Prices quoted are in US dollars unless otherwise stated. Keep in mind that the Canadian system is also dollars and cents but is a separate currency.
In Alaska ATMs are everywhere: at banks, gas stations, supermarkets, airports and even some visitor centers. At most ATMs you can use a credit card (Visa, MasterCard, etc), a debit card or an ATM card that is linked to the Plus or Cirrus ATM networks. There is generally a fee ($1 to $3) for withdrawing cash from an ATM, but the exchange rate on transactions is usually as good if not better than what you’ll get anywhere else.
Hard cash still works. It may not be the safest way to carry funds, but nobody will hassle you when you purchase something with US dollars. Most businesses along the Alcan in Canada will also take US dollars.
US coins come in denominations of 1¢ (penny), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter) and the seldom seen 50¢ (half-dollar). Quarters are the most commonly used coins in vending machines and parking meters, so it’s handy to have a stash of them. Notes, commonly called bills, come in $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.
Like in the rest of the USA, Alaskan merchants are ready and willing to accept just about all major credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards, but American Express and Discovery are also widely used.
Places that accept Visa and MasterCard are also likely to accept debit cards. If you are an overseas visitor, check with your bank at home to confirm that your debit card will be accepted in the USA.
Banks are the best place to exchange foreign currencies as the exchange counters at the airports typically have poorer rates.
Wells Fargo, the nation’s sixth-largest bank, is the dominant player in Alaska with more than 400 branches, eight in Anchorage alone. Wells Fargo can meet the needs of most visitors, including changing currency and offering 24-hour ATMs.
Although slowly becoming obsolete thanks to ATMs, the other way to carry your funds is the time-honored method of traveler’s checks. The popular brands of US traveler’s checks are American Express and Visa, but keep in mind most banks won’t cash them unless you have an account with them and that stores or motels will only cash denominations of $100 or less.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping in Alaska, like in the rest of the USA, is expected.
- Bars If you order food at the table and it's brought to you, tip 15%, the same as at restaurants; 10% if you're having a drink or appetizer at the bar.
- Restaurants From 15% for cafes/chain eateries to 20% for upscale restaurants.
- Taxis 15%.
- Tour guides 10% for bus tour guides, 15% to 20% for wilderness guides on glacier treks or white-water-rafting trips.