I spent a weekend in Paris and thought I managed to spend $500 little did I know I spend closer to $2000 because I completely miscalculated the exchange rate. I should have known a steal of a deal in Paris was a pipe dream. Mistaking exchange rates is common, especially for people like me with little to no luck with quick calculations. Even more difficult is finding a decent rate on currency conversations. Here are some quick tips on ensuring you have your nickels in line before you overspend.
True Exchange Rates
I always visit www.xe.com for up to date and accurate exchange rates. You can sign up for their daily email to receive an email everyday on updated rates. This is great for those who travel with a PDA or BlackBerry because you can check your email each day to know what to expect.
XE also has a very handy Travel Expenses Calculator where you can input your travel expenses in the currency you used (such as Euros), the date of purchase and method of payment (such as a credit card). It will tally everything and tell you how much you should expense in your own currency.
There are also several downloads you can add to your cell phone and to your BlackBerry phone for quick exchange calculations on the spot.
It is always easier to have some local cash with you when you arrive in a foreign country regardless of how much the extra fees are to purchase it. Look into the exchange rates at your bank, local tourist information centre and at the airport. See which one offers the best rate. Don’t wait until you arrive at your destination and go to the hotel concierge, they will charge you the highest surcharge of all – plus you may need cash to get to the hotel in the first place.
Credit Card or cash
Using you credit card overseas is by far the most convenient way to purchase. However, the currency conversion rates are unforgiving. Some credit card companies will charge you 2- 3% every time you use your credit card overseas and that’s on top of the additional percentage they have already added onto the exchange rate. If you travel overseas a lot, contact your credit card company and see what the best card is for you – some offer cards with less foreign exchange fees.
All in all, double check your exchange calculations before you purchase and think twice before you use your credit card to buy absolutely everything – it might be worth your while to buy lunch in cash.