Are you headed abroad sometime soon? If you’re traveling to another country, you’ll need to decide how to exchange your money into foreign currency. What’s the best way to exchange your money, and how much should you bring with you? Here are some dos and don’ts for foreign currency exchange, and how you can do a foreign currency exchange at AAA Northeast.
Don’t Exchange Currency at the Airport
When you need to exchange currency, it can be tempting to use a kiosk or booth at the airport. At first glance, it seems like the most convenient option. However, airport currency exchanges often come with extra fees and steep exchange rates. Airport kiosks or booths know that at that point in your trip, you don’t have a lot of other options. That means they can take advantage of you, and you probably won’t get a fair exchange for your money. Plus, airports can be hectic, crowded places. You don’t want to get stuck in a long line when you have a plane to catch or an adventure to begin. That just takes precious time out of your trip and adds extra hassle to your travel days.
Do Use a Bank or a Credit Union
It’s smart to have some foreign cash on hand when you’re traveling to another country, so you should get your foreign currency exchange done before you even get to the airport. Banks and credit unions usually have more reasonable fees and exchange rates than companies that are solely dedicated to foreign currency exchange.
If you’re a AAA member, you can exchange your currency for no added fee at your local AAA branch location. AAA Northeast members who are in good standing for one or more years can use a personal check to purchase foreign currency up to $3,000 at a time. When using cash or a debit card, you can purchase even more. There are over 70 types of foreign currency available for exchange. Amounts greater than $200 will be shipped free to the branch location of your choosing – just remember that shipping can take up to three business days, so plan accordingly. During peak travel seasons, like holidays or summer vacation, shipping can take from five to seven days. Exchanges for less than $200 have a $10 shipping fee. Doing your foreign currency exchange at AAA is a great way to avoid extra fees and the last-minute hassle of airport exchanges.
Don’t Rely Solely on Your Credit Card
When you’re traveling, credit cards are great for big purchases. But you shouldn’t use it for everything. Some credit cards have foreign transaction fees, which are applied when you purchase something outside of the country. These fees can range up to 3%, so make sure to check what your credit card’s foreign transaction fees are before you travel.
Do Keep Cash on You
Depending on where you’re traveling, credit and debit cards might not be accepted everywhere you go. It’s not unheard of for a small cafe or a local shop to be cash-only, and you don’t want to miss out. When you’re out and about, you should have a small amount of the local currency with you. You never know when you might need it!
Don’t Get More Money Than You Need
When you’re doing a foreign currency exchange at AAA, it might be tempting to just hit the limit and get $3,000 worth of your desired currency. But more foreign currency isn’t always better. Depending on the exchange rate you get, you’ll likely lose some value. If you do have currency left over, you can also exchange it at a AAA branch location. Just remember that AAA Northeast can only process buybacks for currency originally purchased at AAA Northeast up to but not exceeding the original sale amount.
Do Spend Your Foreign Currency Before Returning Home
Before you do your foreign currency exchange, you need to figure out how much cash you’ll need to carry. Roughly, each person in your group will probably need $50 to $100 per day. If you’re going to an area where ATMs will be safe and easy to access, around $50 per person per day could be just right. By the end of your trip, figure out how much of the local currency you have left and try to spend it while you’re in the country. You could treat yourself to a special souvenir or even pay for restaurant or hotel bills partially in your leftover cash. If you explain that you’re leaving the country soon and want to spend your local currency, most businesses won’t mind splitting a bill between cash and credit.
Don’t Use American Money
Some businesses in tourist-heavy foreign countries will accept US dollars. But you should pay in the local currency anyway. Whether you’re using cash or card, the exchange rate at these businesses could be predatory and unreasonable.
Do Familiarize Yourself with Local Currency
If you’re using the local currency, try to keep the exchange rate in mind. When you’re paying with a currency that’s unfamiliar to you, it can be easy to overpay for things and waste your money unknowingly. Get familiar with the local currency before your trip so that you really know how much it’s worth.
AAA Northeast members can exchange currency at your local AAA branch location.
How much cash do you bring with you when you travel abroad? Share your tips in the comments below.