– Do I need to exchange money before I leave the US?
–If, so, how much should I exchange? and
–Where can I exchange money?
As it happens, American Dollars are accepted in many places. However, the change you receive back when spending them will always be in the country’s own currency. Sometimes, you may not receive any change back at all when using US Dollars. At least, such has been my experience.
Travelers checks are losing popularity, since they are so easy to forge many businesses – especially small ones - have stopped accepting them. So, while they are a good thing to have available, they are not spendable everywhere.
Banks, hotels, and airport exchange counters typically charge high fees. ATM machines are often the traveler’s best friend in that they are fairly accessible worldwide, and give the best exhange rate. Talk to your financial provider to see what kind of surcharges, if any, you may be charged by the provider when using the ATM.
Large purchases should be made by credit card. Check with your credit card company about foreign conversion fees. Some companies charge as much as 3%; others do not. Do let your card company know the date you will leave the US , which countries you will be visiting, and the day you will return. That way, when a charge is processed abroad, the card company knows it really is you using the card, and your account won’t be frozen while they investigate, leaving you cut off without funds in the meantime.
I typically exchange $100 in foreign currency before leaving the US just to make it easier for purchasing incidentals upon arrival (cup of coffee, a soda, snacks, a sandwich). After that, I use the ATM for advances or purchase with a credit card.
I like working with my local bank. It takes my bank about 5 business days to procure the foreign currency for me. I pay for the order up front. The bank will buy back the unused currency upon my return, but it will be at the current rate of exchange which may or may not be the same as I paid for it in the beginning. So far, I always manage to spend most of the foreign currency and the little bit I bring back I consider “souvenirs”, and I never have that much left to worry about.
Another option is to order foreign currency from online exchange services. One of those is www.eZforex.com . They do offer a Buy Back Protection policy. You might check them out. I have no association with eZforex.com, but mention them as an option.
Avoid the new 3% SURCHARGE when using credit cards overseas. Buy “Currency Price Protection” before you go – return any amount at the same exchange rate as originally purchased. Foreign Currency — Add Price Protection for More Great Savings
Again, I am simply mentioning them as one option. Other online exchange services are available. I am not compensated in any way from mentioning www.eZforex.com.
My favorite currency exchange website is the XE-Currency Exchange. Knowing the current exchange rate when shopping is handy. www.xe.com