When traveling internationally, currency exchange often comes with the territory. Because most other countries don’t use the United States Dollar, you’ll often need to exchange money in order to make cash purchases. Depending on where you’re going, how often you’re exchanging money, where you’re exchanging it, and how much you’re exchanging, it can end up costing a lot. The following are some tips for keeping costs down when exchanging currency:
Check what currency the country uses
Even if a country uses a different currency, there are some that widely accept American dollars. Be sure to always double-check, because you just might be able to avoid exchanging money altogether. You have to be careful, because while this can save you money a lot of the time, it can also cost you. In other words, make sure that vendors aren’t inflating the price by accepting US dollars. Be familiar with the currency of the country you’re visiting, and if you’re being quoted a price in US dollars, make sure you aren’t paying a lot more by paying with US currency.
Free apps such as GlobeConvert and XE Currency can help give you some insight on the current rates, so you know if a certain location is offering a good rate or a high one.
Avoid the airport
It might be the most convenient place to exchange your currency, but it’s often one of the most expensive. Plan ahead so that you aren’t forced to pay the airport’s often high exchange rates. Also, be wary of kiosks that claim there are no fees (this is common at the airport). Although they might not charge a fee for their services, the exchange rate is often much higher than anywhere else.
Use a credit or debit card
This can be a tricky one, because some banks might charge a higher exchange rate than you’d receive by just exchanging the cash yourself. Prior to your trip, shop around for a card that doesn’t charge a foreign-exchange fee and use it wherever credit cards are accepted. If you’re steering clear of credit cards, using your debit card might help you save. Just make sure that the vendor charges your card in the country’s currency, and not in US dollars. Otherwise, you’ll likely lose more money from the conversion rate, than if you were to just allow your bank to do the exchange. Call your bank and find out what their policy is before you leave.