7 Currency Exchange Tips for International Travelers
When you travel to a foreign country, you must provide payment in their local currencies. If you aren’t careful, there can be so many hands in the currency exchange pot that you simply wind up getting ripped off without even knowing it until you get home.
Therefore, with foreign currency exchange, it’s buyer beware!
7 Money-Saving Currency Exchange Tips for International Travelers
- Bring some foreign currency with you – once you touch ground in your destination, you are going to find yourself needing local currency for tips as you make your way to your hotel room. Obtaining this initial foreign currency is best done at home with your local bank. If you wait to use the currency exchange booths in the airports, you will pay considerably more in fees, and in the exchange rate. Some banks will charge you a small service fee for this transaction and will make for themselves a nice little profit in the actual exchange rate they give you. Don’t stress about this; we only suggest that you bring a couple of hundred bucks with you as you will be doing the rest of your currency exchanging overseas.
- Use your ATM card for overseas currency – once you arrive at your destination, the best and easiest way to obtain cash is using your debit card in an ATM machine. You will find ATM machines abundantly available in metropolitan areas. We also recommend that you only use bank ATM machines. Stand-alone ATM machines found in populous shopping areas are more prone to identity theft.
Notify your bank and credit card company before traveling internationally – trust me, it’s no fun being overseas and not having any money in your pocket. Many banks have security provisions on their debit and credit cards to prevent overseas charges. Therefore, it is critically important that you let them know that you will be traveling internationally. This way they can remove the international block on your debit and credit cards. There’s nothing worse than calling back to the U.S. trying to get your debit and credit cards to work while overseas.
- Make purchases with your credit card – you will obtain the very best exchange rates by using your credit cards for all purchases while overseas. Keep your cash to a minimum, and use your credit card wherever you can.
- No-foreign-fee credit cards – credit card companies are going to treat your credit card currency exchange requests the same as your bank. Most will charge a fee (0-3%), as well as making a profit in the actual exchange rate. If you are frequent international travelers, then you may want to consider a credit card that charges no international transaction fees. This will save you quite a bit of money in fees.
- Always make purchases in local currency – it is becoming very common for overseas restaurants, hotels, and retail outlets to ask you if you would like to make your transition in U.S. dollars. While this sounds like the wise thing to do, in fact, you have just added another hand in the cookie jar with yet another currency exchange. This is called dynamic currency conversion. Always decline this request, and save yourself from getting ripped off with a god-awful exchange rate from the merchant.
- Use a currency conversion app on your smartphone – when you’re shopping in a foreign country, don’t leave the currency exchange math to be done in your head. To find a free currency conversion app for your smartphone, search your phone’s App Store.
Listen, if you don’t pay attention to these matters before traveling overseas, you will find yourself wasting hundreds of dollars in fees and bad exchange rates. As I said above, with foreign currency exchange, it’s buyer beware!
If you enjoyed this article, sign up for our monthly newsletter to keep abreast of our best travel tips, on-location reviews, exclusive travel offers, group travel events, and much more.