I noticed too many Americans complaining about the exchange rate . Compared to 5 years ago the American Dollars value has dropped by 25%. The American Dollar is very "weak" at the moment, which means that prices in Canada will seem more expensive. Don't blame the Canadians for this, and don't get cross with them when they offer you a rate of exchange much lower than you previously could expect. They are NOT overcharging- it is simply that your dollars are worth less at the moment.
The sollution is simple. Get money changed at home before you go, and shop around for the best rate you can find- it changes daily. That way it won't seem as bad.
REMEMBER- Whoever you exchange currency with (bank, credit card, booth, shop, hotel) you always lose out by a small percentage. The ACTUAL exchange rate is for banks dealing between themselves- the best you can expect is the Tourist Rate.
Basically, it means this- Example- Bill and Bob are tourists.
Bill is changing his $1000 American into Canadian Dollars. He gets $1200 Canadian Dollars.
Bob uses the same service to change his $1200 Canadian Dollars into American Dollars, he gets $950.
If Bill was a bank he could have changed $975 American into $1200 Canadian.
Likewise if Bob was a bank he would have gotten $975 American for his Canadian $1200.
So- because Bill and Bob are tourists they are both "down" $25 on the deal- this is the unavoidable cost of changing money, as money changers and banks need to make a profit- it also covers costs.
Your credit card will charge the current tourist rate.
CONCLUSION- keep the cost of changing money as low as possible.
right now the US$ exchange rate is about 22%. only banks and your credit card company are obligated to give you this rate. some hotels restaurants and shops will give you less-sometimes considerably less. although this was more prevalent when rates were 40 or 50% still be careful what rate you get.exchange your cash at a local bank and pay for everything in CAN$ sometimes hotels websites still show US$ rates based on 30 or 35% so your bill is a lot more than you may have expected. some folks online have even thought their hotel ripped them off by "overcharging" when it was an issue of exchange rates. remember- you get the going rate WHEN YOU STAY not when you made the reservation. its always there in the fine print "rates subject to change based on fluctuating US$ exchange rate" so be careful so a trip to niagara doesn't cost you more than you thought it would
I think your best bet is to pay with a credit card whenever possible, because each store/restaurant/attraction sets their own exchange rate. Sometimes they are fair, other times they are not. Small purchases obviously don't matter too much, but if you are spending a significant amount of money, use plastic, that way you get the bank's exchange rate, which you can trust to be fair.
I'm sure just about everyone knows this- but I didn't when I to Canada (or the first time I was out of the US.) I seemed to have spent a lot of money that I couldn't really account for, but I didn't realize that when you exchange your money that you lose money doing it. I used those little Currency Exchange shops and I guess they charge you to swap curriencies.