Currency 101:<br />
The Dos and Donâts of Foreign Currency Exchange

Know the value of your dollars! 

It’s vacation time!  Your plane tickets have been bought, bags are packed and the camera is fully charged.  There’s just one thing left to handle before you embark on your adventure…money.  Figuring out how to get and spend money when it’s in U.S. dollars is easy, but figuring out money issues in a foreign country can be a challenge even for experienced travelers.  Here are a few dos and don’ts to make exchanging foreign currency as simple as 1, 2, 3!

Do: Know The Country’s Currency And Exchange Rate

Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of planning that we forget about what we’ll need when we get there.  Make sure you know the local currency for the country you’ll be visiting and check the exchange rates before you go.  Checking out sites like xe.com will help you find the most accurate foreign exchange rates around and give you an idea of how much or how little spending money you will need in order to plan better and avoid over spending. 

Knowing a country’s currency and exchange rate is also good during the planning stages of a trip and can help you decide which countries will give you the most bang for your travel buck.  For example, Europe is an extremely popular travel destination, but the exchange rate for most countries, especially those using Euros, is not budget friendly.  One U.S. dollar equals 0.752688 Euros which means you actually lose money in the conversion.  In contrast, Asian countries like Japan or Thailand give you more for the U.S. dollar with one dollar equaling 82.8929 Yen and 30.8189 Baht, respectively. 

Don’t: Use Currency Exchange Companies

When you’re in the airport you see them everywhere, currency exchange booths like Travelex, offering quick and easy foreign money exchange.  Sound like a sweet deal right?  Not!  As convenient as these currency exchange services are, they can eat into your bottom lines with transaction/commission fees and exchange rates that can be lower than you may get elsewhere.  If you’re going to get your foreign currency before you go, check with your bank to see if you can order the money and have it shipped (usually for free) to a local branch.  Another option is to wait until you arrive at your destination to exchange funds using an ATM.  However, be sure to check with your bank to let them know you’ll be away and find out if they charge international fees, have daily withdrawal limits and if they have sister banks in the country where you can bank fee free. 

The more the money is exchanged, the less valuable it becomes.

Do: Spend All Of Your Foreign Money

Normally trying not to spend all of your money is a good thing, but when it comes to foreign exchange...spend it all!  Some would say to simply sell it back to your bank or a currency exchange company, but doing that will actually cause your money to lose value since in essence you’re exchanging it twice.  The more money is exchanged, the less valuable it becomes and since “buy” and “sell” rates at banks and currency exchanges often include overhead and profit margins that are independently set by providers, it can cause their exchange rate to vary widely and differ from the true market rate.

But what if you just can’t find anything to spend it on?  No worries!  If you can’t spend all your money while on vacay consider saving it as a souvenir for yourself or family members.  You can also hold on to the money and if a friend decides to visit that particular country, you can do a private trade with them at the current and fair exchange rate.  This way your money doesn’t lose value and they don’t have to pay fees at a currency exchange.   Win-win!

Don’t: Exchange All Of Your Money

You know how they say don’t put all your eggs in one basket?  The same theory applies to money overseas.  Don’t exchange all of your spending money, mix it by exchanging some for local currency, keeping some in U.S. dollars and leaving some in your bank account.  Why?  For one, you don’t want your trip to be ruined if for some reason you lose your cash, splitting up your spending money will ensure the party keeps on going.  Second, some countries will give you better deals when shopping in U.S. dollars since there it may go further than their local currency. 

Danielle Pointdujour is a native Brooklynite living and writing in the Big Apple. You can find Danielle sharing her personal outlook on love, life and travel on various publications across the web.