There are many different ways to get foreign currency, should the need for it arise. If you’re planning to go abroad, you can get it from your local bank. Already in a different country? Simply pull it out of an ATM. Or you can visit an exchange office, easily found in most cities around the world. All of these are viable options, but they also all come with drawbacks.
Going to your local bank may feel like the safest option. These are the people who always handle your money, after all, and you’re used to dealing with them. So far, you’d be right. But banks often charge a high commission on exchanging foreign currency, making this a less cost-efficient option. Most banks do keep some foreign currency on hand, but if you are planning on withdrawing a large amount, they will most likely need to order it. This could take several days or even up to a week. If you need the money now, your bank won’t do you any good.
Once you’ve landed in a foreign country, it’s usually pretty easy to find an ATM and withdraw some cash. Of course, this puts you in a foreign country without any ready money immediately available, but almost every airport these days has several ATMs that you can use. Be warned, though, that not all places are hooked up to foreign ATMs that will accept your debit card. Most will, but you’ll want to do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re not stranded at the airport with no way to pay for a cab or buy a meal.
Another danger of dealing with ATMs is that they do break sometimes. At a large airport with multiple ATMs, this means you just have to walk around until you find another one. If you’re traveling to a smaller, less popular destination, one may be all they have. If it’s out of order, you are out of luck.
ATMs are one of the most convenient ways to get foreign currency to keep you going through your trip abroad, but hidden fees can come back to bite you. Make sure you check with your bank ahead of time about any surcharges placed on global ATM usage. Look for signs posted around the ATM as well. Just because your bank isn’t charging doesn’t mean that the people in charge of operating the ATM aren’t going to sneak their fees in.
When you fly into an international airport, there is going to be an foreign currency exchange desk somewhere that allows you to buy foreign currency. Be warned, however, that these places are not cheap. They know that if you are coming to them, you have no other options for getting the money you need. The exchange rates at these desks are often much higher than the rates you will find anywhere else.
Once you leave the airport if you find that you underestimated the amount of cash you need, you should be able to find an office that will exchange your money for you. Keep in mind, however, that this largely depends on where you travel. If you are sticking to larger cities or popular tourist attractions, these offices will be easy to find. If you are striking out on less travelled roads to smaller towns and out of the way places, you may not be able to get what you need.
Online Foreign Currency Exchange
Online exchange sites, such as Halo Financial, can be some of the best places to get the foreign currency that you need. You will have to do a little research before you choose which site to use. You want to make sure that you are giving your information to a legitimate company and not a scam. Explore their website, check for any scam alerts on them, and make sure that their site is secure before you input any personal information. There are a lot of trustworthy sites out there, such as Halo Financial, but there are even more untrustworthy ones.
Online exchanges are some of the most competitively priced places to get foreign currency. Because they are a business, they will be checking out their competition and fighting each other for the best prices. This means that these places often offer you the best exchange rates. Coupled with that, they keep their fees and surcharges as low as possible while still making a profit.
Unlike ATMs, these sites are accessible from any place that has Internet service, regardless of where you are. You can make the exchange from the comfort of your home weeks before you leave on your trip or use your Wi-Fi in a little coffeeshop in the middle of a small town abroad. It’s all the same to these exchange companies.
These sites also have a few major advantages over banks. One is that they are accessible 24/7. There is no need to worry about making it to your destination before banking hours end. These sites operate quickly as well. While your bank will most likely need several business days in order to complete the transfer, many of these sites grant immediate access to your transferred funds.
This is convenient for you, of course, if you are travelling abroad, but it can be vital to a friend or family member who find themselves a little short on cash. With these exchange sites, you can transfer money to someone else’s account at any time of the day or night and they will receive the money within minutes. That’s peace of mind for a parent, a spouse, or anyone who has a loved one travelling abroad.
All About Randall Brody
Randall is the Founder of Tax Samaritan, a boutique firm specializing in the preparation of taxes and the resolution of tax problems for Americans living abroad, as well as the other unique tax issues that apply to taxpayers. Here, they help taxpayers save money on their tax returns.