So you’re going to a foreign country and they use a different currency there. Maybe you use Dollars and they use Euros, or you use Pounds Sterling and they use Kroner.
When you have to go to a country with a different currency, it helps to have some cash in the local currency to where you are going. Your own currency will not get you very far, so changing it to the foreign paper notes beforehand is always a good idea.
But what about exchange rates? How do you get the best rates? Leaving it to the last minute and changing at the airport is probably the worst possible idea, with rates being quite bad and with commission charges possible as well. So here are some tips for foreign currency exchange:
1. Plan ahead, know how much you will need and of what currency.
2. Although you can use a credit card abroad, make sure you know whether they will charge commission and if they will give a good rate. Some card issuers will give good rates but some will give you a poor rate.
3. If you think you can just take along your bank card and get cash from the ATM there, forget it. You will be likely be a charged a fee by the ATM (because you have a foreign bank card) and you get a poor rate, and your own bank will probably charge you a fee as well.
4. Go online and search for places in your home area that do currency exchange. The best thing to do for most of these places is to order online, pay with your debit card (credit cards will probably incur a surcharge) and then collect the currency from the local outlet. You will have to take proof of ID with you and the debit card you paid with, along with a printout of the confirmation of your order. They will give you a better rate if you do it this way, ordering in advance rather than just turning up a bureaux de change and getting the currency there and then. You should also be sure that the place does not charge commission.
5. A currency exchange place online may also offer home delivery, but this will usually incur a delivery fee. It is better to order online and collect in person, also because money sent in the post could get lost and then you would be without your foreign currency, even if it was insured and they send out a replacement — but what good is a replacement if it arrives after you have flown to another country?
6. If you order more than a certain amount you might get a better rate. For example, when buying 300 Euros recently, I noticed that if I had doubled my order to 600 Euros I would have gotten a better rate. So if you are buying currency and they offer a better rate for more money in one transaction, it might be good to team up with a friend or family member you are travelling with, put your money together, and if the total is enough you could get a better rate.
7. When you get the foreign currency, get it in fairly small and common denominations, such as 10 and 20-Euro notes. One time when I bought Euros, some of it came as 50-Euro notes, which were not easy to spend; not everyone can give you change of a 50-Euro note. Bear in mind that these places will not give you coins, only notes.
Before travelling, if you do intend to use any bank cards, make sure you inform your bank of your dates away and in what country or countries you will be in, so that they do not block the use of your card abroad — they might assume when they see a transaction in an unusual country that someone stole your card (or your card details) and reject the transaction as fraudulent.
And when you do travel, split the foreign currency into more than one wallet/envelope/small bag, so that if one set of money goes missing or gets stolen, you still have other foreign currency you can use. And keep one set of cash stashed somewhere secure in your luggage for emergencies.
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