This might surprise some, but currency exchange rates fluctuate every single hour.
These constant changes can make it difficult to know what the current exchange rates are and whether you are getting the best deal. One vendor might change their rates several times a day and charge a low commission. Another might get away with offering yesterdays’ out-of-date fixed rate with high fees.
And if you like traveling or buying things from overseas a lot, you don’t want overpriced currency rates to spoil your experience.
Luckily, finding the best currency exchange traders and learning how to avoid the high fees is easier than you think. This simple guide will break down everything you need to know about currency exchange rates.
Check the Official Rate Before You Exchange
If you turn up at a money exchange vendor and don’t know the currency exchange rates are, you will have no idea if you are getting a good deal or not.
So, you need to have a reliable resource to tell you what it is. Here are some of the best currency converter apps and websites:
- XE Currency
- Currency Convert
Check the conversion rate right before you exchange for the most up-to-date rate.
Exchange Currency at Your Bank or Credit Union
The best and most up-to-date currency exchange rates are often available at your bank. Most large banks in the US like Bank of America, Chase, and Citigroup will exchange 50+ currencies.
But this does mean you will need to plan ahead before your trip to exchange USD for other currencies. Smaller branches may need to order more obscure currency in advance or you might need to order it from their website.
If this is the case, watch out for delivery fees as you may end up spending more for this service than you will save on the rates.
Pay Using Your Credit or Debit Card
Gone are the days where you need to withdraw enough currency for your whole trip beforehand. Now, you can use your credit or debit cards overseas stress-free.
But you need to make sure you have a low (or better yet, 0%) foreign transaction fee on your card. If you spend $3,000 on vacation using your card with a 3% fee, you will spend $90 on fees.
If you travel abroad a lot, it might be worth opening a bank account with 0% foreign transaction fees. Credit cards and debit cards are a safer alternative to traveling with tons of cash, so it is worth it.
Know Your ATM Withdrawal Limits and Fees
But if you do not have time to open a new bank account before you travel, you could withdraw cash from ATMs once you are abroad.
This is a great solution if, for example, you have a Bank of America account and you are traveling to Mexico. This bank has ATMs in Mexico so you can enjoy all the same perks as you do in the US.
But what if your bank does not have any ATMs in the country you are visiting? Then you need to be aware of your daily or monthly foreign withdrawal limit and withdrawal fees.
Some banks will allow you to draw out the first $200 of the month with no fees but then charge you for any other withdrawals in that month. And even if your daily foreign withdrawal limit with your bank is $300, some ATMs may only allow you to withdraw $100 per 24 hours.
The withdrawal fee is often a flat rate between $2-$5 and does not depend on how much you are taking out. So, it is better to withdraw larger amounts than smaller ones if you know you will need the cash.
Don’t Exchange Currency at Airport Kiosks
One great tip to always get the lowest currency exchange rates is to avoid airport currency kiosks. They target unorganized people who are desperate for currency so they offer poor rates and charge high commissions.
But you never know what price a vendor is going to charge you until you check. It is always a good idea to compare exchange rates across different places in your local area so you know who is offering the best rate before you buy.
Use International Banks With Apps
There are lots of online, international banks nowadays that allow you to switch between currencies with ease. They will let you keep money in different currencies in the same account and they offer low exchange rates, too.
Most international banks offer 50+ different currencies. So, even if you are traveling to several different places, it’s still worth getting one. They almost always come with an app so you can switch currencies as and when you need to while you are away.
Here are some international banks you can sign up to in the US:
They are a better alternative to prepaid cards, which are cards that you can top up like pay-as-you-go cell phones.
Both types of cards offer similar exchange rates. But multi-currency cards are more reliable to use abroad because they are legitimate bank cards. Multi-currency debit cards are more likely to have 0% foreign transaction fees, too.
Always Pay In the Local Currency
And the last tip to ensure you always pay the lowest currency exchange rate is to always pay in the local currency. When you are sitting in a beach bar in Greece and you hand over your card and the waiter asks which currency, say euros, not USD.
Why? Because if you paid in your home currency, DCC (dynamic currency conversion) may apply. This means you’ll pay a high conversion rate which is often 6% or more.
And if you pay in the local currency, the conversion rate is set by Visa, Mastercard, or an alternative. As mentioned earlier, banks almost always offer the best exchange rates.
Always Get Low Currency Exchange Rates With These Tips
Finding the lowest currency exchange rates might seem difficult and a waste of time. But once you know these tips, you will be able to use them every time you need to change money. And you can spend the hard-earned cash that you’ve saved enjoying your trip abroad instead!
Want to learn more about managing your finances and saving money? Browse the site for lots of helpful tips and advice.