Los Angeles hosted 29.5 million overnight visitors during 2014, 6.5 million of whom traveled from outside the U.S., according to the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. The top international feeders included Mexico (1,732,000 tourists), Canada (739,000), China (686,000), Australia (401,000), the UK (328,000), Japan (310,000) and France (281,000). While international tourists represented 22% of total overnight visitors, they generated $6.5 billion in overnight spending, or 34% of the total. If you're traveling to L.A. from abroad, you will need to get at least some currency in dollars.

Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, a credit card is the best option for many purchases (especially larger ones, such as your hotel). More and more banks are offering credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, so if you travel frequently, it’s a good idea to get one (see Top Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee). (Many cards impose a 2% to 3% fee on international transactions, which can add hugely to to the overall cost of your trip.) Still, at some point, you are going to need U.S. currency in order to pay cash for anything from a bottle of water to a tour at Universal Studios. Wondering where in the city you can exchange your home currency for U.S. dollars? Here are some of your best options. ( Knowing about currency exchange places can also be useful if you're an Angeleno headed abroad; it's good to arrive with at least some cash.)

The Airport

You won’t get the best exchange rates at LAX (or any other airport, for that matter), but if you’re planning to buy just a small amount of U.S. dollars – or you just need a little cash in your pocket to get your trip started – the convenience may be worth it. If you want a larger amount of cash, an ATM or one of the currency exchange stores located in town will give you a better deal. To find out the current exchange rate for your currency, use our online currency converter

ICE Currency Exchange operates nine branch locations within the LAX airport:

  • Terminal 2, Departures. Hours: Monday – Sunday, 6:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. 
  • Terminal 2, Arrivals. Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Terminal 3, Departures. Hours: Monday – Sunday, 6:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Terminal 6, Departures. Hours: Monday – Sunday, 6:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Terminal 6, Arrivals. Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
  • Terminal 7, Departures. Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
  • Tom Bradley International, Departures, South Entrance. Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m.
  • Tom Bradley International, Departures, North Entrance. Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 12:45 a.m.
  • Tom Bradley International, Arrivals. Hours: 6:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.  

For more information, call 310-646-0553.

ATMs

Using an ATM is one of the easiest and cheapest methods to get cash while traveling abroad. All international withdrawals – no matter how big or small – are based on the wholesale exchange rate, so you get a better rate than you would at a currency exchange store or kiosk. If your home bank has an agreement with a U.S. bank, you can avoid paying any extra fees (ask your bank for policy details). If you will be charged a per-transaction fee, it’s better to take one or two larger withdrawals, instead of several smaller ones.

Within LAX, Bank of America operates an ATM in the arrival level of Terminal 7. Other ATMs that are close to the airport include:

  • Citibank: 8800 S Sepulveda Blvd.
  • Wells Fargo: 8949 S Sepulveda Blvd.
  • Chase: 8900 Sepulveda Westway
  • Cardtronics: 1440 E Imperial Ave., El Segundo 

As in any large city, you can find a wide variety of ATMs throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area at banks, shopping centers and close to many tourist attractions. Think you’ll need help finding an ATM? Check with your bank to see if it offers an ATM locator app, or search your smart phone’s app store. You can also check your bank's website on your smart phone.

Currency Exchange Stores

In addition to the ICE Currency Exchange stores located inside the airport, you can find many other stores throughout Los Angeles, offering a range of services aimed at travelers entering the country and U.S. travelers headed overseas. While the exchange rate you’ll get at a bank is generally fixed, meaning it doesn’t fluctuate throughout the day, private businesses such as these currency exchange stores may change rates with the market. Call ahead to find out rates, but keep in mind the rate you are told over the phone and the rate you might receive could be different – in your favor or against – as rates are periodically updated.

Some of the currency exchange stores in Los Angeles with favorable online reputations include (in alphabetical order, and not ranked in any way):

Bretton Woods. 11659 San Vicente Blvd., 800-439-2426.

Currency Exchange International. Citadel Outlets, 100 Citadel Dr., 323-721-2500; and Santa Monica Place, 395 Santa Monica Place, Level 2, 310-393-7444   

Foreign Currency Express. 350 S Figueroa St. #134, 213-624-3693.

LA Currency. 7095 Hollywood Blvd. #204, 323-878-0555; and 6582 Van Nuys Blvd., 818-785-0999.

Travelex. 201 Santa Monica Blvd., Ste. 101 (in Santa Monica), 310-260-9219; 21712 Hawthorne Blvd., Ste. 301 (in Torrance), 310-370-6344; and 8901 Santa Monica Blvd. West (in Hollywood), 310-659-6093, plus two other locations in the greater Los Angeles region.

World Banknotes Exchange. 520 S Grand Ave., 213-446-3380.

The Bottom Line

Any time you travel overseas – for business or pleasure – you’ll need a way to pay for some goods and services in the local currency. 

When you do need to exchange money, be sure to ask how much money you’ll get in exchange for the amount you’re handing over. Just because a place advertises no commissions or no fees, doesn’t mean you’ll get a good rate – and it doesn’t mean there won’t be “hidden” charges, either. Find out what you’re getting, before you give the store your money.

A currency converting app, such as XE Currency or GlobeConvert, can help you figure out how much you should be getting. Enter the type and amount of currency you want to exchange, and the app calculates how much of the “new” currency you can buy at today’s rates. Search your smart phone’s app store for options. For more information, see The Best Places to Exchange Currency and Time Your Travel Abroad to the Exchange Rate.