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Money Changing Overseas Money Changing Booths and ATMs

When you travel overseas, it is tempting to get a better exchange rate.   First off, if you must change currency, usually the  worst exchange rates can be found at airport exchange booths. They ten to take advantage of you as you just depart a long airplane ride, are unfamiliar with the country and area and just want to start your trip.

However, if you are in a major international city you may consider departing the airport in search of find other options to change your money.  However, you need to do your homework before you leave the airport.  if you are traveling to regions where ATMs are rare, you will have little choice but to revert to the usual suspects, if not the airport exchange booth, then the ones at hotels. Make sure to research what's available before you leave home.

If your homework dictates that better money changing options may be found in town, you will first be bombarded by what seems to be currency exchange windows on every corner.    If you are tempted to use them, be wary of some of the scams used to rip you off.  Here are a few of the typical scams you may be exposed to:

You meet a nice man just outside bank or exchange booth. He is nice looking and does not look like a crook by any means.  The man tells you the banks charge way too much in commissions and tells you he will help you with rates way better.  He hands you a roll of bills ands asks you to count them. You find it a few bills short, and he apologizes profusely, and either finds the missing ones or goes to his friend and borrows them to demonstrate what a lot of trouble he's going through to make sure everything's all right. Then he counts the bills twice and hands them to you. Later, you find that in the process of all that changing and counting he's folded a whole bunch of the bills and swindled you good.

Another scam is to mix currency that has no value in that country or currency from somewhere else and has an exchange rate worth half as much.  You can see how easy it is to fall for a scam. It's best to stay away from the street when changing money. Official rates are usually pretty close to street rates, and it's always safer to go through an authorized agency or bank.

In the high-tech 21st century, there are more ways than ever for travelers to deal with money abroad. The best strategy, financial experts say, is to use a credit card whenever possible and ATM cards to get local cash.

However, you must remember that is you use your credit card abroad to obtain cash, many foreign ATMs only accept four-digit PIN numbers. If your PIN is longer, check with your financial institution about changing it before you leave the country. Sometimes it's as simple as going to your own bank's ATM and changing it yourself.

If you prefer to use an ATM but want to keep an eye on the amount you are charging while traveling, you might consider one of the most recent ATM option recently offered by the credit card companies, the prepaid ATM card.   Visa offers one called "Travel Money", available through Travelex, (877) 394-2247, travelex.com. It has a minimum amount to be preloaded with; $300, but then it is used just like an ATM card. It's kind of like using traveler's checks.  But you also have to consider the two major  drawbacks.  One is that unlike credit cards, Travel Money cards cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.  Secondly, they can be used only at ATMs, not at retailers such as restaurants or souvenir shops. However, a PIN number that can be customized is issued for protection.

You can also change money on the Internet. Several of the largest travel sites, including Travelex, allow you to purchase currency and traveler's checks over the World Wide Web. And many travel sites also have links to currency converters. 

Finally, there is a currency black market in many countries, especially for highly valued U.S. dollars. The street rates may be temptingly low, but watch out: Selling dollars on the black market could land you in a foreign jail.

So be sensible and plan ahead and you may end up saving yourself money and hassles. These days, you definitely need more of the first and less of the latter

An important point to remember is in regards to changing you money back to US currency.  When you're ready to go home and considering changing your remaining foreign currency back to U.S. dollars, the exchange rates get worse and the commission fees jump--to 9.5% at one some money exchanges.  Try not to exchange more money than you plan to spend, save the extra currency for another trip to the same country, or use the leftover cash to pay off all or part of your hotel bill, or for tips or shopping.


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