Foreign Currency for your Vacation – a Traveller’s Guide

Travel to outside the US for vacations has recovered quickly, with rapid growth in numbers during 2022 and 2023 – and anyone going abroad should consider travel money.

Even where cards should work, they might not when you need them most, so it’s always wise to carry cash. Plus, there are many things for which cash is usually best: taxis, tips, coffee, and entertainment, for example.

So how much to take? Credit Union members might even ask branch staff for help deciding. It depends, is the short answer, and there are several variables to consider. Here are six tips to help.

  1. What are your daily expenses?

Estimate your daily expenses in the local currency. Use online resources, such as travel forums or guidebooks, to get an idea of the typical cost of living in your destination.

  1. How long are you away?

Multiply your daily expenses by the number of days you’ll be abroad to get an estimate of your total. If you’re travelling to more than one country, do this for each one.

  1. Add a buffer

A little extra will account for unexpected costs or emergencies. A buffer of around 10-20% should be sufficient – and remember to purchase travel insurance too!

  1. Check the exchange rate

Next, check the current exchange rate between the US dollar and the local currency. You can use an online currency converter or visit your Credit Union branch. Exchange rates can fluctuate, so once you’ve chosen your destination check them frequently and adjust your budget accordingly.

  1. Calculate the foreign cash you need

Knowing your estimated expenses and the exchange rate, you can calculate how much cash travel money you’ll need. Divide your total expenses (including the buffer) by the exchange rate to get the amount in foreign currency.

  1. Decide where to get it

Buying currency at an airport or using an ATM will be expensive so avoid them if you can. Exchanging currency at a local Credit Union before you go gives you time to get a better deal.

Many Credit Unions are adopting a service like  Money 4 Travel from Essiell –  explained here in a video  – which can be embedded in their website, app, and internal systems. It allows the traveller to book their foreign currency online and collect from their branch later. It’s convenient and reliable, and makes it a breeze to buy foreign currency cash!

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