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The Simple Rules for Exchanging Foreign Currency

The Simple Rules for Exchanging Foreign Currency

As you’re preparing to live overseas or travel for an extended period of time, it’s important to know how you’ll get cash. Credit cards are ubiquitous in most countries. But, there’s still the odd moment where you’ll need cash – and, depending on your destination, cash may be the only option. At the very least, taking out cash to make your daily purchases can help you stick to a budget and make sure you’re not overspending on your credit cards.

In the past, we’ve written an explanation of how foreign exchange rates work; today, here’s our guide to how to exchange foreign currency. There are many ways to trade one nation’s currency for another. Some are better than others. Stick to these rules to save money each time you exchange currency and get the best rates possible.

Don’t exchange cash before you go

There’s a lot of confusion around whether or not you should exchange cash in your home country before departing. Some travelers prefer to have at least a little cash on them when they land. But, if you’re looking for the best exchange rate, it’s better to wait until you arrive to exchange currencies. Bring the bare minimum, as overseas exchange rates are higher than getting the right currency in-country.

“Some tourists feel like they just have to have Euros or British pounds in their pockets when they step off the airplane, but they pay the price in bad stateside exchange rates. Wait until you arrive to withdraw money,” writes travel expert Rick Steves.

European Union Currency

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Avoid exchanging cash at an airport

Airport currency exchange kiosks are notoriously bad deals. “Airport currency kiosks, as well as those located near popular tourist areas, generally come with a larger exchange margin and more fees. If you changed dollars into the local currency when you landed in your destination airport, then changed your leftover foreign currency back into dollars before flying home, you’d end up losing money twice,” writes one expert.

It’s better to exchange currency at a financial institution than at an airport. There will still be a small fee for making the exchange at a bank or credit union. However, you’ll get more money for your money than if you visit a tourist rip-off.

Use an ATM to get cash

Instead of exchanging notes, get cash straight from the ATM. You’ll get a better deal since ATMs use the current bank rate. Some banks have no foreign transaction or ATM fees, allowing you to withdraw cash in the local currency. Other banks charge ATM fees of $1 to $5, and a debit transaction fee of up to 3%. Do some research to find the card with the best rates and minimize the number of withdrawals you make from the ATM, taking out a larger sum each time, to keep charges under control. Make sure you let your bank know before you travel abroad to ensure they don’t lock your card for seemingly fraudulent charges.

Swipe your credit cards wisely

Credit cards can come in handy, especially during a big life transition like starting a new job overseas. But it’s easy to let credit card spending get out of hand – especially given the fees and charges that some credit companies take on to international purchases. As with the debit card, find a credit card that doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

“Most credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of between 1% and 3% whenever you buy something abroad, but this is still the safest and often the cheapest way to make a large purchase. You’ll almost always come out ahead on the conversion since credit cards add their fee on top of the Interbank rate,” writes one travel expert from Fodors. Set aside your credit card to use for big purchases only, and try not to take a cash advance on your credit card unless it’s an emergency.

Another good tip: pay in the currency of the country you’re in. When completing a transaction, you might be asked whether you wish to pay in USD or the local currency. Always choose the local currency. “If you pay in USD, not only will you get charged an inflated exchange rate but there is also a hidden 3-3.5% fee associated with this privilege.”

Don’t forget: exchange rates apply to money transfers

Many travelers and ex-pats forget that exchange fees also apply to money transfers. Make sure you get the best possible deal each time you send money home to friends and family. Not all transfer methods are created equal: a transfer agent like OFX, for example, has an exchange rate markup of less than 1%, while MoneyGram can charge up to 4% on exchange rate markups.

Blockchain money transfer options are growing in popularity, mostly because this transfer doesn’t rely on banks. This means you can exchange currency at a lower cost (and faster, too!). Shop around to find the best option that won’t take advantage of an exchange rate to take your hard-earned cash.


This article was originally published on SendFriend

About SendFriend:

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of 2010 that hit Haiti, our founder, David, was a young analyst at the Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti at the World Bank. He witnessed firsthand the resilience and strength of the worldwide Haitian community, as Haitians around the world sent home over $2 billion to support their loved ones in their time of need.

However, as Haitians stepped up their financial support, David saw money transfer companies charging more than 7% for people to send money home.

Visits to the Philippines exposed David to the global nature of this problem. As a student at MIT, he was inspired by blockchain technology and guided toward it by professors and technologists as a potential solution to the high cost of international remittances. The result was SendFriend, an international money transfer app specifically designed for money remittance to the Philippines.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Money Management Strategies For Those Working Overseas

Money Management Strategies For Those Working Overseas

Managing your finances while living abroad can be challenging. Overseas workers often find their personal wealth suspended across borders, with bank accounts in different countries and income in different currencies. Taxes, transaction fees, currency conversions, and restrictions around opening a bank account are common headaches an overseas worker will likely encounter. As a result, expats working overseas need slightly different money management strategies than the average employee.

Living and working abroad can lead to better opportunities, more income, and the chance to experience a new culture. Navigating wealth management comes with a whole new set of considerations. Here are some ways workers living overseas can manage and protect their money for better long-term financial health.

Open a local bank account

A local bank account can help you save money on extensive ATM fees. It’s also a good thing to have for making deposits each time you get paid. When you use a foreign card at an ATM, you’ll not only be charged by your bank but also by the local bank. That can add up quickly: some ATMs charge up to $10 each time you make a withdrawal. A local bank account is a good way to take some of the stress out of managing your cash flow while also saving on fees.

Pay attention to exchange rates 

Exchange rates can impact an overseas worker’s take-home salary over time. It can also play a role in how an overseas worker budgets for living expenses.

There are two key ways in which a currency exchange rate impacts an overseas worker’s salary. The first way applies more to the employer: it’s how the exchange rate affects the final cost to the employer for an overseas assignment. The second way is the amount of money an overseas worker receives relative to their home currency and the location where they’re spending on living expenses.

When an employee is earning an income in one currency, especially over a long-term assignment, the currency conversion can actually mean they’re earning significantly less (or more!) than they would back home. For example, an American working in South Africa earning rand will face currency fluctuations when the rand value decreases or the dollar gets stronger. This means they will not have the same financial security as if they were making USD. To mitigate this risk, negotiate your salary such that the employer takes on the financial burden of changes in the exchange rate (up or down), or set your salary based on your home currency.

Find a way to transfer money with low international fees

Whether you’re transferring money to family, trying to allocate funds to multiple bank accounts, paying overseas bills, or simply sending money occasionally, international fees can take a good chunk out of your income. Get the mid-market exchange rate – the midpoint between the buy and sell prices of two currencies – when you send money abroad. Avoid hidden fees, such as the exchange rate fee, that many banks add to an international transaction. And, most importantly, protect your money and accounts by only working with compliant, safe transaction providers. There are international regulations and standards against money laundering that your bank or transfer agent should adhere to each time you need to make a transaction.

Keep your credit score high 

Often, moving to a foreign country means losing your credit history. Credit histories are not portable across countries: each time a worker relocates, they will have to re-establish a credit track record. This can have a long-term impact on your ability to get a mortgage, a car loan, and even get a cell phone plan.

Establishing a credit score requires historical debt repayment information. As a result, make sure to keep open a credit card from your home country and use it a few times each year. By simply ordering a few things from Amazon or another online retailer, and then paying your bills on time, you can manage to keep your credit strong while working overseas.

Budget for taxes

Taxes get even more complicated as soon as you begin working abroad. Depending on the country and the type of visa you have, you may be responsible for taxes at home and in your working country. The US is one such country where citizens are responsible for filing and paying income tax, even when they live outside the borders. For UK residents, if your business or property is situated in the UK, you will still be responsible for some UK taxes. It’s also important to know what local tax regulations require: in Argentina, for example, joint filing income tax is not an option.

You may be eligible to apply for a foreign tax credit, which can reduce your double-taxation requirements. Check if you qualify for a tax credit before you leave your home country. It also might be worthwhile to work with a local CPA or accountant to make sure you’re filing your overseas tax return accurately and taking full advantage of possible credits and deductions to save money.

Money Management

Image Credits: Pixabay

Don’t forget to plan for retirement

Between managing living expenses, sending money home, and paying your taxes, the last thing many overseas workers think about is managing their retirement fund. This can be a big mistake down the road.

Before you leave to work abroad, make sure you’re aware of how your time overseas will impact your eligibility for retirement plans both in your host country and home country. “If employment status doesn’t allow for either, it’s sometimes possible to take advantage of tax-deferred retirement opportunities without the employer,” advises one expert. If you’re unsure where you will eventually retire, at the very least, start building an emergency or rainy day fund. This fund can grow over time and eventually become your retirement nest egg. Ask a financial advisor in your home country if there are alternate retirement funds available to overseas workers. For example, British expats could consider a QROPS scheme.


This article was originally published at SendFriend.io

About SendFriend:

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of 2010 hit Haiti, our founder, David, was a young analyst at the Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti at the World Bank. He witnessed firsthand the resilience and strength of the worldwide Haitian community, as Haitians around the world sent home over $2 billion to support their loved ones in their time of need.

However, as Haitians stepped up their financial support, David saw money transfer companies charge exorbitant fees, north of 7% for people to send money home.

Visits to the Philippines exposed David to the global nature of this problem. As a student at MIT, he was inspired by blockchain technology and guided toward it by Professors and technologists as a potential solution to the high cost of international remittances. The result was SendFriend.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

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