These are the best places to exchange currency, without having to pay a lot of money

There are many outlets that allow you to exchange dollars for foreign currency in your country. However, it is a good idea to exchange the majority of your foreign currency at ATMs overseas. These outlets often offer better exchange rates than any other source, such as your bank in the U.S. or online exchanges.

It’s a smart idea to bring a small amount in local currency to cover any immediate expenses until you can access an ATM. AAA recommends that you carry between $50 and $100 of local currency each day while abroad.

How to Convert Currency

The exchange rates of currencies are always changing so it’s important to get the best rate possible if you are going to another country or just returning from vacation. You have a variety of options to convert currency.

Each method has its own exchange rate and fees. You should consider cost and convenience when choosing the best method to convert currency. In most cases, the more convenient method will result in higher fees.

Step 1

You can withdraw money using your ATM card. You can use your ATM card to convert currency instantly in any country you visit. This will usually result in the best exchange rate, but ATM fees may apply. To minimize fees, withdraw as much money as possible.

Step 2

Convert your currency at an airport. You can convert your money at most international airports. Although these booths can be convenient, they generally have poor conversion rates.

Step 3

Currency converters are available in tourist areas. You’ll find currency shops in major tourist areas if you visit a country with a lot of tourists. Compare rates and fees to find the best deal.

Step 4

Some shops will accept American dollars, even though it is not the local currency. The change will be given in local currency.

Step 5

Your bank should be able to convert any foreign money you have leftover from your trip into American dollars by depositing it in your account. You may also be able to convert currency in large banks before you travel.

Tip

You can check the online exchange rates to see if you are getting a good deal at a currency exchange shop.

Where can I exchange currency in the U.S?

You may be able to find the best currency exchange rates if you don’t have your bag packed yet. Many banks offer currency exchange services to customers. Although there might be a small charge, almost all banks and credit unions offer currency exchange at the lowest price.

Ordering currency online, by phone, or in-person at a branch may be possible. You can also pick it up at a branch or have it delivered. You can pick up your money as soon as possible, have it delivered in one to three days, or choose overnight shipping.

An online currency converter can be used to order the cash and have it delivered to your house. However, exchange rates are not as favorable and delivery fees will eat into your funds.

Airport kiosks and stores should only be used as a last resort. The exchange rates are low and the fees are high.

Currency Exchange at Banks

Major banks will exchange U.S. Dollars for foreign currency if they have a checking account or savings account. If you have a bank credit card, the bank may exchange currency in some cases. This service is usually free of charge, although banks may charge fees. The exchange rate offered by banks, which changes with the foreign currency market, is typically better than any other source in the U.S.

Banks More Details
Bank of America
  • no fee
  • Online ordering available (minimum $100)
  • Orders below $1,000 can be sent directly to you
  • Orders over $1,000 must be picked up at the branch
Wells Fargo
  • no fee
  • Online ordering available (minimum $200)
  • All orders above $1,000 qualify for free shipping
Citigroup
  • no fee
  • Order online
  • $5 Fee (Except for CitiGold or Citi Priority Account Packages)
  • Free delivery to your branch
PNC
  • no fee
  • Exchange at branch
TD Bank
  • no fee
  • Exchange at branch
U.S. Bank
  • Redirects to Travelex, a provider of foreign-exchange services

Online orders can be made by some banks. The foreign currency will then be deducted from your savings or checking account. Sometimes, the shipping cost may vary depending on how large the order is.

Some banks require that you call or stop in at a branch to order currency. Common currency requests, such as Canadian dollars or euros, may be fulfilled on the same day.

Other currencies that are less frequently requested could take up to four days.

Many banks will buy back any foreign cash that you have left after your return, but usually at lower rates than what you paid.

Converting Foreign Currency Online

Online currency exchanges are only a few. Travelex, one of the largest foreign exchange providers, is one U.S. Bank that directs customers online. AAA offers currency exchange to its members. Travelex and AAA both buy foreign currency back upon your return.

Travelex AAA
  • Free pick-up at the store
  • Free delivery for orders above US$1,000
  • Usually available for next-day pickup, but may take up to five days.
  • US$50 minimum order
  • US$3,000 maximum order
  • Order online, in-store, or by phone (1-888-626-2027).
  • Orders over US$1,000 qualify for free 2-delivery
  • Shipping fee $15 for orders below US$1,000

How to get foreign currency from outside the U.S.

Avoid airport kiosks and other exchange houses once you have reached your destination. The best option is probably your bank’s ATM network. With competitive exchange rates and low fees (1% – 3%), you may be able to withdraw cash in local currency.

To locate an ATM near to you, use the app of your institution. If your bank charges ATM fees, you should withdraw larger amounts. Avoid out-of-network ATMs. In addition to the possible foreign transaction fee, ATM owners may charge surcharges.

Your bank is the best place to exchange money, but not all types of currency. You can exchange money at an ATM or currency exchange kiosk at the airport in the U.S. or abroad, but you won’t get a better rate.

Currency Exchange at Abroad

Foreign ATMs offer the best exchange rates, regardless of any fees. To reduce fees, it is a good idea to withdraw more cash abroad than you normally do. These fees are common at foreign ATMs.

  • Foreign transaction fees: This covers the cost of changing U.S. Dollars into foreign currency
  • ATM fee outside-of-network: A foreign ATM can be used for a fee of up to $5
  • Foreign ATM use fee: ATM operators outside of Europe and Mexico charge this convenience fee
  • Cash advance fee Your issuer might charge you this fee if your card is used to withdraw cash.

Many U.S. banks have affiliate banks or alliances in other countries which can make it easier to withdraw money from abroad using foreign ATMs. Citibank, for example, has 45,000 ATMs around the world that don’t have to charge out-of-network fees. They still charge a foreign exchange fee.

Bank of America customers have the option to use ATMs owned by China Construction Bank, an affiliated bank of the U.S. Bank. This is without having to pay out-of-network fees.

Bank of America is a member of the Global ATM Alliance, which allows its customers to access ATMs belonging to other global bank members like Barclays and BNP Paribas as well as Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bank, Scotiabank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, and Banca Nazionale del Lavoro without paying a fee.

Exchange counters in airports, kiosks close to hotels, or stations should not be your last resort when converting currency. These exchanges may be easy to find, but they don’t usually offer the best rates.

You may be able to donate your currency at the airport or on a flight if you are unable to sell it. Ten international airlines are part of UNICEF’s Change for Good program.

This program accepts donations in foreign currencies to improve the lives and well-being of children around the world.

Recap: Where Is the Best Place to Exchange Foreign Currency?

Almost always, your bank or credit union will be the best place for currency exchange.

  • Exchange money with your bank or credit union before you leave for your trip.
  • If you are able to, make use of your bank’s ATMs while abroad.
  • Check with your bank or credit union to see if they will purchase the foreign currency back once you are home.

Non-Currency Options

Credit cards and special travel prepaid cards can be used to convert currency. This is easier than carrying around cash. Traveler’s checks also offer security features in the event that they are lost, stolen, or damaged.

Credit cards

Avoid foreign transaction fees when you use your card to make a transaction in another country. The fee is usually around 3%. This fee is not charged by Discover or Capital One on any of their cards. The fee may not be charged by other issuers for premium credit cards or travel rewards credit cards.

Prepaid cards

Visa offers its Visa TravelMoney Card in Triple-A locations. This card can simplify foreign exchange. You can use the card to make debit purchases or withdraw money at ATMs around the world.

You can reload funds in person, online, over the telephone, or online with cash, bank account funds, or a debit/credit card. Travelex also offers a MasterCard Prepaid Travel Card that locks in your exchange rate without any ATM fees. However, it charges a 5.5% foreign currency fee.

Traveler’s checks

Some American Express banks offer special checks that can redeem for local currency at specific banks, foreign exchange points, and American Express travel service offices. Traveler’s checks may be accepted by foreign retailers instead of local currency.

The serial numbers of your checks are required to be returned if the checks are lost or stolen. You may be charged exchange fees but there are no withdrawal fees.

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