Travelers arriving from foreign destinations frequently have unused foreign currency, including coins, destined to become souvenirs. Options for trading in paper money depend on where you land after your trip. In some areas, you might be unable to convert anything other than major world currencies such as pounds, Euros and yen; however, your foreign money won’t earn interest and might even lose value if you hold on to it until your next trip.
Large banks frequently offer currency exchange services, mainly for account holders. Contact your bank’s head office to find out if any branches accept foreign currency. Banks that provide foreign exchange commonly have better rates and lower fees than other options. After converting your foreign money at the applicable exchange rate, your bank might require that you deposit the U.S. dollars into your account and will hold your funds for 24 to 48 hours. If no branches of your bank have currency services, schmooze up a friend who has an account at a bank that does before you convert at less favorable currency exchange terms.
Travel Service Providers
International travel service providers such as American Express and Thomas Cook often have full service currency exchanges in their local and international office locations. You’ll find these travel services in or near a major shopping center during your trip or after you arrive home. Their currency services are normally available to customers who have booked travel through the agency and the traveling public. Fees and commissions will depend on whether you have an existing relationship with the travel provider.
Major airports in the U.S. and overseas usually have one or more reputable currency exchanges inside the passenger terminal or international arrivals hall, normally close to customs and immigration. When your trip ends in a small town east of Podunk, don't expect to find a currency exchange in the airport. Even if you have to traverse airport security to reach the currency exchange, convert your foreign money wherever your international leg of your trip ends.
Large hotels in international destinations usually exchange smaller amounts of local currency for their guests. On average, daily limits range from $50 to $100. When you are leaving a foreign destination and want to dump a few dollars in foreign currency, converting leftover local currency at your hotel is pricey but convenient. Hotel rates depend on the local posted bank exchange rate and commissions might apply. Travelers who arrive in the U.S. without dollars might need to exercise this option while sourcing better choices.
Carol Luther has more than 25 years of business, technology, and freelance writing experience. She has held leadership roles in higher education management, international development, adult education, vocational education, and small business support programs