Using credit cards while you are abroad is very convenience if your credit card doesn’t have foreign transaction fee. However in some countries, credit cards aren’t widely used. Or if you want to get a gelato from a small shop in Italy, or get food from food stall in Singapore, they surely will not accept credit card. Having cash with you then becomes important. If you need cash,trying to avoid getting cash advance from the credit card at the ATM machine by any cost because you will be stuck with 30% interest rate easily. If you are in a big city where ATM machines are easily found, getting cash out of your ATM card (with PLUS) is a way to go if you need emergency cash. I’ll save the one for different post.
I recently went to Japan where credit card use isn’t popular among shops. So I wanted to get some Japanese Yen with me, this way I don’t have to find an ATM machine to draw cash out. You will have to rely on service counter to exchange money. The question is where should I exchange my money? Here at home or over there in Tokyo?
Here are some tips.
1. Know your local airport Currency Exchange Service
Dulles Airport in Washington DC is my home base airport. I know that ICE (International Currency Exchange) is the only company providing the service at the airport. I would go to their website ICE America to look at the exchange rate.
2. Compare the exchange rate at your destination airport
All the major international airport has its official website. Look for “Airport Service” menu and usually the Currency Exchange is there. Some airport website provide exchange rate. Some just list service companies ( ICE or Travelex) or bank available in the airport. Then you can go to their website and check for the rate. If you can’t find any information on the rate, the best bet is if there are banks at the airport, the rate is more like cheaper than Money Exchange Desk. In my case, Narita Airport website has the today exchange rate listed. So I was able to check that the rate over there was better than ICE at Dulles Airport which gave me extra 3000 yen for me to spend.
3. Exchange currency when leaving
No one likes to pay double fee exchanging money and losing money when selling the local currency back. While getting cash out of the ATM is the way to go, you cannot use ATM to exchange your money back. You will have to use the counter service. If you have a large sum of local currency and really need to sell it, by comparing the rate at both airports, you now know where to exchange money. If you don’t have enough local currency to buy souvenir at the airport (which is overpriced already), every airport has a charity box donation that you can dump all the remaining changes or coins from your trip. It’s a nice way to end the trip and give back to the country you have just enjoyed.