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Old 09-15-2005, 12:08 PM   #1
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Travel Tips: Exchanging Multiple Currencies?

Need some help from the Interland world travelers here...

For my trip next month, I'll need to be carrying pounds, dollars, and Euros. I've heard that it's a bad idea to exchange currency at the airport (in my case JFK) because you won't get a good exchange rate.

How have you dealt with this in the past? Does anyone know of a good place to do a currency exchange in midtown Manhattan (I'll be taking the bus into Port Authority, then taking the train to JFK)? Or am I better off skipping the whole currency exchange fiasco and getting travelers' checks?

Any is appreciated.
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Old 09-15-2005, 12:15 PM   #2
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Airports always have bad exchange rates.

If you're a Bank of America customer, there's certain ATMs you can use without a fee charged by either BoA or the European bank.

http://www.scotiabank.com/cda/conten..._LIDen,00.html

You'd just probably have to research where the ATMs are. In terms of currency exchange in Manhattan, I know Bank of America generally has a ready supply of pounds and Euros. You should have a minimal supply of cash getting off the plane.

In short, it's often best to use debit cards where possible to make purchases, because the exchange rate is optimal. ATMs give you the same great exchange rate, as well. Travelers checks are better to carry around instead of cash, but a 24-48 hour supply of cash is necessary in case you can't exchange right away.

Sorry if I sound like an ad for Bank of America. I used to work for them, and, as such, I'm familiar with all their policies.

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Old 09-15-2005, 12:18 PM   #3
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So should I get most of my money in travelers' checks denominated in pounds and Euros (I can get them from AAA before I leave), and then just convert a small amount of cash at a BoA in Manhattan before I go to the airport?

EDITED TO SAY: Okay, the BoA website says that only a few banks in California and North Carolina keep foreign currency on hand. Also, I'm not a BoA customer.

Thanks, btw, Melon. Somehow I knew you'd be among my first replies.
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Old 09-15-2005, 12:26 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by pax
EDITED TO SAY: Okay, the BoA website says that only a few banks in California and North Carolina keep foreign currency on hand.
I think it would be very strange if Bank of America decided to backtrack on Fleet's foreign currency friendly environment. I would lose some respect for them if they did that.

I'm not sure if there is a Bank of America branch near where you live, but I'd suggest visiting one and inquiring about it. Maybe the policies have changed since I left.

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Old 09-15-2005, 12:27 PM   #5
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Travellers cheques are very safe. There is a fee though, which will be about the same as the ATM machine ones, in the region of 3%.

Normally, airports should have decent rates, but you never can tell; train stations always have the worst rates, but itdepnds on the place you´re going to.

When I was on a big trip last year, I always had about 100$ with me (sometimes considerably less) and always went to the ATM. It´s just very simple that way. Also, you can pay alot with Visa, Master or whatever credit card you have, if you have one. With my credit card, I will be insured for all the trip as soon as I pay with it for the first time in another country.

Don´t take all the money in cash! You might get robbed. Always take just as much money with you as you will need, leave the rest in the safe of the hotel (or if they don´t have a safe, hide it in the room or your bag). If you´re going out in the night and you´re not planning to buy a bottle of champagne spontaneously, it is also a good idea to leave your credit card at home. Surely helped me when I was getting robbed in Frisco (and the fact that I only had 20 $ in my pockets at 3 a.m.)

I would recommend taking a 150 or 200 $/Euro with you when you´re travelling, and use credit cards/ ATMs for the rest of the time.
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Old 09-15-2005, 12:29 PM   #6
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As mentioned, plastic will generally get you the best exchange rate. It just makes disciplined spending harder.
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Old 09-15-2005, 12:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by pax
So should I get most of my money in travelers' checks denominated in pounds and Euros (I can get them from AAA before I leave), and then just convert a small amount of cash at a BoA in Manhattan before I go to the airport?
You might be better off getting USD traveler's checks. We used to say that the overall exchange rate was better when you converted USD abroad.

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Old 09-15-2005, 12:34 PM   #8
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Traveller´s cheques are very safe, like I said, but so complicated.. you always have to check bank opening hours; some banks will not change them, then you have to go to another one, etc.

And as far as I know, the only possibility is Traveller´s cheques in $$. Never heard they existed in Euros or Pounds too, but may as well be.

I would rather use the machines. They worked well everywhere (except if they were out of service), be it the U.S., Carribbean, Costa Rica, or Nicaragua.
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Old 09-15-2005, 12:36 PM   #9
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American Express now has (instead of Travellers Cheques) a debit card that can be used the same way as the cheques.
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Old 09-15-2005, 01:09 PM   #10
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In my experience, a lot of places don't use Traveller's Cheques anymore. Plastic is the easiest. I have a Mastercard combined debit/credit card (USAA bank) that lets me get cash pretty much whereever there are ATMs. If you have something like that, that's what I do.

Amex has travel shops in many places where you can exchange. Touch and go on the rate you'll get. Airports have never seemed to have good rates to me.

Have a GREAT time and if you haven't been to Scotland before, the Highlands is still perhaps the closest thing to Heaven I think I"ve ever seen on Earth.
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Old 09-15-2005, 01:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sherry Darling
Have a GREAT time and if you haven't been to Scotland before, the Highlands is still perhaps the closest thing to Heaven I think I"ve ever seen on Earth.
We'll be spending two days in the Highlands...I can't wait to see Ewen's hometown!
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Old 09-15-2005, 01:29 PM   #12
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Thanks to everyone for your replies.

The consensus seems to be that I'm best carrying a small amount of cash and going plastic the rest of the time. I have a Visa check card that I use for just about everything here; I'm notorious for not carrying cash among my friends, and have been known to write checks for $8.00 to cover my share of drinks or food when we go out!

So I suppose I'll just do that.

Melon, in response to your suggestion, I'll call a BoA branch in New York and see what they tell me. We do have a few BoAs around here, but I doubt they'd keep foreign currency on hand in my Pennsylvania backwater.
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Old 09-15-2005, 02:07 PM   #13
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Regretfully, I am a little late in responding, but I wanted to echo some of the anti-traveller's cheque sentiments. The safest bet I have found in the past few weeks of Europe-hopping (in terms of both security and accessibility) is cash and credit. I would further suggest using plastic as few times as possible (not to be a rheumatoid xenophobe, but the less information you give out there the better). To avoid the external fees associated with overseas withdraws, taking out a larger sum of cash will limit your losses and decrease your dependency on electronic transactions. Also, if you're using a debit card at a small store or vendor... watch out for the infamous double-swipe.

The last thing you want to worry about on the trip you're taking is the state and source of your money.

Have fun fo sho.

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Old 09-15-2005, 02:13 PM   #14
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One useful thing that European restaurants do is swipe the cards in front you (they have a remote POS which, in my opinion, is much safer than what they do in the U.S. where the take your card to the register and they do who-know-what with your credit card number, expiration date and security code).

Also, be careful at small, remote ATMs as someone may have installed a credit card 'reader' to copy your information... it is relatively easy to spot, as you will see a big chunk of plastic coming out of the slot where you insert the card in. Easiest way to avoid this is always using ATMs from large banks...
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Old 09-15-2005, 02:20 PM   #15
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Very good to know! I'm not planning on spending a TON of money, but with being in three different countries during my journey, I want to make sure I have quick and easy access to my money when I need it.

Think I'll be skipping the travelers' checks after all. Someone on another board to which I post rustled up a long list of currency exchanges in NYC; BoA was listed, complete with a 1-800 number, so I'll give them a call and find out what the deal is.

Thanks again, everyone. We do plan to have a marvelous time!
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