Buy Foreign Money

How to buy foreign money for the first time? Read more to see my options and advice.

I’ll start from the obvious – that you know which currency and how much you want to take in your own money.

Check the rate using the currency converter:


The result is the standard exchange rate - the interbank rate that the international banks offer on a daily basis. You WILL be offered a different rate to buy foreign money.

This is where the confusion sets in! You can buy foreign money from many different providers including banks, post office, travel agents, bureaux de change, large retailers and possibly a few other places. You can also buy travel money online.

The conversion rate you get from each varies greatly. Some will be almost the same depending on local competition, but there is enough difference to cost you lots if you get it wrong and don’t take the opportunity to shop around.

So, check the interbank rate using my handy converter. Then check out the rate of a few local providers as well as a few online providers. Calculate which offer the best rate. Take into account refund charges if you bring some of your foreign money back with you and wish to convert it back to your home currency. Also take into account the fees and commission as well as the exchange rate on offer.

From personal experience, some of the online providers offer the best rates and cheapest purchase price, but you will have to wait for the money to be delivered to you.

My Advice

Although there are many different circumstances for people buying foreign money, it pays to shop around. It depends on where you are going, how long you are going for, etc, but my advice on how to buy foreign money is:

  • Take some travel money in foreign cash (useful for purchases when you first arrive and when you leave)

  • Take the rest in another format:

  • Travellers' cheques – original and secure, but not as convenient as cash. You can buy them in a popular reserve currency such as Euros or Dollars or in the local currency. They are generally commission free and have a reasonable exchange rate. They can be converted in most tourist places (cities and towns), but can be a bit more difficult to convert if you are going farther afield in the country. They were my preferred choice in the past, but I now lean towards using a prepaid currency card.
  • Prepaid travel cards – I like these more and more. They can be used in most places where credit cards are accepted, but have a better exchange rate and smaller charges or fees
  • Take a debit card that provides access to your home bank account. Look after it and only use it as a back-up due to the poor exchange rate and high charges.
  • Take a credit card – again, it can be useful, but use it only as a back-up for similar reasons to the debit card.
  • Also, take a money belt or something similar to keep your valuable documents hidden and safe. I will do a page on useful travel products in due course.
  • Unless you really, really have to, DON’T buy your foreign currency at the airport bureau de change / currency exchange. Their fees far too high.

Return to the Buying Foreign Currency section.

Or on to the Travel Cash page.

Or return from the Buy Foreign Money page to the Exchange Rate home page

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