When traveling to a foreign country, even if you are planning to use credit cards with no foreign transaction fee, and debit cards with no international fees, you are still likely to change some of your US Dollars to the local currency. You want to get as much for your money as possible, so how do you get the very best exchange rate?
FIRST: The money exchanger at the airport is NOT your friend. The airport currency exchange booths collude to offer one rate among all companies. And that rate will be at least 20-30 points lower than non-airport locations. If you absolutely must get local currency here, don’t get more than $100 worth. Remember, the airports are full of ATM’s, and if you are using a card with atm rebate, withdrawals aren’t going to cost you anything!
SECOND: The money exchange at the mall is NOT your friend. The “big mall” booths will also be 20-30 points lower than the non-mall (or “street”) locations. You are paying for air-conditioning and a feeling of “better security” — something that is not always a necessity when the best exchange booth is 50′ from the door.
THIRD: Bank Exchange Booths are NOT your friend. If the exchange booth is branded with a bank name, you will be getting a much lower rate. You are paying for the perceived “warm and fuzzy” by doing business with a big, legitimate bank. If you fall for it, you get ripped off.
FOURTH: Walk around and look for PRIVATE MONEY EXCHANGE BOOTHS. In most tourist cities, there are dozens of currency exchange booths on the main tourist roads. Look for “chains” of booths and compare their rates to the “mom-and-pop” locations.
In Thailand, our best rates come from the YELLOW “TT” BOOTHS; after that, the “Its Me” BLUE EXCHANGE BOOTHS are the best. In Philippines, no one beats “Norma’s Exchange in Angeles”. I don’t know about Manila.
Don’t be afraid of NON-bank booths — this is where you will get your best exchange rates and they are usually on the main tourist street – but NOT in the malls or airport!
The below picture was taken inside Royal Garden Mall in Pattaya at the Kasikorn BANK money exchange booth. Their best rate was 31.80 baht/USD.
The below picture was taken OUTSIDE of Royal Garden Mall in Pattaya on the famous “Beach Road”. It is from a private street exchange booth located 100 feet from the mall entrance.
Their best rate was 32.06 baht/USD. You would have lost 26 points for changing money in the mall. That is almost $1USD for every $100USD. Why give away your money?