I’ve probably mentioned this once or twice (or a
dozen times) before that I’m road-tripping to Cabo this summer. I’m
going to hitch up the trailer and drive!
Understand that I’m not a novice traveler. My goal
is to leave the country at least once a year, and while I don’t always
meet that goal, I’ve left the country many times in my life. I’m
seasoned enough that I don’t fear going to new
places, don’t fear not speaking the language (Google Translate is my friend), don’t fear trying new
foods, don’t fear using different money--in fact, as a coin collector,
using local money is one of the big joys of travel. And I’m quite
familiar with different ways of getting local currency.
Still, I like to stay current and I read plenty on
the topic. Many of the travel sites I’ve read recently said that one
of the best and most inexpensive ways to get foreign currency is to get
it from your bank before you travel. Are
It’s not that I haven’t used my bank for this
before, but to say it’s a good/efficient/inexpensive way to get foreign
currency, well, that’s not quite true. Of course, it’s possible that my
bank just tries to rip us customers off, but
I’d find it hard to believe it’s the only one. Since I’m heading to
Mexico this summer, let’s look at the peso--today’s exchange rate is
MXN$20 for USD$1. Thus, 20,000 pesos should be 1,000 dollars, plus a
fee. What’s a reasonable fee, a few bucks? Ten?
Twenty? A couple percent? Using the foreign exchange converter on my
bank’s web site, 20,000 pesos would cost me $1061.70!!! That’s a lousy
exchange rate and a hefty fee, all rolled into one!
I went to another national bank's web site and tried to look
up their rate, but you have to have an account and log in before they’ll
tell you how much they’ll milk you for. I cannot find the information
quickly at my credit union’s site. I can
see the not-insignificant fees on the web site for another national
bank, but not the crappy exchange rate they’d give me.
In other words, getting money from your bank is *not*
necessarily the way to go! The way to go, at least in Mexico, Europe,
or the Caribbean (IOW, where I have traveled) is to get money out of an
ATM on your network and *not*
to accept dynamic currency conversion rates. The same people who write
about getting money from your bank also mention the ATMs, so this isn’t
an unknown method. So why do those other authors say that getting
money from your bank is inexpensive—do they write
that crap because it makes them *sound* knowledgeable? Have they ever compared their bank’s rates and fees to the official exchange rate? Are they just copying the same bad information they read somewhere else without really knowing?
You can’t believe everything you read on the internet—except for this blog, of course.