No matter how well you plan your trip, you may end up needing to exchange money while you’re overseas. Exchanging money abroad can typically be done at several places, although some options are better than others. The best options are those that offer the lowest fees and highest levels of trust.
ATM Machines in Your Bank’s Global Network
Many American debit cards can work as an ATM card in international machines, allowing you to withdraw foreign currency. Check with your bank before you go to ensure it has a global network of ATMs that makes this an option for you.
Depending on your bank, you could end up paying between 3 and 8 percent in transaction fees for using a machine within their network. Some banks may charge no fee for the transaction.
If the ATM is outside your bank’s global network, however, you could end up paying surcharges to the bank and the ATM owner on top of foreign transaction fees.
Your Bank’s International Branch
Making an in-person visit to an international branch of your bank can give you the same low rates as an ATM within its global network. Banks may have slightly better exchange rates than other locations since they can get wholesale rates not offered to the general public.
Foreign Exchange Desks
Many airports, hotels, and city centers have foreign exchange desks for exchanging money abroad. While they may be convenient in a pinch, they’re also likely to be the most costly. Fees and commissions can sometimes be as high as 20 percent.
Exchange desks in city centers tend to offer better rates than those at airports, although you may still end up paying a notable fee.
How to Spot a Scam
Scams surrounding the “commission fee” are not uncommon. Some exchange desks may boast “no commission fee” because they don’t charge a separate fee per se, but they may adjust the exchange rate so they can still earn a commission by taking a percentage of the exchange.
Protect yourself by comparing the actual rates you’re getting with the standard exchange rates to see if the money exchangers are adjusting the rate significantly in their favor.
The money switch scam is another popular one, usually found in out-of-the-way souvenir shops or convenience stores that offer currency exchanges. Here the scammer uses fast motions, fast conversation, and plenty of distractions to shortchange you on your exchange.
Count the money you received yourself, even if it appears as if they quickly counted it out just before handing it over.
Ending up with counterfeit currency is another hazard, which makes it essential to become familiar with the local currency before you go. Scammers may try to intercept you from a money exchange line with the promise of a better exchange rate if you let them handle the transaction instead. They may then mix counterfeit currency with real currency when they give you your money.
Taking the extra time and effort to protect your money during currency exchanges is always worth it. Now that you know the savviest tips for exchanging money abroad, all you need to do is renew your passport, pack your bags, and enjoy your trip. Contact Swift with any questions – we’re always glad to help.