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converting currency

Pile of different types of currency.

converting currency

Traveling internationally often means juggling multiple currencies, which can be confusing and expensive. Here are some tips to help you save money that you can use for more important things, like delicious street food, fascinating museums and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Know the Exchange Rate

Before anything else, familiarize yourself with the current exchange rate for your destination’s currency. Use reliable online tools like or currency converter apps that update in real time. Knowing the exchange rate empowers you to make savvy financial decisions, and it’s saved me from overpaying many times.

Use Your Bank or Online Services

Your local bank or online currency exchange platforms often provide the best exchange rates. Consider ordering foreign currency before your trip. Some banks even offer the service with no fees for account holders. Be sure to check their rates and order a few days ahead, as it may take time to process.

ATM Withdrawals Abroad

ATMs can be a fantastic way to get local currency while traveling. They usually offer a favorable exchange rate compared to currency exchange booths. However, watch out for fees, as your home bank and the local ATM might both charge you. Inform your bank about your travel plans, and ask if they have partner banks in your destination to minimize or avoid fees.

Avoid Airport Currency Exchanges

Airport currency exchange counters might be convenient, but they often have the worst exchange rates and high service fees. If you must use them, exchange only what you need for immediate expenses like transportation.

Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees

Many credit cards are designed specifically for international travelers and come with no foreign transaction fees. Look for one that offers this perk, and make sure to pay in the local currency when given the option. I’ve found this to be one of the most efficient ways to spend abroad.

Prepaid Travel Cards

Consider getting a prepaid travel card loaded with the destination’s currency. It’s like a debit card that you preload with funds at a fixed exchange rate, which allows you to budget effectively and avoid unexpected fluctuations in rates.

Always Keep Some Local Cash

Even in our digital age, cash is still king in many places. Keep a small amount of local currency for places that don’t accept cards. I usually keep some cash for local markets, small eateries, transportation and, most importantly, bathrooms.

Be Aware of Dynamic Currency Conversion

Some merchants abroad might offer to convert your purchase into your home currency. It sounds convenient, but it can be a trap leading to a higher exchange rate. Always choose to pay in the local currency to avoid this.

Keep an Eye on Your Statements

Once back home, check your bank and credit card statements to ensure there are no discrepancies. Mistakes can happen, and it’s best to catch them early.

I’m sure there are other tips we haven’t figured out yet. If you know them, please share!

Jackie Shelton, APR, is a strategic communications veteran who, after 30 years still has a hard time focusing on one particular aspect, so she has stopped trying.

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