Here are a few tips that make exchanging your US dollars for a foreign currency easier and less expensive. The key is to avoid unnecessary bank fees and transaction fees when exchanging money. Often using credit cards with no foreign transaction fees for your purchases will give you the best exchange rate, however, you still need local currency for small transactions and tips, or locations that may not accept credit cards.
Tips to Save You Money on Exchanging Money
- Physically protect your money, ATM card, and credit cards with an anti-theft wallet designed for travel.
- Before you leave; contact the bank that your ATM cards and credit cards are with to inform them you will be traveling out of the country.
- Confirm with the bank that your pin number will work in foreign countries. In Europe, the safest length for a pin number is 4 characters. Some ATMs accept longer ones but change yours to a 4 digit one if you don’t already use a 4 digit pin just to be safe.
- Some European ATMs try to get you to use DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion). That means they “convert” the amount into your home currency, seemingly as a convenience to you. Doing this allows them to set the exchange rate, and they use it to make a profit. Many merchants and restaurants in Europe offer this. You should always deny the request or insist on transactions in euro. The same goes for countries outside of Europe too.
- Never change foreign currency at a bank or a change bureau. The exchange rate is much higher and they could also apply added fees, use the ATM.
- Check the currency exchange rate before you leave on your trip. This way you’ll know the approximate exchange rate and can have some idea of what to expect.
- Sign up at a local credit union for an ATM and credit card. They offer the best rates hands down. If you use a participating ATM location to withdraw cash you will not be charged a fee for using the machine. They will convert to the current exchange rate and only tack on a 1% Foreign Transaction Fee.
- Do not withdraw large amounts of cash and walk around with a wad of cash to last the whole trip. Instead, withdraw the cash you’ll need for a few days and return every few days to withdraw more. This way, if your cash is stolen you still have some money in the bank for an emergency.
- Wait until you arrive at the airport in your foreign destination to withdraw some cash with your ATM card. But to make getting cash just one less thing to worry about do visit your bank in the US and change out a small amount of foreign currency to cover your first subway ticket or taxi fare (assuming they don’t take credit cards), as you’ll pay a bit more at your bank to exchange your money. Whatever you do, don’t exchange money at the airport those exchange booths charge exorbitant fees!
- BONUS TIP: Make copies of all of your credit cards, front, and back. Either keep them in a secure location. Phone screenshot or keep copies of them back home with a loved one. This way if your card is lost or stolen, you will have access to the important phone and card numbers to report your card(s) stolen.