Exchanging Money – Going on vacation to Europe or an international trip is an exciting adventure.
We can get totally swept up in the fun of visiting faraway places, tasting exotic foods, and learning about the history of new lands that we forget that all of these things need to be paid for!
It’s no secret that travelers get ripped off all of the time when changing currencies.
You’re at a total disadvantage.
You’re also at the whim of foreign banks and exchanges that can charge extremely high fees for transactions.
What is the best way to exchange money before your vacation or international trip without breaking the bank?
Use these simple steps and tips for exchanging currency for an international trip and you’ll have more cash to enjoy your vacation instead of losing it all in fees and charges!
Always Let Your Bank Know The Dates Of Your Travel
This doesn’t pertain to exchanging currency before your trip per se, but skipping this vital step can lead to a bank freeze on your debit and credit cards.
There are plenty of horror stories of people who have been stranded abroad with no access to their money simply because they failed to inform their bank that they were planning on heading abroad.
Banks freeze accounts with the best intentions in mind.
They want to make sure that the person buying those shoes in Koh Samui was really you, not someone who lifted your bank information.
If you don’t let them know that you’re heading to Thailand, they will make the assumption that the transaction is fraudulent and freeze the card- for your own good!
Make the simple call to your bank and let them know the dates that you are planning on traveling.
Some banks even let you do it through online messenger.
Download An App To Help You With Currency Conversions
Currency conversion can be extremely confusing, which is why it’s important to download an app that can make the conversions for you!
This is especially important for currencies that are tough to calculate, like Costa Rican colones.
With one quick glance, you can determine exactly how much money you’re spending in your native currency.
These apps are compatible with both iPhones and Androids.
Two of my favorites are XE Currency and Valuta+.
XE Currency is a very popular conversion app that works on all smartphones.
If you download conversion rates prior to traveling you’ll be able to access them offline.
You can look at multiple currencies at once, and really get a good picture of how much cash you’re spending!
Valuta+’s simple interface allows users to immediately see where they stand with different currencies.
It also allows you to save a list of your favorite currencies, so you don’t need to go scrolling through a bunch of options that don’t pertain to you.
It also works offline, which is a huge bonus if you need to look up a currency right away!
Always Try To Use The Local Currency
I don’t necessarily advise exchanging currency before your trip as fees can rack up quickly, but it is always important to use the local currency when you travel.
Most places will give you the option of taking out money in USD or the local currency.
Always choose the local currency.
In more touristic places in Europe, Asia, and Latin America you’ll find signs that advertise that a particular shop takes dollars.
It might be tempting to see that as a welcome sign that you’ve food a little piece of home in a faraway land, but beware!
You will wind up paying up to 30 percent more if you use dollars.
Take Out Local Currency When You Get There
When it comes to exchanging currency for an international trip, a good rule of thumb is to make the exchange when you get there.
Traveler’s checks are a thing of the past, and most places don’t take them anyways now, so simply plan on withdrawing cash from the airport ATM.
You might get charged a slightly higher ATM fee, but you’ll be spending less money in the long run.
There are a few things to keep in mind.
The first is that airports have caught on that tourists are now withdrawing their money at airports instead of doing it prior to their trip.
As a response, many have installed ATMs that charge a ridiculously high conversion rate.
The really tricky part is that they also boast that there’s no fee for taking out money, which is a great incentive to get people to use them.
The no-fee part is totally true, but it’s also true that you are being swindled with a shocking exchange rate.
These ATMs go by the name Travelex are littered all over various airports.
Whenever possible, use a reputable local bank or an international bank.
Many countries have their own national bank.
Do your research in advance.
Avoid withdrawing money from ATMs that look like they’ve been tampered with.
Whenever possible, use an ATM that is inside of a kiosk and seem to have a bit of security. Staying Safe When Traveling
Be Careful With Which Currency Exchange You Use
There are some cases where you can’t avoid exchanging currency.
If you find yourself in a position where you can’t withdraw money from an ATM, you might have to suck it up and go to a currency exchange.
Most currency exchanges will rip you off, but you can dull the pain a little bit by knowing how to avoid the worst offenders.
There are a few tips and tricks that will keep more of your cash in your pocket exchanging money!
Avoid Using Airport Currency Exchanges
Airport currency exchanges are totally opportunistic and take advantage of the fact that weary travelers need to have a little local currency in their pockets.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that they should change all of their money at the airport.
If you do this, you’ll pay outrageous fees and get a terrible conversion rate when exchanging money.
Instead, use the ATM at the airport.
Look for one that is affiliated with the national bank of the country you’re visiting.
Try To Find Somewhere That Doesn’t Charge A Commission
Look for places that don’t charge commission.
Also, find locations that buy at sell at roughly the same rate.
It’s totally reasonable for a business to want to make a profit, but if the buy and sell rates have more than ten percent difference, you’re really giving too much of your money away.
Use the Boy Scout motto on this one and be prepared!
Do your research prior to traveling and choose exchanges that don’t charge commission when you are exchanging money.
Use A Credit Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees
Beware of credit card transactions when exchanging money!
Many places charge you at least three percent per transaction.
That can really add up over the long run.
So many of us use credit cards without thinking, but each swipe could be really packing on some extra fees.
You can eliminate this problem by finding a credit card that doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees.
Check Out These No-Fee Credit Cards
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
The ones listed are just some of my favorites, but there are plenty more!
Why not look for a card that also offers you airline miles.
Avid travelers can really save themselves a lot of money simply by using cards that give them bonuses for using them.
General Money Safety Tips When Traveling Abroad
The world is a beautiful place, but there are those who would take advantage of you.
As they say in Colombia, “no dar papaya!”
That saying loosely translates into “don’t give people a chance to mess with you.”
Ways to keep your cash safe while you’re seeing the world
- Separate Your Money
- Keeping all of your cards and money in the same spot is a recipe for disaster.
- Nobody wants to think about getting robbed, but it does happen!
- Protect yourself from thieves by keeping your money in different locations.
Use A Money Belt
You can buy discrete money belts that fit right under your clothes.
Using a money belt makes you a hard target because your valuables are not right out there in the open!
Make Smart Decisions About ATMs
Whenever possible, always choose an ATM that is well-lit, secure, and reputable.
Beware of any danger signs like suspicious characters lurking around before using the ATM.
Never use an ATM that has been obviously tampered with.
Hitting the road and traveling the world is a fun adventure that will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.
Make sure that it also leaves you with cash in your bank account by following this guide and be careful exchanging money!