The cost of exchanging money overseas

What is the cheapest way to get foreign currency when travelling?
Pretty much everyone who has ever traveled overseas has thought about this.

Let’s take a look at the different options (which we have also ranked for convenience):

Traveller’s Cheque:

Good if you like to avoid carrying a large amount of cash. However it is quite expensive (2 to 3%, sometimes more) and you will need to find a place to exchange them for cash which, depending on the country, is not always easy.

Rating: 4/10

Using a Debit card at an ATM:

This is a very convenient option since there are a lot of ATMs around nowadays. However, you should be very careful about the charges incurred which can easily reach 10% of the amount you are changing in some countries. Also remember to always change in the visiting country’s currency, not your home currency, as you would end up losing even more money. So if you withdraw in Malaysia, you should chose MYR, not SGD.

Rating: 5/10

Credit Card:

Depending on the country you are going to and the kind of card you have, you will be paying an average 3 to 4 % charge on the total amount you pay. Plus, there is a risk of frauds overseas.
rating: 4/10 (6.5/10 for high end cards)

Money Changer:

Rule No 1 : Never change at the airport.

Rule No 2: Head to the city center or tourist attractions and you will see several money changers competing in the area. Bargain hard and do your math before you start discussing with them so you know what your maximum acceptable rate is, ie. the one that is fair to you. It is always easy to get ripped off in the heat of the negotiation.

Money changers will mark up less than 2%, sometime less than 0.5% in places like Singapore. You can find the best money changers in Singapore on our money changer website, or just use the rates we publish on Get4x to get a basis for comparison.

Rating: 8/10 at home , 7/10 overseas

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