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The Do’s And Don’ts Of Exchanging Money When Traveling Internationally

Anytime you’re traveling outside your home country, you’ll likely need the currency accepted at your final destination. Many local businesses prefer cash payments, often offering customers a discount for using cash. Another bonus is that you avoid paying any large international ATM fees to withdraw your money.

Exchanging money out of the country can also subject you to incredibly high fees, so it’s best to exchange your currency before you travel. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to exchanging money for international travel.


Go To The Bank

It’s so much easier to convert money before you go on your trip, and it’s also more convenient, since you can start making purchases as soon as you land. You shouldn’t have to find a currency converter when you’re on vacation.

Your local bank makes a great option to obtain foreign currency. Many offer the option to do so over the phone or online, rather than having to go into a physical bank branch. Sometimes they’ll even ship it directly to your home, but that may involve shipping fees. These institutions have the most up-to-date conversion rates, as well as the lowest fees. You can also view their rates online, along with which currencies they’re able to convert.

Don’t Use Airport Kiosks

One of the worst options is to use airport kiosks due to their less favorable exchange rates and longer wait times. If you exchange your currency at an airport, you’ll be forced to pay commission charges that you’ll be charged on a per-transaction basis, or a flat percentage of the total amount converted. Another pitfall is that each business gets to set its own rates, so there’s no telling how much higher their rate is than the average; it’s important to ask about their fees beforehand.


Use International Partner Banks When Necessary

Sometimes people just don’t have the time, or they forget to exchange currency before leaving on vacation. Luckily, you do still have a good option once you’ve landed.

Many U.S. banks maintain partnerships with international banks, so as long as you have access to one of those institutions, there’s nothing to worry about. Using their ATMs won’t cost you too many extra fees, but it’s still wise to take out larger amounts, and not make too many withdrawals. If for any reason there are no partner banks, check online to see which foreign exchange provider offers the lowest rates.

Find A Local Bank That Accepts Foreign Currency

Coming back home, you may have some foreign currency left over that you no longer have use for. The smartest way to exchange it back to national currency is by heading back to your local bank. Not all banks offer to exchange foreign currencies back to local, so you’ll want to research which ones do.


The other option is a currency exchange store, but they won’t offer the best exchange rate or the lowest fees. If possible, a bank or credit union is your best option, or if you have friends or relatives traveling to the same country, offer it to them.

Photo: Webster

Know The Exchange Rate You’re Paying

There are alternatives for those who don’t wish to carry cash at all. You can get a reasonable exchange rate using your credit card, but you’ll still want to check what rates your card issuer provides. There are some cards that offer zero transaction fees. Certain countries also happily accept U.S. currency, depending on where you’re traveling. Just make sure to check if that’s the case before you land.

So now that you have options for getting the currency you need, you’ll be all set to enjoy your vacation without having to worry about having the right kind of currency.