Currency Conversion

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Be sure you know what the local currency is before you go. It used to be that needed to exchange cash on arrival. These days you can often get by with a credit card and an ATM card. Using plastic, your bank will do all the conversions for you. They will charge a small conversion fee, but the percentage is usually less than you would be charged for exchanging cash.

  • Look up the exchange rate (e.g. Canadian Dollar in Euros and Euro in Canadian Dollars) before you go and write up some quick look-up tables for powers-of-ten values, from their currency to yours and from your currency to theirs. --AP 12:57, 17 Jul 2005 (EDT)
  • Pick up cash in foreign currency at your bank's main branch _before_ arriving at your foreign destination. The exchange rate will be terrible, but it's only for the first day: especially for coffee, snacks, phone calls, luggage locker, taxi/bus/subway fares, etc. -- until you get to the bank in town. --gochess
    • Avoid conversion at airports... it's generally the worst rate!

In the UK, HSBC's First Direct offer 'FirstDirectory' for a small monthly fee. As well as travel insurance, it also waives the transaction fee when you use Cirrus ATMs for cash withdrawals abroad. Other banks have similar products, so if you travel a great deal, it may be worth switching banks and subscribing to such a product.

  • The FXCurrency Cheatsheet at oanda.com is really helpful in becoming familiar with local currencies in destinations that are indeed foreign. It's basically an automated tool for achieving the same result as in the first suggestion above: they call the currency lookup table a 'cheatsheet'. Once the table is generated, it can be printed and cut out for storage in a wallet.
  • My tip for managing currency conversion is ... don't do it! I get myself a small amount of the local cash before leaving, just enough for buying snacks and the occasional emergency, and I pay for all regular expenses (such as meals, travel and large purchases) on my credit card. I use AMEX, and I think their conversion rates are quite fair.
  • I like to work out the cost of a loaf of bread, glass of beer and a couple of other everday items in the local currency vs home currency - that way when you have a set of guide prices for the 'cost of stuff' so when you see a price you know whether it's expensive or cheap.

Ezalien 11:14, 9 August 2006 (EDT)

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