There are a few factors to consider when exchanging money. You want to ensure that you’re getting the best deal because every dollar counts when you’re out traveling the world. A lot of people convert their dollars at the airport during their arrival because it appears to be the most convenient. However, those kiosks normally have the highest fees and worst rates. The best ways to convert your dollars are the following:
1.Withdraw from an ATM at your destination 2.Exchange at your bank prior to your trip 3.Use a credit card with no foreign transaction fee
However, these 3 things need to be considered when exchanging your dollars with the methods above:
- ATM Fees
- Bank Fees
- The Destination
Avoid those tempting stands at the airport and go straight to an ATM instead. Be aware of the fees the ATM charges as they vary. Check with your bank what your withdrawal limit is because the fees can add up quickly if you can only withdraw a small amount at once. Of course it’s best to find an ATM that is compatible with your bank to avoid the fees. Or certain banks, like PNC, offer reimbursement for all fees incurred from withdrawals.
Order currency from your bank plenty of weeks prior to your trip. Check the fees your bank charges for this exchange. Some banks, such as Wells Fargo, do not charge a fee for requesting euros and certain branches always have them on hand for last minute conversions. It is always a good idea to call your bank to find out all the benefits they offer in regards to foreign currency.
Researching the country you’re visiting is vital in all aspects of travel, including currency. First off, check to see if it’s necessary to exchange dollars. The destination may accept credit cards widely and there’s no need to convert money at all. I found this to be especially true in European countries like Switzerland and Sweden. It’s actually pretty rare in Stockholm, Sweden for individuals to use cash. If this is the case then your solution would be to get a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Many travel rewards credit cards do not charge this fee, which allows you to get the most current exchange rate when making your purchase.
Also, make note that when making purchases with credit card in a foreign country, you’ll often get asked if you want it to charge in USD or the local currency. Always choose the local currency. The bank will convert the currency for you when it records to your account, so there’s no need to process it as USD right away. Often times you’ll notice that it’ll charge you more at that moment if you choose to pay in USD.
Debit or Credit?
Another thing to consider is if your destination accepts US credit cards or debit cards. For example, I am traveling to Cuba later this year and credit and debit cards are not accepted. In this case, I have to bring enough cash to last me my entire trip. Also, there is a 10% fee if you’re exchanging US dollars to Cuban pesos. So, I will instead convert dollars to euro here in the US and then bring the euros to Cuba for conversion. That’ll ensure that’ll I’ll get the best deal possible, which means more money for souvenirs and Cuban cuisine!
Questions about currency conversion are very common among travelers. During my experience, I believe that the methods described above are the best ways to go about it. I also try to minimize how much I convert because when exchanging it back to USD, you’ll end up losing value. I’ve also noticed that I never use all of the cash on hand because of how common credit cards are used. Cash is normally my back up in cash-only situations or emergencies.
About the Author
Jenn Nguyen // Bunny on the Go
Jenn AKA “Bunny” started a travel blog to help and inspire those who have always wanted to travel the world, but found themselves making excuses as to why they couldn’t or shouldn’t. Check out her site for more details of her travel adventures and to help you get ideas and inspiration for your next trip!