If you’re going on a trip to a country with a different currency, you’re probably wondering ‘how do I exchange my money?‘
There are multiple ways you can go about paying in a foreign country, but of course it depends on your situation: how long you’ll be traveling for, how much you will need, and how much time you have. Below are five ways you can convert and use your money in the foreign country.
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1. ATM & Sister Banks
If you’re going for a short trip, you can take money out of your debit card at an ATM abroad. This is perfect for short trips or if you can guess how much you will spend.
In this case, it would be best to take out larger sums as few times as possible. Just remember to be careful with carrying tons of cash around — beware of pickpockets and being robbed.
Of course there are some fees that come with this, so it is always good to check with your bank beforehand (and to tell them you’re leaving the country in the first place). The good thing is there aren’t commission fees, however you might encounter other fees.
You might be charged for taking money out in a different currency, as well as for using a different bank’s ATM. Remember, this doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the currency exchange rate either.
Some people may be able to avoid or minimize some of these fees by using a “sister bank.” Banks have connections/partnerships with other banks around the world and can give their clients a break while abroad. So be sure to ask your bank who their sister bank is in the country you will be traveling to, and how much they would charge you to use the ATM.
2. Credit Cards
If you’re going for a super short trip, you could always use your credit card for purchases — however be weary of the fees your bank may charge you.
Now when you do this, you will be asked if you want to pay in the local currency or with your currency back home. Always, always, always, pick the local currency.
If you choose to pay in the local currency, your credit card company will convert it at a better rate (and you will only be charged the foreign exchange fee — which is a few cents). Whereas, paying in your currency will mean the merchant has to convert the transaction and they end up charging you a lot more — which goes in their pocket.
When using your credit card abroad, make sure to call your bank company before leaving the country. Also ask how much they would charge you for foreign transactions.
OR, if you’re a frequent traveler like I am, you can also get a card for international travelers. These credit cards don’t charge you any fees when using them abroad, however some might charge you an annual fee like my credit card Chase Sapphire (still love it though).
3. Local Bank
If you have some time before your trip, you could also order foreign currency from your bank. You usually just go online and tell them how much you want in foreign currency, and they will calculate the rate. Sometimes they have minimum and/or maximum transaction limits though so be sure to double-check that it works for you.
Pick the bank location that is most convenient for you and they will tell you when it’s ready. All you have to do then is go pick it up! Easy peasy — but they do charge you fees.
Remember, they’re banks. Banks work for profit — so be aware they are marking up the exchange rate and maybe even charging you an extra fee on the side.
4. Online Currency Exchange
Similar to ordering currency from your bank, but online through a different company, such as Travelex. Everything is done online (unless they have offices near you), and the currency can be delivered to your house or be picked up in their offices.
These will most likely not offer you a better exchange rate than your bank though. So compare and shop around if you have time.
If you haven’t heard of Transferwise, they are an amazing company that I use to transfer myself money while I live in Spain. I love them because they:
- Transfer money at the REAL exchange rate (no markups or hidden fees)
- They charge a really small fee (sometimes just a few cents) AFTER giving you free $500 transfers
- They exchange the money quick and easily
The only thing is that it doesn’t work for everyone. You need to have a bank account in the foreign country OR know someone who you’re close to that lives in the country you’re going to.
Honestly, they are my life savers. If you’d like to know more about them, check out my other post.
If you don’t have time to exchange money in advance, carry cash and exchange it at the normal exchange booths.
This could be before leaving (best option), at the airport (the last place I’d recommend), or at your destination.
This is the worst-case scenario because you will most likely lose the most money on these transactions. They give you horrible exchange rates AND charge commission fees.
If they say ‘no commission,’ AVOID THEM. They just hide the commission fees with an even worse exchange rate. But then again, if you need the money, you need the money right?
I hope this has helped you in some way or another.
How do you get foreign currency? or do you have another way to exchange money?