Do your research!
A great site to look into is www.oanda.com. They provide various real-time market rates and trends. You can also see the difference in currency flow, i.e., the difference in exchanging currency x to currency z, as opposed to exchanging currency z to currency x. For longer stays abroad, look at the trends in exchange rates. If you see a declining value of the currency you wish to obtain, you may want to hold off on converting a large sum of money until later when it will likely be worth more. You don’t have to be a finance major to make yourself some monies.
Good and Evil.
We love our credit and debit cards. Overseas, they can be your best friend… and your worst nightmare. When you run transactions overseas, you typically receive the best exchange rates through your bank or card issuer. This is good. Then after you get that sweet exchange rate, you get charged upwards of 10% on that transaction and/or assessed a base fee in your home currency. This is evil. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to keep a card on you for emergencies and large purchases.
Please. They should call them tourist checks because they are only accepted at tourist traps. Moving on…
Cash is King!
Cash will typically get you more for your money and you get to avoid unsavory transaction fees. Not to mention, you can’t haggle for bananas with an American Express card very often. Exchanging cash can be tricky. Don’t be a tourist about it! Avoid airport exchange kiosks at all costs. Exchange rates are market driven, and airports are their own market. Since they do not have to compete with each other, you tend to get the highest fees and the worst rates. Banks, on the other hand, do have to compete with each other, and offer the best exchange rates and lowest fees.
The Smart Guys.
Some countries have fixed exchange rates with other currencies. This is rare but always worth looking into. For instance, you can pay with USD in Barbados no problem. If you are in a country that has a fixed rate to your home currency, go with your own cash as much as possible and avoid exchanging altogether. Beware of unsavory konbini owners though – sometimes they will charge you a ‘convenience fee’ to use your home nation’s currency.
This post was written by Kaye McDaniel.