When you go on a trip, the question quickly arises: where and how to change your currencies? Because, even if the Traveller's Checks are still relevant, there are now much simpler solutions. But above all, safer solutions against the risks that we may encounter on the other side of the world. Here is a selection of the best ways to change your currencies during your stays abroad.

1. Banks: practical, but expensive to change your currencies

When a currency is convertible – this is the case with dollars, pounds sterling, etc. – it is generally possible to order one before leaving. Ordering foreign currency from your bank is reassuring and convenient – ​​you will already have local currency when you arrive at your destination. However, changing euros into foreign currencies is expensive.

Indeed, many banks offer exchange rates that are not necessarily advantageous and often charge high commissions. It’s around €5 to €10 in addition to exchange fees! Changing your currencies with a bank is therefore not always the best solution.

For more information on how to use your bank to change your currencies : Consult our guide to bank fees by bank

change your currencies

2. Exchange offices: a quality/price ratio that varies a lot

If the currency of the country you are traveling to is not freely convertible – this is the case with the Chinese yuan and the Moroccan dirham for example – you cannot exchange your currency before leaving. In this case, the easiest way to convert your currencies is to withdraw cash before leaving – preferably euros or dollars, the most international currencies – and wait until you arrive at your destination to exchange them for the local currency.

Good to know #1: as part of the fight against money laundering, the maximum amount of cash that you can carry with you is generally €10,000 per person (amount to be verified depending on your destination).

Good to know #2: Like banks, exchange offices sometimes charge high prices for their services, particularly at airports where customers are captive. Generally speaking, the exchange offices closest to the baggage carousel are often the most expensive. To save money, shop around at the exchange offices and change €50 or €100 at the cheapest exchange office at the airport. Wait until you reach the city center to exchange your money, as exchange offices there are much cheaper than in airports. By saving on your exchange from dollars to euros or from euros to any other currency, you can have a little more fun on site.

For more information on how to use exchange offices to change your currencies : What are the best exchange offices?

exchange office

3. The credit card: simple and cheap (although)

One of the cheapest and most practical solutions for changing your currencies is still to withdraw money from an ATM once you arrive at your destination. Withdrawing money from an ATM generates two to three types of fees:

– Exchange fees

Let's say you plan to travel to the United States. At the time of writing, 1 US dollar is worth 0.86 euros (currency rates vary regularly, check the exchange rate when leaving). If the distributor offers you to withdraw dollars on the basis of 1 dollar = 0.86 euros, the distributor therefore charges you 0.02€ commission for each dollar withdrawn. If you withdraw 300 dollars from the ATM, the withdrawal will cost you €6 in commission.

– ATM withdrawal fees

The majority of French banks charge a fixed fee for each withdrawal from an ATM abroad, generally around €3. Exchange fees or fixed fees, it's up to you to calculate where the saving is. Moreover, it is advisable to withdraw more and less often to limit costs.

– Distributor fees

Although it seems obvious in France to be able to withdraw money from any ATM “for free”, this is not always the case abroad. Indeed, installing and managing an ATM has a certain cost for local banks, who often pass them on to their customers by asking them for a commission, often between 1 and 5 dollars per withdrawal.

It's up to you to select the most interesting currency exchange for you.

credit card to change your currencies

How to pay less fees when changing your currencies at the ATM?

By adding up the various fees (exchange fees, fixed fees from your bank, ATM fees), changing your currencies by withdrawing abroad can cost you the equivalent of 6 to 15% of the amount withdrawn. To pay less, there are four solutions:

– Withdraw large amounts

It is better to make one withdrawal of $300 than two withdrawals of $150. Thus, you save a withdrawal, therefore €3 less in fixed costs for your euro to dollar exchange.

– Favor banks that do not charge distributor fees

In Cambodia, for example, the majority of banks charge $5 ATM fees. When I inquired, I learned that Canadia Bank does not charge any ATM fees. It ended up costing me less to reach this bank by tuk-tuk (3 dollars round trip) than if I had withdrawn money from the first bank I came along.

– Subscribe to expatriate packages

If you have to move abroad or if you travel often, consider taking out a suitable banking package. So when I lived in Vietnam, I subscribed to the Jazz International offer from Société Générale. For €10 per month, I didn't pay any fixed fees when I withdrew money.

– Pay with your credit card

If you pay with your credit card abroad, you will not pay any fixed fees, only variable fees. So, when I was in the United States, I remember sometimes paying with my bank card for a simple Coca-Cola for one dollar which only cost me 2 cents in exchange fees, more economical than changing your currencies before to leave or on site. Practical. Important: If you withdraw a lot of money abroad, your bank may block your card thinking that you are the victim of fraudulent use of your bank card. To avoid this, remember to notify your bank that you are going abroad.

How to read a currency chart

4. Pay in euros: the most practical, but expensive

In certain very touristy countries such as Switzerland, Croatia or even Jordan, certain traders sometimes accept to be paid in euros. So when I traveled to Jordan, having run out of cash, I paid the entrance fee to Petra in euros. Practical.

However, this ease of payment comes at a price. In my case, I had paid 60€ for the entrance to Petra instead of 57€ if I had paid the entrance in the local currency. It's up to you to see on a case-by-case basis what is cheaper between changing your currencies and paying in euros, knowing that you will be obliged in all cases to bring local currency with you for your small expenses (taxi trips, market, etc.)

Tips for changing your currencies

Today, digitalization allows everyone to meet. Also, if you need to change your currencies, you can also find contacts to connect you with other travelers. Imagine an Englishman who comes to France while you, for your part, have to go to England. Everyone can withdraw according to the currency rate, you agree on a meeting place to exchange currency and thus limit costs.

Where to travel and when?

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