International Money Exchange
ATM’s are probably the best way to get local currency at the best exchange rate. You may have to pay a small fee, so check before leaving your home. You should also tell your bank that you plan to travel abroad, so they don’t freeze your bank account for overseas transactions. Keep a list of contacts at your bank in case you may need them while traveling. Be wary of using “off market” ATM’s. Almost anyone can purchase an ATM machine and dispense cash, try using a bank or reputable source when you withdraw money.
Be sure all your ATM cards are up to date! We were in Mexico when Melissa realized her ATM card was going to expire. Luckily, we had a short trip planned back to the USA, so she was able to fix the situation. Imagine being on a small Island with no other way to get cash except an expired ATM card!!
Exchange Rate App (Check to see if you’re getting a good deal.)
8 Tips to Help You Protect Yourself From ATM Theft:
- Get in the habit of using the same ATM machine for your transactions, if you can. Become familiar with it and be able to recognize changes to the machine.
- Use ATM machines inside banks rather than on the street (where they’re easier for thieves to access).
- If you’re visiting an unfamiliar ATM machine that is not inside a bank, examine it carefully for devices. Card or cash trapping devices need to be glued or taped to the card reader or cash dispenser. Look for ‘extra’ cameras beyond the basic and generally obvious ATM security camera.
- Never rely on the help of strangers to retrieve a confiscated card.
- Never use an ATM machine when other people are lingering. Check your surroundings, even across the street.
- Report confiscated cards immediately. If you can, don’t leave the machine. Instead call the bank from the ATM where your card was taken using a cell phone.
- Don’t use ATM machines with extra signage or warnings posted on the machine.
- Never follow a link in a supposed bank or credit/debit card email notice. If you are wondering if your bank has really contacted you via email, then close the email and directly type your bank’s website address into your browser. Visit your account and look for update notices directly on your account or bank’s website. The email is almost always a phishing scam. Use the 800 number on the back of your card and call the bank directly.
Credit cards usually have really good exchange rates as well, since they get bulk exchange rates. You should check the following sites (or your own credit card site) for the most up to date exchange rates.
You can always opt for travelers checks, however these are not as popular as they used to be, so some places may not even accept them anymore. The good news is, they can be replaced if they are lost or stolen, unlike cash. Check with your bank about the different options.
Local banks usually offer a pretty good exchange rate, although you need to ensure that your home countries currency is doing well (strong) for a decent exchange. Banks are convenient and usually a low-cost option, however we have had to wait in long lines with locals. Sometimes, in smaller locations, the language barrier can be difficult. Be prepared to have your passport and other documentation with you at a bank. Banks sometimes operate at fluctuating hours or days. Ensure you know the local holidays because they may be closed. In addition, ALWAYS count and secure your money before you leave the tellers desk!
Criminals can be waiting outside for unsuspecting tourists.
Hotels and Airports
Convenience comes at a price. Hotels and airports are typically where you will find the highest transaction charges. We recommend you use all other options above before exchanging money at your hotel or airport.
A TEACHING MOMENT: Beware of electronic skimmers: Sophisticated thieves place “skimmers” on ATM’s and other credit/debit devices that can read your card number. Some skimmers have small camera’s to watch you input your PIN. Always, gently pull on the the card swipe device to see if it is firmly placed on. You will NOT be able to pull off a real device. A lot of these devices are in hugely popular tourist places.
Melissa actually experienced a skimmer that was attached to our local bank ATM. The thief made a cash transaction directly after she left the ATM. She was not responsible for the cash, but it may not be so easy when you are not at your own bank or out of the country.
As simple as this sounds, ALWAYS cover your pin number because the camera devices are good at capturing your pin code, if you get sloppy.
Check out our Next Blog Post Make Money if You Have the Time at the Airport