International banknotes from world major countries. Concept: where to exchange currency
Cedric Jackson
By: cjackson
Read in 12 minutes

Where to Exchange Currency: Your Cheapest Options

Are you traveling abroad soon and you need to know where to exchange currency? You have several options, but some places charge more than others. Where can you get the most money possible out of the transaction?

Where to Exchange Currency?

Knowing where to exchange currency depends on where you are. You will want to have cash in hand before leaving, while at your destination, and also where to exchange the foreign currency you didn’t use once you return home. This knowledge can make your trip a lot easier, especially if you are traveling for business and will be on tight deadlines upon arrival.

Before leaving

Here are some places where you can exchange currency before leaving on your trip.

  1. Your local bank. The most obvious place to exchange currency is your local bank. Most banks have the option of exchanging currency for many of the better-known monies from around the world. Banks that do not have this option can give you an idea of where to exchange currency locally to save you money too.
  2. ATMs. Some ATMs also give you the option of currency exchanges. If you go to an ATM, watch for fees. The fees applied are usually the same regardless of the quantity you withdraw; therefore, try to take out as much as you can to minimize how much you pay on fees. You may also want to look and see if there are any ATMs at your destination area that are affiliated with your bank so that you can minimize fees while traveling.
  3. Online. There are also websites where you can exchange currency before your trip. They have different times in terms of delivery and different exchange rates, so you will need to be able to look around before picking one. That way, you can get your money when you need it while taking on the fewest fees possible.
  4. Through a transfer. You can also transfer money to your destination ahead of time if you plan to visit regularly. You could open a bank account there, use the money from that account while in your destination, and deposit what you do not need to bring back with you before returning home.
  5. Traveler’s checks. Many think that traveler’s checks are a good option, but experts typically advise against it. They typically equate to higher fees, less money during the exchange, and become cumbersome during travel. In today’s market, there are simply better ways of being able to have the right money on you to get what you need.

At your destination

While you are on your trip, you are going to also want to have ideas on where to exchange currency in case you need some extra cash. To make your trip easier, we recommend you to look in advance for a branch of your bank at your destination. That way, while you are there, you’ll know exactly where to go should you run out of cash.

Just remember to figure out what the exchange should be before going to any register. If you go into a situation where you are unsure of what you should be paying, then you will likely overpay. The honest perspective of the situation is that it is not the job of the people at your destination to tell you if you are overpaying. To them, this is a business. Make it your job to know what the approximate exchange is before paying, so you know what to expect and do not feel fleeced once you are done with the transaction.

Once back home

When you go back home, you will also want to be able to exchange your currency back to dollars. However, if you plan on traveling regularly to the same destination, simply keep the foreign currency. That way you’ll avoid paying again exchange fees.

Wrapping It Up – FAQs About Where to Exchange Currency

Where should you exchange currency? It all depends if you can exchange it before your trip or if you need it while you are at your destination. In the first case, your bank or credit union is probably the best place to exchange currency. Chances are you also find the cheapest currency there: they have reasonable exchange rates and the lowest fees (usually better than at an airport kiosk).

Where can I exchange currency for free? Consult with your bank to see if they can exchange currency at no cost. Many banks such as Bank of America and Citibank, among others, don’t charge a fee. Also, they offer options such as requesting the currency online and mailing it to your location.  

What banks exchange foreign currency? Nowadays, almost every bank provides this service. Keep in mind that in some cases, while you can order the foreign currency at any branch, you may have to pick it up at the bank headquarters in your town or city.

Can you exchange currency at the Post Office? That is a common service provided in the United Kingdom. However, in the U.S., you can’t exchange currency at the Post Office.

Traveling to Latin America? Then Read This First

With the holidays fast approaching, traveling to Latin America could be in your plans. If that is the case, you must have the right information to know when and where to exchange currency to get the best rates. The rates of all Latin American currencies change constantly, so making sure you have the right tools for your trip is essential.

We recommend you to have a tool that travels with you. If your trip is for business, then you likely will have your laptop with you. One great website that keeps you apprised of exchange rates and their forecast is Trading Economics. That way, you can have the information you need in front of you to ensure you get the best chances of a fair exchange.

If you are traveling for pleasure, you likely will have your phone with you. If that is the case, you will want apps that can keep you apprised of the exchange rates for where you plan to go. For that, opt for apps like Valuta+. With apps like this, you can have a great idea of where the exchange rates are no matter if you are in the U.S. or Latin America (or other parts of the world, for that matter). Plus, Valuta+ even works offline, so if you find yourself in a remote area of Latin America with a weak signal, you can still have a good idea of where the exchange rates are from the last time you had a signal.

Knowing where the exchange rates are certainly helps, but keep in mind, they fluctuate minute-by-minute. You will need to have an app or website that you trust to ensure you are always getting the best possible rates.

Here are today’s rates on several currencies from Latin America. However, we insist, they change constantly. Chances are they are no longer current as you are reading this!

  • Mexico – Peso: 19.63 pesos per U.S. Dollar
  • Honduras – Lempira: 24.78 Lempiras per U.S. Dollar
  • Nicaragua – Cordoba: 33.63 Cordobas per U.S. Dollar
  • Guatemala – Quetzal: 7.75 Quetzals per U.S. Dollar
  • Venezuela – Bolivar: 9.99 Bolivars per U.S. Dollar

Other Tips to Knowing Where to Exchange Currency and Where to Avoid

Some places are very helpful when it comes to exchanging currency, but some places are the opposite of helpful. It is equally as important to know where not to exchange currency unless you are in a bind and have no other options. Here are some great ways of knowing where to exchange currency, and where to avoid.

  • Always avoid airport currency exchange kiosks. They charge fees for the convenience of being able to use their machines, and those fees can be incredibly high.
  • Whenever possible, use a credit or debit card to pay for things while on your trip that does not charge any type of foreign transaction fees. That way, you pay your bill when you get home on the exact amount that you spent at the conversion rate of the time, and nothing more.
  • Make sure to order the foreign currency well enough in advance in case there is a hiccup in the ordering process. Your order may be delayed, especially if you are ordering an uncommon currency.
  • If you are planning to use your credit or debit card abroad, make sure your bank knows in advance that you will be traveling. You have to place a travel notice. Usually, you can do it over the phone by calling your branch, or you may need to fill out a simple form online. The last thing you want is to get hit with your bank freezing your account, thinking your card was stolen.
  • When you want to exchange currency, keep an eye on the rates. They are constantly changing. You want to buy your currency when you can get the best rates possible. If they are going up and down regularly, then make note of when they become most stable and buy at that time.
  • Never use U.S. dollars abroad, even if places within that country accepts it. They will not give you the same rate as a bank, and you will wind up paying more in the end.
  • Spend or exchange what you need to before coming back into the U.S. if you have more than the equivalent of $10,000 in cash on you. If you try and carry in an amount over $10,000, you will have to declare the cash to U.S. Customs and that could slow down the process of you getting home.

Knowing where to exchange currency before your trip, while abroad, and when you get home can make traveling far easier. Plus, it is also important to know how to save the most money with the transaction. Keeping track of currency trends will make the process as simple as possible. In order to stay on top of the latest trends in finances and improve your financial performance, make sure to subscribe to the weekly newsletter here at Camino Financial.


Check if you
qualify for a loan