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Financial Friday: Traveling Abroad? A Guide to Foreign Currency

Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., Stetson University professor

Valrie Chambers, Ph.D.

Converting your U.S. dollars to foreign currency has the potential to be expensive. Follow these tips to get the most out of your dollar.

Tip 1: Get cash before you go.

While you will be able to charge directly to your card, you will probably still want some foreign cash. Normally, there is a fee for exchanging U.S. dollars into a foreign currency. You can often get foreign cash cheaply from the local branch of your bank, but generally must order it a few days in advance.

 Tip 2: Charge expenses in the local currency.

While traveling, it may be best to charge many of your purchases. When charging to your card, some retailers will ask you if you would like them to charge the amount in dollars instead of the local currency. While this sounds like a convenience, you are actually getting a worse deal since the retailer won’t give as good of an exchange rate as your bank would.

Tip 3: Get local currency from the ATM instead of converting dollars.

You can replenish cash cheaply as needed at foreign ATMs. Looks for banks that partner with yours; otherwise, the fees may be high.

 Tip 4: When converting cash, consider both the fees and the exchange rate.

Betty Thorne, Stetson University

Betty Thorne, Ph.D.

Other sources of foreign cash include currency converters. These can be found online. The fees for this conversion may be hidden in what are worse than normal currency conversion rates, like giving you fewer euros for your dollar than banks would.

Currency can also be exchanged at airports and hotels where you are a guest. These exchanges often have both poor exchange rates and high fees. Some foreign vendors accept U.S. dollars, but these tend to have high exchange rates, too.


Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., associate professor of taxation and accounting, and Betty Thorne, Ph.D., professor of statistics and the Christian R. Lindback Chair of Business Administration, write Financial Fridays to bolster students’ financial wellness including preventing financial mistakes, safeguarding their assets and identity, and thinking critically about financial decisions. For questions, contact Valrie Chambers at Valrie.chambers@stetson.edu.