Not everywhere accepts plastic as easily as in North America. Credit cards are usually accepted at large retailers, and for hotel and car rentals, but you may have trouble using them in smaller shops and restaurants. You also shouldn’t rely solely on your debit card. Most ATM’s charge a transaction fee along with your bank and you could get stuck if the machine decides to eat your card. So cover your bases by bringing both cash (including backup cash) and cards, and don’t forget to notify your bank of your travel plans so they don’t freeze your accounts!
“Don’t worry about bringing local currency with you, just bring American money, it’s accepted everywhere.”
Although it is widely accepted in a lot of places around the world, it’s not necessarily preferable for a few reasons. First, when you don’t pay in local currency, you will surely end up paying more. This is because the store or restaurant that took your US dollars now has to go get it exchanged into local currency and they can charge any exchange rate they want for that. Second, if you end up at a shop that does not take US dollars, then you have to get it exchanged again for local currency and you have now made two exchanges. In that case, you might as well have just gotten local currency in the first place. The exception would be if you were staying at a resort that only accepted US dollars for activities and excursions. So unless otherwise indicated, bring local currency. This is also true when paying with a credit card. Avoid the less favorable Dynamic Currency Conversion exchange rate and extra fees by being charged in the local currency.
“Don’t bother getting your foreign currency before you leave because you can just get it at the airport.”
Only take this advice if you want to pay way more than you have to for it. You will be charged a premium rate and service fee for currency exchange (and just about everything else) at the airport. Why? Because they know it’s your last resort and you don’t have any other options.
“You can get a better rate if you exchange your money through the black market when you get there.”
Conducting illegal activities such as this is never a good idea, especially in a foreign country. Even if you don’t get arrested, you could risk receiving counterfeit bills, outdated bills, or being totally ripped off. Scams include theft of your money while counting and recounting the bills and mixing currency from another country with a much lower exchange rate in with your cash. It’s just not a good idea all around.
“Don’t go to a foreign exchange desk, you’ll pay more than at the bank.”
While that may be true for some foreign currency exchange places, it’s not the case at Calforex Currency Exchange. We have over 30 years of experience in the business, and because we specialize, we can offer you the best rates, even compared to your bank. And unlike your bank, we don’t have to make a special order because we have almost 100 foreign currencies available on hand. Feel free to contact your local branch to inquire about a foreign currency rate for your next trip. Can’t make it down to a branch? You can also order online.
The best travel advice when it comes to foreign currency
- Bring cash (and backup cash) in addition to your debit and credit cards to pay for cab rides and small purchases as well as tips. Notify your bank and credit card company to let them know you are traveling so that they don’t freeze your accounts.
- Pay for things in the local currency (whether it’s cash or card) to get the best price instead of letting the shop or restaurant do the conversion, even from American dollars.
- Get your money before you leave for the airport at a reputable (and legal) currency dealer that specializes in foreign currency to get the best rate and to avoid the consequences of illegal trading.