In some way or another, you will need to exchange your currency at one point in your life. When you start traveling, your credit card might not be accepted in all establishments. That said, it’s important that you know how to exchange your money, as it is a necessity these days, especially if you visit other countries. To get the best deal, and ensure your safety and security, here is a simple guide on money exchange by answering these questions and keeping in mind some tips:
What and how are currency exchange rates determined?
Currencies, similar to other financial products and the stock market, are part of a global marketplace called foreign exchange or forex, which runs for 24 hours. The value of one currency compared to the next fluctuates every second. To make a profit and earn from money exchange establishments, banks and currency vendors sell it at a rate inclusive of a foreign exchange margin and service fees.
Why does the value of money change?
Exchange rates are simply numbers to know the value of a particular currency. However, for example, the amount of one euro to one pound always and constantly changes every single day. Drivers that cause these changes in value depends on a few factors that affect the value of a specific currency:
- Stability of the country’s government
- Stability of the country’s economy
- Country’s interest rate
- Inflows and outflows of the country’s currency
- Country’s debt (both public and government)
- Trade terms with other countries
- Market sentiment
- Political issues within a country
- State of the country
- Good or bad governance of the country
- Country’s inflation rates
- Political sphere
- Fiscal and monetary policies
- Natural disasters and calamities
What are some basic terms in the exchange market?
When working with money exchanges, there are some technical terms used that you should familiarize yourself with. Here is a simple guide on terms and their meanings:
The sell rate refers to the rate at which you can sell your foreign currency in exchange for the local one. For example, if you are going to Paris, you will exchange your local currency for euros at the sell rate.
The buy rate, on the other hand, is the rate wherein the foreign currency carried by travelers are bought in exchange for the local currency. For example, if you are returning to England from the United States, you will exchange your pound back to dollars at the buy rate.
The spot rate is more known as the interbank rate. This is the rate that banks charge another financial institution when trading large amounts of foreign currency. Businesses usually use the term spot rate when dealing with banks. This is not a tourist rate, so you cannot buy a foreign currency at this rate. Similarly, the rates that are usually shown in newspapers or broadcast media are the interbank rates. These are not the rates that you use for money exchange as an individual.
The spread is the difference between the sell and buy rates compared to the spot rate. This is where the money changer or bank tucks in their foreign exchange margins.
The commission is what we call the fees that foreign exchange providers charge as service fees to convert one currency to another.
Why do these rates matter?
Changing rates matter because by looking at the exchange rates of each currency, you can evaluate whether one currency is stronger or weaker than the other.
For example, you have the currency pair GBP/USD. For this example, GBP will be the base currency, while USD will be the quote currency. If GBP/USD was at 1.5, then 1 GBP will buy you 1.5 USD. If it changed to 1.6, then you can say that the pound is stronger since it can now buy 1.6 USD instead of just 1.5 USD.
Having a stronger currency is good news, and it will also attract more investors to put their money in their country. Stronger currencies reflect good governance, economic stability, and power globally. If you want to find out additional information, you can learn more by researching about this online.
Why do people buy a foreign currency?
There are a group of people who trade foreign currency in the forex, which we call traders. They do this because they think that they can make a profit as the rates fluctuate. This is very risky, especially if you don’t know the market. In the foreign exchange market, prices move by the second, and you need to be able to make sales before you lose that window.
Another reason why people buy foreign currency is for the purpose of traveling. Whenever you travel, you need to use the currency of the country you are in. For this reason, you need to exchange your country’s currency to the currency of the country you are traveling to. You can do this by going to the bank or money changers. For people who want money immediately or for emergency reasons, they can make payments via credit card or withdraw from a foreign ATM. However, doing this will cause you more fees, which will be discussed more later on.
People also buy foreign currencies when their own local currencies are becoming weaker. What people do is they exchange their local currencies with the stronger ones. This way, the value of your money is secured.
Where to exchange your money?
Do not ever exchange currency at the airport
The convenience of exchanging your money at the airport can be very tempting. However, you have to pay a high price for that convenience, which isn’t very worth it. Airports know this convenience and charge higher margins for it. Instead, you can exchange it at different channels, which will be discussed later on.
Credit card transactions and ATM withdrawals overseas come at a fee
Whenever you withdraw foreign currency from an ATM, there are foreign transaction fees depending on the bank. A better alternative would be exchanging currency at money changer kiosks. If you will be getting cash via ATM, make sure that you get a large amount per withdrawal so that the fees will be worth it.
On the other hand, it may be very convenient to use your credit card when traveling, which is what most people do to avoid carrying large sums of money on their person. However, your credit card will also charge you a foreign transaction fee for every purchase. To get a good deal, it’s therefore important to compare credit card transaction fees. Some cards also come with travel-related benefits such as discounts on hotels, or flights and travel insurance. Be sure you do your research.
Try to exchange money in pawnshops and money changers
Money changers in kiosks, which are sometimes found in malls, or pawnshops are the best places to exchange currency. Because there is a strong competition with money changers, banks, and airports, these places usually have a low margin and fees. Choose renowned kiosks in the country and famous pawnshops as well. This is where your research comes in again.
Tips on Money Exchange
Ask your bank to raise your withdrawal limit to avoid carrying a bulk of money
For instance, being in Paris or Rome for a week will already wipe out your daily withdrawal limit. With this situation, you won’t be allowed to withdraw more money for touring the city and eating meals there. If you can’t get enough cash, you might be in trouble during your entire vacation. So, ask your bank to increase your daily withdrawal limits.
Make it a habit to inform your bank every time you’ll be traveling overseas. This will not only help with the daily withdrawal limit of your ATM, but it will also make using your credit card very convenient. Some banks flag your card when it’s being used overseas to prevent fraud. By telling banks in advance, you can prevent this inconvenience from happening.
Compare exchange rates online before you fly
It’s important that you do your research first on the exchange rates, so that you don’t get fooled. For instance, Coinmill.com can provide currency exchange rates calculators for you, and it also gets updated daily depending on the market price. This will give you an idea of how much the exchange rate should be without the exchange margin and additional service fees.
Knowledge is key. If you know the exchange rates before you fly, you’ll be wiser when scouting where to have your money changed.
Never use the cash advance feature on your credit cards unless absolutely necessary
Through the use of a foreign ATM, most credit cards have a feature that allows you to get cash in advance until your credit limit. However, not only will you be charged a foreign exchange fee, but you will also be charged a very high interest rate the moment you avail of this service. The cash advance fee in itself is already very high. Coupled with the ATM and foreign exchange fee, this will cost you very much. Beware of this option or feature that your credit card company offers you.
Ask for both small and large denominations
When exchanging money, you must always ask for smaller bills since there will be times when you will only be charged a little amount. This happens when you ride taxis, eat in local eateries, have street food, and purchase from small businesses. So, it’s important to prepare for those situations by asking for lower bills.
In other countries, such as the Philippines or India, taxi drivers are notorious for not giving change when you pay them with a large bill. They will simply give you the excuse that they don’t have enough change.
Only transact with legitimate money changers
Walking down the street in another country, your face already gives it away that you are indeed from a different country. Because of this, some locals might try to trick you. Be careful if some local walks up to you in the street and offers you a much lower rate for exchanging your dollars to the local currency. Chances are that the person is from a black market money changer or some shady organization. You can get ripped off easily by these kinds of money changers. So, as tempting as it can be, do not hand over your cash just to anyone despite the great rates. Only transact with authorized money changers to be safe.
Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
Even though credit cards charge high, credit cards are indispensable tools when it comes to traveling to another country. Definitely, you will need your credit card to make some kind of purchase, especially the large purchases. So, the ultimate weapon for this is to get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Yes, these types of credit cards do exist, and you just have to look for them. There are some travel-specific credit cards tailored for people who frequently go from one place to another. Benefits and features are also tailored to traveling, such as higher point-to-miles conversions, travel insurance, and travel promotions. Included in these features is the option of no foreign fees. Apply for a couple of these cards if you are the type of person who travels a lot.
Money exchanges can be relatively simple to understand. Whether this is for investments or traveling, all you have to do is be prepared in advance. You just need to do your research and plan ahead to be able to save on money exchange transactions and get the best deals. Buying your currency before you leave the country will definitely save you much on fees. So, always plan and strategize before leaving the country. Just follow these tips, and you will be able to do money exchange transactions anytime and anywhere.