Where to Exchange Currency and Other Must-Know Money Tips for International Business Travelers

If you’ve ever had to travel internationally for business, you’ve likely experienced the tricky process of managing your money in a foreign location. Navigating international currencies, calculating exchange rates, and making sure you have the right business credit card for travel can add an extra layer to the typical stress that comes with work travel. Luckily, if you understand a few simple tips and tricks for managing your money while traveling you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your trip, and avoid getting ripped off in the process.

We’ve rounded up the top money tips for international business travel including where to exchange currency and key items to bring with you. We also included information on common currencies by country to help demystify the money challenges that are common when traveling abroad.

If you’re searching for specific information to help plan an international business trip, jump right to what you’re looking for:

10 Money Tips for International Business Travelers

Managing your money while traveling internationally can be challenging, but if you keep a few key tips in mind you’ll be well-prepared to enjoy your trip without sweating about your financial life. Read on for our top tips on managing your money while traveling abroad for work.

1. Do your research.

To make sure your trip goes as seamlessly as possible, it’s always a good idea to do your homework before you leave. To prepare yourself for smart money management while abroad, make sure to look up key information such as the local currency and exchange rate in the area you’ll be visiting. If you’re traveling to multiple places and dealing with a number of different currencies, it can be helpful to download a currency conversion app such as XE Currency or Currency Converter, so that you can do real-time conversions as needed.

Additionally, make sure to look into how credit card-friendly the location you’re traveling to is so that you can determine how much cash you should carry with you. A quick Google search should help you determine what credit card fees you’re likely to encounter in a particular area, but when in doubt, it’s always best to come prepared with cash.

When preparing for your trip, it’s also smart to make sure you know a handful of money-related phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Helpful phrases to know include “Where is the bank?”, “How much does that cost?”, and “Do you have change?” Consider carrying a language phrasebook or using a translation app to make sure you have access to key phrases you may need while traveling.

2. Identify the best place to exchange currency.

Identifying the best place to exchange currency is a top question for many international business travelers. For most travelers, the best strategy is to exchange money before you leave for your trip at your local bank or credit union, as most of these organizations offer this service at the best rate. In a pinch you can always exchange currency at an airport kiosk, though the fees are often high and you will likely not get the best exchange rate.

If you need to exchange money during your trip, be prepared to pay high fees. Some banks have international branches, and if your bank network has ATMs in the area you’re visiting this will likely be the best option. You can always use an out-of-network ATM in a pinch, but doing so may come with a foreign transaction fee and a charge from both your bank and the owner of the ATM.

When exchanging currency after your trip, head to your bank or credit union first. You’ll likely get the best deal here, but be prepared for your bank to not buy back all types of currency. You can also exchange money at a kiosk in the airport at home or abroad, though expect to get a subpar rate. If you’ll be traveling to the same country in the future, consider holding on to your cash for the next time you venture to the area.

3. Take out both US dollars and some foreign currency before you leave.

While almost all airports have an ATM and currency exchange station, it’s smart to get both US dollars and some foreign currency before leaving the US, to get the best rate and to have on hand, just in case.

It’s hard to anticipate things like long lines or a machine not accepting your card, and getting money before your leave for the airport means one less thing to do upon immediately landing. However, it’s best to have a plan for where you’ll inevitably get more cash out while traveling (see number 2 for our top tips).

4. Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees.

If you own a credit or debit card with travel benefits, it’s likely that your bank may wave foreign currency and transaction fees that you may encounter with other payment methods. If you travel regularly for business, it’s worth looking into the business credit card that offers the best travel rates.

Once you own a credit card without international fees, plan to use this as your primary payment option to save throughout your trip. However, even if you plan to primarily use a card during your travel, it’s always important to make sure you have local currency and some American cash on you in case of an emergency.

5. Make sure the card you’re using has a smart chip.

If you’re planning to use a credit or debit card while traveling abroad, consider getting a card with a smart chip if you don’t already have one. This type of card is the most secure, so it’s the best option if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar place or are worried about identity or credit card fraud.  

6. Plan to always use the local currency.

Many travelers get excited to see that stores and restaurants they encounter while traveling abroad accept American dollars. Dynamic Currency Conversion, where merchants give you the option to pay in US dollars or the local currency, is a common practice you’re likely to run into while traveling, but when you factor in the conversion rate and added fees it’s almost always a bad deal.

Though it can tempting to pay this way due to the convenience of knowing exactly how much something will cost in dollars immediately, it’s best to stick with the local currency whether you’re paying with cash or card to avoid an upcharge.

7. Notify your bank.

Before leaving for an international trip, make sure to call your bank and let them know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there. Forgetting to do so can lead to a freeze on your card, so this step is crucial. Luckily, many popular banks allow you to do so on their apps, so you can always update them once you land and have WiFi if you forget to notify your bank before getting on the plane.

8. Pay your bills before leaving the country.

Before traveling abroad, make sure that you’ve paid all of your bills. A good strategy is to set up automatic payments so that you can make sure that your bills will be paid, even if you don’t have internet access.

Remember, some websites are blocked in certain countries so you might have trouble accessing online payment portals. The best strategy is to make sure you’ve paid everything in full or have payments automatically scheduled to avoid late fees.  

9. Double check that you have all key items.

Before leaving for your trip, run through a quick checklist of all the money-related items you might need. We recommend making sure you have a credit card and debit card, about two days worth of local currency and American cash, and an extra credit card to use in case of emergency.

Double check that you also have all necessary travel documents like any visas you might need and your passport to make sure your travel day goes smoothly.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

No matter how well you plan and prepare, it’s inevitable that unexpected expenses will arise during your trip. Make sure you have a plan in place for how you’ll manage your money, but don’t get upset if things don’t go exactly how you envisioned. It’s wise to add a bit of a cushion to your travel budget to account for unexpectedly high ATM fees and other surprising expenses that arise during business travel.

Key Currencies to Know and Their Current Exchange Rate

If you’re traveling to a place that uses a currency that’s not on this list, don’t worry. A quick Google search is all you need to determine the currency used in the area you’re visiting and the current exchange rate.

International business travel can be tricky. In addition to the regular demands of your job, you also have to navigate different cultures, airport hiccups, and the challenge of managing foreign currency. Luckily, if you know key information like where to exchange currency and what credit card to use while traveling for business you’ll be able to focus on your work responsibilities and exploring a new city, instead of worrying about how to manage your money while abroad.

Must-Know Money Tips for International Business Travel Infographic

Sources: Condé Nast Traveler | TIME | Forbes | Rick Steves | Go Overseas | BBC | Investopedia

Founding Editor and VP at Fundera at Fundera

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. 

Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.

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