When traveling overseas, three questions frequently asked by my clients are:
Do I need to exchange money before I leave the US?
If, so, how much should I exchange? and
Where can I exchange money?
As I prepare myself and 14 others for an amazing Group Trip to Germany in about a month and a half, the topic of currency has come up. Many of us are preparing to obtain Euros for our Vacation!
As it happens, American Dollars are widely accepted in many places all over the world. However, the change you receive back when spending them will always be in the country’s own local currency. Sometimes, you may not receive any change back at all when using US Dollars. This it totally dependent upon the exchange rate. At least, such has been my own personal experience while traveling.
Travelers checks are losing popularity, since they are so easy to forge and now many businesses won't even accept them! I wouldn't waste my time purchasing these.
BANKS, HOTELS, ATM'S & AIRPORT EXCHANGE COUNTERS-
Banks, hotels, and airport exchange counters typically charge higher fees to use their service. My Personal Favorite: ATM. Most ATM machines are often your best friend in that they're fairly accessible worldwide, and tend to give the best exhange rate. Talk to your bank first, to see what kind of surcharges, if any, you may be charged by the provider when using the ATM. Since ATM machines are so widely available around the planet, you shouldn't have any problem obtaining local currency this way.
Large purchases are best made with your credit card. Check with your credit card company about any foreign conversion fees. Some companies tend to charge as much as 3%; while others do not. Always let you card company know the date you will be leaving the US , which countries you will be visiting, and the day you will return stateside. That way, when a charge is processed abroad, the card company knows in advance that it's really you using the card, and your account won’t be frozen while they investigate,. The last thing you need is to be frozen from your money, in a foreign country, with no extra funds on hand. This could be a traveling nightmare!
DO EXCHANGE AHEAD OF TIME-
I try to personally exchange about $100 in foreign currency before leaving the US, just to make it easier for purchasing incidentals upon arrival (like that luxury cup of coffee, a soda, snacks, a sandwich or water bottle). After that, I use the ATM for any advances or to purchase things when needed, with a credit card.
LOCAL US BANK-
I like working with my local bank. It takes the bank about 5 business days to procure the foreign currency for me. I pay for the order up front with a nominal fee. The bank will typically buy back the currency upon my return that I didn't spend, but it will be at the current rate of exchange which may or may not be the same as I paid for it in the beginning. So far, I have not had extra cash upon my return. If any is left, I consider it my special “souvenir”, and normally it gets placed into my scrapbook.
ONLINE EXCHANGE SERVICE-
Another option is to order foreign currency from online exchange services- although I have not done this. A few of our clients have used this service and seemed to be pleased with it.
Check out the XE-Currency Exchange. Knowing the current exchange rate when shopping (ahead of time) is very handy. www.xe.com
How have you exchanged currency while traveling overseas? Please share with us in the COMMENTS section below.
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