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Friday, February 13, 2009

Exchanging Currencies for Travel Abroad

By Graham Winborne

When traveling to foreign countries, travelers need to think about how and when they will convert their currency. Luckily, there are many options for travelers to choose from when it comes time to make the exchange. There are two major factors to look at when exchanging currency: the exchange rate and the amount of commission charged.

Travelers are often fooled into exchanging for the lowest rate, while being charged a high rate of commission on their transaction. The strength of the US dollar is an important concern when planning to pay for a trip. When the dollar is losing strength, it is best not carry the dollar. Also, if the dollar is losing strength, try to pay for expenses such as airfare and hotels in advance. This way, the large expenses are paid for when the dollar is at its potentially highest point, therefore benefiting you the most in terms of expense. Find out what the current exchange rate is at www.gocurrency.com.

Exchanging Currencies While Still in the States

While still in the states, travelers can exchange their currency at the local bank. Although this may seem to be a convenient way to prepare for your vacation, the costs associated with exchanging in this way can be large. Also, there are several online venues which allow you to pay American funds, and the currency you desire is then sent to your home. These sites generally offer decent exchange rates but charge fees and delivery charges. With these services, there is also the risk that the company is fraudulent or that the currency could be stolen while in transit. Exchanging a currency through this online medium may seem convenient, but be sure to weigh the risks involved.

Exchanging at Hotels and Airports

Your best bet is to exchange currency once you get to the country you'll be staying in. Your hotel may offer an exchange service, and once again, this may seem like a convenient alternative, but watch out. Hotels may charge fees of 20% or more to exchange currency, so try to stay away from hotel exchanges unless it is an emergency. Use one of the three free currency converters to find out how much extra your hotel is willing to charge you. Airports also offer an exchange, but as with hotel exchanges, airports tend to make a good deal of money off of the exchange.

Credit Cards

Many people travel abroad planning to put the majority of the charges on their credit card. Although credit cards generally offer the best exchange rates, you must be careful about using credit cards when the strength of the dollar is falling. Credit card transactions are not immediate, so when the dollar is falling you could end up with a less favorable exchange rate due to the time it takes for transactions to post. We recommend Canadian Credit Cards and Canadian Balance transfer credit cards with Travel Rewards Capabilities.

Don't Want to Carry Large Amounts of Cash?

If you don't feel like carrying cash all the time, ATM's are a convenient way to get foreign currencies. ATM's generally offer a good exchange rate, and are located in many places. One thing to consider before deciding to use an ATM to get cash is what fee your bank charges for withdrawing money abroad. These fees will add up, especially if you plan on using an ATM many different times throughout your trip.

Another alternative to cash is to bring travelers checks with you. Travelers checks can be replaced if they are lost or stolen, and can be used at exchanges to get the currency of the country you are in.

Banks

Another logical place to look to exchange currency is at banks. The exchange rate at banks is usually pretty good, although a bank has two alternatives as to what rate to provide. In some banks, the exchange rate depends on the supply and demand of the currency, and with this system, you end up with an exchange rate fairly close to the ones being offered in major exchanges. The second option is that the government of the country you are traveling sets the exchange rate, and all exchanges must stick to that rate. In either case, banks do offer a convenient way to exchange currency without incurring a large amount of costs.

No matter what way you plan on exchanging your money, be sure to bring along a list of current exchange rates. These rates can be found online or in many major newspapers. With this information in hand, you can judge where the best rates are being offered.

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