How Do I Exchange Foreign Currency?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2019
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When traveling from one economy to another, it is often necessary to exchange foreign currency. There are several safe and effective ways to exchange foreign currency, depending on how much lead time a person has and where he is in his travel plan. The easiest places to exchange foreign currency are at a large bank, or a bank-affiliated ATM. Airport exchange kiosks are also fairly reliable sources of currency exchange, though exchange rates may often be at a premium.

If a person is preparing for a trip, he or she may want to take the opportunity to exchange foreign currency at the local bank. Most large banks will gladly take a sum out of a customer's bank account and trade it for foreign currency. If the currency is obscure, the exchange may need to be ordered several weeks in advance. More common currencies may be available on a same-day or next-day basis, though most banks will charge a small fee for this service. Using a home bank is a good way to ensure that a traveler has a supply of locally accepted cash right away. A home bank is also a good place to exchange foreign money back to local currency after a trip is completed.


ATMs that are affiliated with a bank are another good option for exchanging currency. Most ATMs will accept any credit or debit card with a four-digit pin, and dispense requested cash in the local currency. Most machines will charge a fee for cash dispensing, but it may be less than the fee charged by an exchange kiosk. For people who don't want to carry their personal cash around until they can exchange it, relying on ATM machines can usually be a safe bet.

Airport kiosks are usually quite safe to use, unlike independent exchange counters that may be found around large cities. While they may have a less favorable exchange rate than banks, they are a good way to get a supply of cash while still at the airport. The difference in exchange rates is typically mild, but it may be worthwhile to download an real-time exchange rate tracker onto a phone or computer to be sure the exchange rate posted is fair. To exchange foreign currency at a kiosk, simply tell the worker what currency and denominations are desired.

Since unfavorable exchange rates and fees can slowly sap away at funds, be sure that exchanges are actually needed. Hotels, restaurants, and shops in many areas may be willing to accept common currencies, or at the very least allow the use of debit or credit cards. Different countries do not always have different currencies; many European countries, for instance, utilize the Euro. If foreign exchange transactions are required, try to limit them to a few larger exchanges instead of many small ones. Fewer total exchanges will typically mean lower fees.


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