4 Ways to Save on Currency Exchange

January 21, 2017

What’s the best way to acquire foreign cash? The chart below shows how you can save up to US $140 in exchange fees for 500 euros.  It’s worth the time to learn the best options!

currency-chart

Wire Transfer is the most economical.  I’ve used wire transfers for payments of costly items such as for tuition abroad.  When I was applying for jobs in China, I also opened an account there so I could wire myself enough money to cover expenses until my first paycheck.

ATM withdrawal is the next best option. I’ve noticed marketing materials often say “no foreign fee” but they neglect to mention the “conversion fee” – so make sure you inquire about both with your bank.

For example, I use Wells Fargo for cash withdrawals as they only charge one flat rate of $3-5 for each transaction. (Make sure you know your maximum daily withdrawal limit too.)  However, Wells Fargo charges a crazy 3% conversion for “point of sale” transactions so I only use this card for ATMs vs. for retail purchases.

U.S. Banks will also issue foreign currency. They may need to place an order from their distribution center, so allow time for shipment.  Not all banks offer this service, and some only exchange for a few popular currencies such as euros and Canadian dollars.  Banks usually don’t charge an exchange fee if you have an account at their bank.

Mail Order companies like Travel Ex will express mail currency from over 60 countries. This is useful if you need cash from a less traveled country.

Airport exchange booths charge the highest premium, and it’s your last chance for cash before boarding the plane.

As you can see, a bit of planning will save a lot of money!

Do you have currency experiences or tips?

Photos and graphic by Julia Hunter

THIS IS A FACT SHEET FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  IT IS NOT LEGAL OR FINANCIAL ADVICE. FOR THAT, YOU MUST CONSULT YOUR OWN ATTORNEY OR ACCOUNTANT.

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