Exchanging Travel Money
Credit Cards – Travel Money Cards – Travellers Cheques – Cash
When Exchanging Travel Money we are constantly being bombarded with deals and being told the best way to use our Australian Dollars when we travel. Most of the time it is companies promoting their product as ‘the best’ or ‘the safest’ product for the consumer when their main focus is it exploit travellers with hidden fees and charges.
I have travelled to many countries, changed many currencies, used many types of Bank Cards and even cashed travellers cheques before (yes that’s old school). These experiences always left me feeling that I had been ripped off and that I had lost a lot of money during the process. My aim is to explain the Pros and Cons with each method so travellers can make smart choices and get more when Exchanging Travel Money.
Credit Cards ‘CC’
- are dangerous if used without self discipline and this can be amplified when travelling abroad. Banks charge a currency conversation fee, meaning that when you buy in a foreign currency the bank of the CC will take between 0.5% – 3% of the purchase price as a fee. Eg: if you buy a 200 USD pair of shoes in New York on your Australian CC with a 2% fee, you pay an extra $5.50 AUD just for using your card. If you like swiping your card these fees will quickly accumulate.
- You are locked into the banks exchange rate with the currency you purchase in and this is often unfavourable for the traveller
- Credit Card fraud is more common outside of Australia and I have many friends who have been scammed for thousands of dollars (feel free to post your story in the comments section)
- One benefit (depending on your type of card) is that these purchases both in Australia and abroad can contribute to Frequent Flyers points and bonuses that can be used at a later date.
- Please visit our article on Credit Cards and Frequent Flyer points for more information on Australian Credit Cards
Travel Money Cards ‘TMC’
This type of Bank Card acts similar to a Debit Card in that you preload your card with however much ‘cash’ you would like and once you it runs out you will need to add more usually from your internet banking. Many of these cards allow you to set specific currencies ahead of time so that travellers can see how much of a local currency they have in their account. In facilitating this convenience to its customers, banks take various fees and charges. Like Credit Cards, many banks will charge a currency conversion fee for your transaction also while using travel money cards.
Please read our article on different Travel Money Cards which breaks down the fees and charges you will encounter and also the benefits of this type of card.
As the old saying goes. Cash is King. In my experiences as a traveller, CASH will give you best value for your Australia Dollar.
But what does that mean?
Do I carry Australian dollars to another country?
Or do I buy foreign currency before I go?
Where should I do this?
And most of all…is it safe?
Most of us who travel abroad will have little experience in exchanging travel money to and from Australian Dollars. This can make for an uncomfortable experience, especially in a foreign country and often feels like it is bordering on some type of illegal activity. This is not the case and problems rarely arise when following some simple steps to keep safe and get the best rates.
Banks and foreign exchange shops are commonly used and found in all major areas of the country with the majority located in big cities and close to the tourist hot spots. These are all safe and secure but offer various rates for different currencies. Travelex offers best rate guarantees on many currencies but negotiating is key when making a transaction and smaller, independent FOREX places can call their bosses and ask for a better rate than what is advertised. Things to keep in mind when Exchanging Travel Money.
- Always use foreign exchange that is situated in safe and visible street location
- Play different FOREX places against each other to get the lowest rate
- Travelex and small independent venues have ability to lower rates beyond advertised market rates
- Check our currency converter for same day median rates and aim to get as close to that as possible (top right of homepage)
- The larger amount of money you exchange the more negotiating power you have
- NEGOTIATING is key. If you do not ask for a better rate then you will not receive one
Many of the tips that apply within Australia will also apply in foreign countries. Changing money in a secure, safe and open location is a priority in any countries where crime an increased concern. Also being aware that people may be watching you and taking care of your bags and belongings is always a good idea. Using the room safe to keep your cash, passport or other valuables is also highly recommended. Just don’t forget your belongings when you checkout!
AUD is readily accepted in almost all foreign destinations with the best returns coming from checking our currency converter rates, changing larger amounts of cash and negotiating for every last peso, yuan, dinar, lira or dollar.
Bringing Money back to Australia
A few years ago on the rare occasion that I had money left over in a foreign currency I would be madly exchanging it at the airport a few minutes before departing on my flight home. This resulted in me taking whatever rate was available and not giving it a lot of thought as to how I could better use my leftover cash. Nowadays I bring home my foreign cash instead of losing out to the FOREX places. If I bring $200 USD back from the states to Australia I will simply save it and change it with a friend (or a friend of a friend) who is travelling in the next few months. This benefits both parties because neither have to pay fees for exchanging money. Of course I would probably not bother to bring Nigerian Naira back to Australia but currencies from places like Indonesia, the United States, Thailand, Hong Kong and Euros can be easily sold to someone you know or possibly saved if you plan on returning to the same destination in the future.
With modern technology and increased security in the digital age this form of currency exchange has been largely fazed out and is not widely used. I would not recommend buying travel cheques but if you would like to use this method then talking with your bank is a must.
Changing currency when travelling is often a difficult and frustrating experience. By following these steps you can tackle this stressful task confidently and with the knowledge that you are not being ripped off.
If you have any suggestions for exchanging travel money please comment below and share your experiences in the comments below
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