Gone are the days of carrying travelers checks (does anyone still use them?!) And we all know to avoid using the currency exchange kiosks at airports (poor exchange rates!) Since we travel often, Tom and I decided to experiment with two current popular methods: ATM withdrawal in country and ordering currency prior to leaving the States.
During a recent trip to Thailand, we decided to see which method is more economical to obtain 5,000 Thai Baht, which is currently equivalent to US $140.05. The results are interesting.
ATM Withdrawal In Thailand:
I have always thought this is the best way to obtain foreign currency as the fee is relatively low and the exchange rate is set at the withdrawal day’s rate. We are Bank of America customers and our numbers are based upon that bank’s fees. To withdraw money from a foreign bank’s ATM (Bank of America has no alliances in Thailand to minimize fees), there is a $5 flat fee and a 3% international transaction fee. The Thai bank ATM has a further fee of 180 Baht (US $5.04). Using the current exchange rate of 1 Thai Baht = 0.02801 US Dollar, this results in a total charge of $154.29 to obtain 5,000 Thai Baht.
Ordering Currency Before Travel:
Prior to our “test”, Tom thought this would be the best way to obtain Thai Baht. Bank of America offers its’ customers the ability to order foreign currency. The exchange rate that is offered is a little less favorable than the “true” exchange rate. Bank of America’s service uses a current rate of 1 Thai Baht = 0.03005 US Dollar. There is also a $7.50 shipping charge. Currency can be delivered to our home or to a bank branch. We chose to pick up the currency at our local branch. To get 5,000 Thai Baht, we paid $157.75.
Recommendations Before Travel:
Find out the most current exchange rate (look at currency converter here). It is important to compare and contrast currency exchange methods with the most current rate. Also, think about how much local currency you anticipate needing. This will help prevent getting too much foreign currency or not enough and having to pay more fees for each exchange. Another important note: credit cards are great for purchases as it is based on each day’s exchange rate. Just be sure to use a card that does not have a foreign exchange fee.
Both methods of obtaining foreign currency, Thai Baht in our case, have associated fees and varying exchange rates. However, in the end, there was only a $3.46 difference between the two methods. I have done some calculations at the current exchange rates and fees. The point where both methods of obtaining currency become even is at obtaining 10,000 Thai Baht. Any amount over 10,000 Thai Baht makes it more favorable to obtain currency before travel. In the end, it should be what makes it easier and more convenient for you, the traveler as both currency exchanges offer fairly similar rates.
The dollar is strong and can go a long way as you travel throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia. Contact Us for questions and additional information.