Where is my accountant to help me with this foreign money?
Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Navigating the sometimes confusing issues of foreign currency and exchange rates can feel like being in a B rated movie with sleazy looking characters lurking in dark back-alley doorways ready to separate you from your hard-earned travel dollars. It is not that mysterious or intimidating if you do some advance preparation.
2022 is turning out to be a wonderful year for travelers with American dollars—the euro and the dollar have been almost at parity (1:1) for much of the year, very different from just a few years ago. But all those great savings can be wiped out by huge exchange rates and transaction fees. Stranded at the Milan airport a few months ago I thought to change a hundred-dollar bill. Until offered only fifty-five euros, at a time when I knew in town, I could get closer to ninety-two euros. I declined as should you.
How to travel with the necessary euros (or British pounds or other major currency) without falling victim to the notorious Travelex exchange desks?
First—Know the current rate of exchange. My favorite website for this information is oanda.com, where you can check rates for all major and minor currency, look at history and trends. Remember, those are interbank exchange rates which you will not get as a consumer, but it is a good indication of approximate value.
Second—Contact your local bank, especially one where you do business. There will be at least one branch that stocks foreign currencies (euros and pounds). I always purchase euros from my bank before traveling as they waive fees and give me excellent rates due to my multiple accounts with them.
Third—Check all your cards. Make sure the credit cards you plan to use overseas have no foreign transaction fees. It they do, take out one that does not, such as a Chase Sapphire card, or check with your bank to see if they offer the necessary card. Your local bank may also have a card that has no ATM withdrawal fees overseas. You want that—ATM’s will be your lifeline for obtaining local currency. For example, in France you can find regular currency exchanges for changing US cash. In Italy, Portugal (including the Azores) you need to have a local bank account to exchange cash.
Fourth—If you cannot get foreign exchange before traveling, book your airport transfer in advance on a credit card. Then at the hotel ask for the nearest ATM to get cash with one of the cards you’ve pre-certified as OK overseas.
Fifth—Put all major purchases and your hotel on a credit card (one with no foreign exchange fees, of course.) But respect the small business owner or street vendor and use cash for that morning coffee or afternoon aperitif.
Sixth—Understand there will be situations when an unfamiliar currency will result in extra or unanticipated costs. Resist that “ripped off” feeling. Remember where you are, seeing wonderful places, enjoying delicious food, making new friends. Relax and enjoy!
For more travel information and to plan your next trip contact DreamMaker Destinations: Call 330-689-1920, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Donna Zabel, owner of DreamMaker Destinations, has been helping travelers turn their travel dreams into travel reality for over 20 years. Having explored all seven continents and about 135 countries, she enjoys sharing her travel tales and encourages everyone to find their own story to tell.