  For foreigners visiting Chicago, one needs to possess US dollars denoted by the symbol US$ for hassle free transactions. A dollar is often known as ‘a buck’ in Chicago.


Coins available are 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and 50 cents which are referred to as a penny, a nickel, a dime, a quarter and half a dollar respectively. One hundred cents usually make up a dollar. There have been several changes in the design of US Dollars over the years,  but all the bills are of the same size and colour so it gets confusing sometimes, especially for the ones with vision issues, so make sure you check them before making transactions.

Where to Avoid Currency Exchange in Chicago


Well, exchanging currencies in Chicago is not such a task but before you explore the options, you should know where not to exchange your currencies. As soon as you land at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, you will come across the Airport Currency Exchange and that might seem like the most convenient option but it is pertinent to note that they don’t offer the best rates. They are aware that their exchange kiosks are either your first or last choice, so that works in their advantage as they shell out the extras from your pockets by adding additional charges like excess commissions. Avoid any kiosk you come across in the airport unless there is an emergency. This also applies for hotels and other tourist attractions in the city of Chicago. 

Where Can You Exchange Currencies in Chicago? 


If not airports then where? Not to worry, there are ample options for currency exchange in Chicago city and we also have an expert opinion on which one is the best: 

1. Currency Exchange at Foreign Exchange Companies

Foreign exchange companies in Chicago offer the best deals with guaranteed rates and are most reliable in terms of exchange rates. Here is a list of the best dealers in Chicago:

Currency Exchange International

With more than 100 company-owned retail outlets open seven days a week, Currency Exchange International claims to provide the best rates to its client. They deal with only papers but no coins and claim to offer ‘Best Rate Guarantee’ service that beats local bank rates on the same day and time. They also offer special military benefits.
Address: 520 Michigan Avenue The Shops at North Bridge, Chicago, IL 60611
Timings: Monday-Sunday: 11:00am- 7:00pm
Contact Information: 1-312-755-9200

Clark Diversey Currency Exchange

Clark Diversey is one of the largest currency exchange dealers in Northern Chicago and one among the few open till midnight. Over the years, this exchange dealer has delivered exceptional service and has made a mark among its customers. The rates offered are relatively attractive compared to the market but they accept only paper currency and no coins. 
Location:2735 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Timings: Monday-Sunday-9:00am-12:00am 
Contact information: +1 773-348-5474

Loop Currency Exchange

Loop Currency Exchange offers a variety of essential services including foreign exchange at reasonable rates. Their friendly and experienced staff seems to have gained good reviews among its customers
Address: 205 W Randolph St #6, Chicago, IL 60606
Timings: Monday-Sunday: 8:30am-5:30pm 
Contact information: +1 312-372-7748

2. Currency Exchange at Banks


Most international banks located in Chicago exchange US dollars for foreign currency, given that you have an account at their bank or even a credit card issued by them. Few banks charge a fixed fee and the rates offered by them are usually at par with the market.  Some of the features of international banks in Chicago offering exchange services are:

Citibank: They do not charge any extra free and also offer online ordering services with a fee of $5. CitiGold and Citi Priority Account members are not charged for this extra fee.
Bank of America: BOA does not charge any extra fee and offers online ordering services for a minimum of $100.
Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo does not charge any extra fee and offers online ordering above $200.
PNC: No extra fees are charged by this bank but they do not offer online services and one needs to collect the currencies directly from the bank branch.

Apart from these four banks, you can contact a few other international banks for their assistance on easy access to foreign exchange and their contact information are given below:

Fifth Third Bank - (312) 396-4300 - 222 Merchandise Mart Plz, Chicago, IL
Chase Bank and ATM - (312) 829-6250 - 1340 S Canal St, Chicago, IL
Chase Bank and ATM - (773) 281-5700 - 3032 N Clark St, Chicago, IL
National City Bank - (312) 225-4427 - 1733 S Clark St, Chicago, IL
Bank of America: (773) 667-0408 - 1439 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL
Bank of America: (312) 573-3460 - 1590 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL
Bank of America: (773) 880-1500 - 538 W Diversey Pky, Chicago, IL
Bank of America: (312) 904-2880 - 100 S Wacker Dr, #300, Chicago, IL
Wamu Bank and ATM: (312) 726-1178 - 206 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

3. Converting Currencies Online


Apart from banks, some currency exchangers offer their services online as well. Travelex is one of the largest foreign exchange providers in Chicago. AAA is another online service provider which also buys back foreign currency. 

4. Currency Exchange at an ATM


ATMs typically offer the best rates, despite charging a fixed fee for withdrawal in a foreign land. Although withdrawals in foreign lands are a good idea, it is always advised to take more cash rather than ATM withdrawals to reduce the fee payment charged for every transaction. Fees charged include foreign transaction fee, cash advance fee for credit card users, foreign atm use fee and out of network fee. Some banks make it easier for their customers by not levying so many charges so one needs to choose the bank carefully.

Things to Keep in Mind before Exchanging your Currency in Chicago


Now that you know about all the different ways in which you can exchange currencies in Chicago, there are a few things that you should keep in mind before trading them
  • One important thing to know is that exchange rates fluctuate. In easy words, the value of the US dollar might fall or rise based on market conditions, so there are ways in which you can insulate yourself from the effects of the market conditions. If your trip to Chicago is planned months in advance, then with a bit of monitoring, you can book your dollars in advance when the rates are in your favour. There are apps which keep you updated about real time rates, so before planning a trip, it could be helpful. 
  • Another thing to keep in mind is that different exchange outlets offer different deals which may not always stand out to be the best for you. A lot of additional charges like commissions are added to their proposed rates which can make the deal expensive. To overcome this, you can compare the rates provided to you with the real mid-market rates, which is the midpoint between the buying and selling rates from global markets and is the best rate. You can use TransferWise Currency Converter to assure that you get the best deal and don’t lose out.
  • It is always advisable that you exchange only as much as you need to spend on your trip. It is never wise to buy back your currency from Chicago.
  • Several international banks offer free withdrawal services to its customers from its ATMs all over the world.Banks like Citibank and Bank of America, have ATMs all over Chicago city, and offer fee-free withdrawals, so using their ATMs would be one of the best ways to withdraw money in Chicago
  • Last but not least, the most important tip is never to use Airport currency exchange. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has foreign exchange kiosks everywhere but, as a general rule, airport exchanges always charge you way more than they ideally should. So one always ends up paying more than they should ideally be. 
Travelling to a foreign land is often expensive but there are always ways to cut down costs and get rewarded. Well, it all comes down to one thing: early planning for a hassle free trip. Make sure that you are prepared enough orelse you will have to rely on the Chicago Airport Currency Exchange, but by now we all know that it’s not the best option. The best advice is to use a credit card with zero foreign transaction fee if possible or withdraw from a local ATM or from your bank well in advance. But make sure you do your research well in advance not to lose out. 

So now that you have your hands on our comprehensive guide, you are all set to enjoy a memorable time in Chicago!

This post was published by Asmita Sarkar

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