The best places to convert currency

Much of the appeal of overseas travel lies in the novelty of everything. New streets to walk, new words spoken, new meals served. Underneath all of these fresh experiences lies a not-so-glamorous reality: new money.

If you are traveling abroad, the US dollar is unlikely to be enough. The good news is that there are plenty of currency exchange services out there that can help you with this. The bad news is that many of them are only after tourists in a hurry to get to their hotel. Here’s what to avoid and what to look out for.

Best Places to Convert Currency in 2019


If you plan in advance, you are safest abroad. Banks have access to the best exchange rates and typically charge lower fees than currency exchange offices. Once you have decided on an estimate of your needs, either buy currency from a local branch or order it to be delivered to your home. You can do the latter online or over the phone, but know that this usually comes with an extra shipping fee on top of the exchange rate fees already charged.

You can also have currency delivered to you by placing an order online with a foreign exchange provider. The prices for these services are usually worse than anything a bank can offer, but they are also better than the exchange offices you can find overseas. And they usually waive shipping costs for larger orders.

Foreign banks and bank

Even abroad, banks remain the safest option so as not to be ripped off. Many overseas banks can get you a better deal than the exchange rates you can find at foreign exchange offices, especially if you can find one in partnership with your own bank in the US

ATMs (not kiosk, mall, or supermarket ATMs) can also get you a pretty good deal without having to wait in line at the bank. They may include a small transaction fee, but as long as you withdraw enough money, you can easily offset this with the money you save from the better exchange rates.

Places to avoid for changing money

The airport

Airports know that thousands of tourists fly into their terminals every day and that thousands of people are in search of quick cash. Armed with the knowledge that you will likely have to catch a bus, train, or taxi soon, airport kiosks offer the absolute worst exchange rates and highest fees you will find during your time abroad. Follow this advice and wait until you start looking for cash outside the airport. Or, if you have to, just take out what you need for the ride and look for better options later.

Money exchange transactions

Like airports, these businesses attempt to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists who usually pop up near major attractions where someone may be short of money for a guided tour or a taxi. While these deals aren’t as bad as the airport, they are still trying to make money on exchanges only, and they come with much worse fees and exchange rates than those offered at local banks and ATMs.

Prepaid cards and travelers checks

While it’s not nearly as bad as what you can find at the airport or at the money counters, this is still one of the few currency exchange options you can complete before you travel that might not be worth it. You buy these cards before you leave the US, decide how much money to deposit, and they work as a debit card overseas with the exchange rate fixed on the day you bought the card. This mode appeals to many because in the event of theft you can simply report the incident and request a replacement without losing the value of the card. The disadvantage of this option is that, unlike cash, debit cards are not accepted everywhere. Additionally, banks typically charge an additional fee for providing a train ticket, as well as transaction fees for each use, so in most cases you will be much better off with cash.

Travelers checks are another, albeit somewhat antiquated, option. Like prepaid travel cards, you buy them in advance and use them abroad. Here, too, the advantage lies in safety. Since they are in your name, your signature and identification are required for all use. But even like prepaid cards, they are not the most convenient as they are not accepted in many places, which means that you usually have to redeem them at the nearest bank in your destination, which usually includes fees of its own.


This one is a bit mixed up. Even if the convenience of the service is hard to beat, if your hotel offers to accept cash or travelers checks, ask about the prices. This varies from hotel to hotel and if you are not careful you can be really scammed. Be especially careful if you have chosen a hotel in a less prestigious part of the city.

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