Home Destinations Travel Gear Family Travel 101 Checklists Editor's Blog
Holiday Planning: Look At Currency Exchange Rates Before Traveling
By Editor | | No Comments

Spring is near, which means “vacation season” is almost upon us — so it’s time to start planning in earnest for your summer holidays.

If your family is looking forward to an overseas vacation to some exotic location, there will be lots of issues to consider. And one item that is too often left off a vacation planning checklist is the most obvious one: money. What kind should you bring? Where you get it? Or should you just trust plastic for your entire trip?

If you are buying a package through a travel agent or service, you will most likely pay in U.S. dollars up front for most of your costs. But if you arrange your own accommodations or in-country expeditions, then your exposure to foreign currency fluctuations will be more material.

Yes, foreign exchange, better known as “forex”, will now be an additional consideration if your journey takes you to a foreign locale where the greenback is not the national currency.

The financial section of a newspaper or an Internet forex site will provide you with “wholesale” conversion rates. Unfortunately, these rates represent commercial rates for transactions exceeding $1 million. “Consumer” retail rates will be more expensive (you get less foreign currency for the dollar) — from 3% to as much as 7%, or even 10% in some cases for small country currencies.

Never fear. Merchants will nearly always accept your dollars, giving you their personal exchange rate, since they all wish to cater to U.S. tourists. There will also be money-exchanging outlets located where tourists go or local banks that will convert currency based on the rates posted in their office windows. Even your hotel will be happy to convert your currency to local fare. However, in order to get the most out of your dollars, there are a few “rules of the road” to follow:

  • Buying currency outside of a country is always more expensive than buying it when you get there. You will be tempted at the airport or even by your travel agent in some cases, but the price tag in the form of a high commission is not worth it;
  • Buy travelers checks if you must, but they are old technology and not necessary;
  • Your best rates will come from “plastic”, but you must check the fine print for your debit or credit cards to find the one that has the lowest “add-on” conversion fee. Most banks add from 1% to 2% to the 1% fee charged by the card associations. Choose the one with the lowest rate, typically a debit card, and you will want to be able to use it at an ATM, so know your PIN number.
  • Plan how many days you will be in each country that will require “pocket change” for tips, taxis, snacks and souvenirs. Hit the local ATM for only what you need. You will rarely be able to convert change to another currency.
  • Lastly, use your favored “plastic” card for all other purchase when you can. The card companies do provide a favorable “wholesale” rate with a few percentage points tacked on, but it will be far better than dealing with local money changers. They have far too much overhead to cover, and they want you to pay for it.


Name (required)

Email (required)