General Question

YARNLADY's avatar

Overseas flight: Do I exchange my currency at departure or arrival?

Asked by YARNLADY (39528 points ) August 12th, 2010

I am departing San Francisco, arriving Stockholm.

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16 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I exchange a small-ish amount ($100 to $200) at departure and then more as I need it at my destination. Of course, I do most of my spending through credit cards, so they will do the exchange for me when it’s the most profitable for them.

wilma's avatar

Many international airports will have a currency exchange place, but I’m not sure they always give you the best rate. You may want to wait and go to a Swedish bank for that. I usually do what @hawaii_jake does.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Go to a bank once you get to Stockholm. The exchange fees at airports and hotels is usually much higher than at a bank. Or check with your own bank and see what they charge to exchange. It probably will be cheaper using your own bank as they may waive part of the fees.

Also let your CC company know you are going to be overseas and to expect some foreign charges. It would ruin your day if they blocked your card while you are in Europe.

bob_'s avatar

Go to a bank in Stockholm, or withdraw money from an ATM using your debit card.

Rarebear's avatar

Agree completely with Bob. You’re way better off getting a debit card at your bank and using that. You can use it in any ATM and you’ll get better rates than changing dollars at banks, and certainly the airport.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Don’t exchange at airports, they have the worst rates anywhere.

answerjill's avatar

Find an ATM at the airport and use your credit or debit card to taken out foreign currency. Keep in mind that you can minimize costs (fees) by taking out a few large withdrawals rather than several small ones.

lilikoi's avatar

Agree airports have bad exchange rates. They kill you with fees also. Don’t do it!

I would do it in-country. For some places, there is no other choice. When I went to Africa, they didn’t have any local currency in stock in my hometown, or in the two other major US airports I passed through before leaving the country. They had it available in London, and this is how I learned how bad exchanging currency in airports is – when I got to the country, I realized I had been totally taken at the airport.

It is good to arrive in the country with cab fare and hotel fee for one night in local currency, especially if you are arriving super late at night or if it is late-ish and a more rural area.

In a major metropolitan city, I wouldn’t even worry really. Like London, I bet you can get a cab driver to stop at an ATM in Stockholm, no problem, or just rely on a credit card for the first day or two until you are able to find one.

Also, debit cards don’t tend to work abroad unless you have the cashier run it as a credit card. And, people have told me that it is more economical to use cash withdrawn from ATMs than to use credit cards in terms of fees. I’ve also heard that Capital One is basically the only bank left in the U.S. that doesn’t charge the exchange fees. I don’t remember if it was true for my Africa trip, and I’m having a hard time evaluating it for my recent Canada trip because I didn’t save receipts. I wouldn’t get a CapOne card just for travel though, because everything else about them sucks!

I hope you have a great trip!

Jeruba's avatar

Won’t there be a currency exchange charge on international credit card transactions? I believe there was for my son when he traveled in Europe last year. And yes, you do have to let the credit card company know to expect foreign charges.

Definitely don’t do your exchanging at airports. If I were making the trip, I would have my own bank here at home purchase several hundred dollars’ worth of traveling money to have on hand beforehand. I’d like the feeling of security even if it wasn’t the best deal. Once there, maybe go to your son’s bank for any further exchanges.

I’m glad you’re making this trip at long last. I remember that it was your answer to a question about the one thing you wanted to do before you die.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have nothing to add, all above is true, little bit before you leave, more when you arrive, but I prefer to use credit card (with a pin not a signature) or debit card then there is no need for large cash exchanges. And yes notify your bank and credit card provider before you leave.

And have fun and don’t forget to buy me a present.

Likeradar's avatar

Also, do not plan on exchanging foreign coins in the US. You can’t. as I learned when I tried exchange a lot of Euros in the USA.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Likeradar Thanks for the tip. If I have any money left, I will probably just leave it with my son, who lives there.

kolla93's avatar

you should go to a bank in stockholm when u get there

YARNLADY's avatar

Thanks for all the answers. I discovered that my neighborhood bank could do the exchange for me with no extra fee, so I placed my order a week ahead of time, and got the money I needed.

stephensmith05's avatar

It depends on nature of travel and time which one will suit you. You can do either at departure or arrival. You can buy foreign currency through ATM, Credit cards, Banks, Exchange currency offices….etc.

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