When traveling to foreign countries, one crucial consideration that often tops the checklist is how to exchange currency. Many travelers ask, “What’s the best bank or credit union for foreign currency exchange?”
Whether you’re preparing for a trip abroad or have just returned with a wallet full of foreign cash, knowing where to exchange foreign currency can save you time, money, and hassle.
Basics of Foreign Currency Exchange at Banks
Exchanging currency involves the conversion of one country’s currency into another. Banks and credit unions are common places to exchange currency, but the rates they offer can vary widely.
Currency exchange rates are determined by the interbank rate (also known as the wholesale or market rate), which financial institutions use when they trade among themselves. High currency exchange fees or unfavorable rates can significantly affect the value of your money.
Besides, foreign transaction fees may apply when using a credit or debit card overseas, and they can quickly add up. To avoid these fees, you might consider a bank that offers cards with no foreign transaction fees. Similarly, some banks charge a currency conversion fee for exchanging money, making it even more important to shop around.
Key Considerations when Selecting a Bank to Exchange Currency
When you decide to exchange currency at a bank, you should consider several factors to ensure you’re getting the best deal. These include the availability of foreign currencies, competitive exchange rates, fees and charges, speed and convenience of service, and online or mobile options.
20 Banks that Exchange Foreign Currency
1. America First Credit Union
America First members can exchange up to $5,000. They also provide an online ordering system, making it easy to order currency before a trip abroad. However, like many credit unions, they may have fewer physical branches compared to national banks.
2. Bank of America
As one of the largest financial institutions in the U.S., Bank of America offers customers the ability to order over 70 types of foreign currency online. Customers can have the currency delivered to their home or pick it up at a local bank branch. However, Bank of America does charge a delivery fee for orders under a certain amount, so it’s worth ordering a bit more to avoid the extra cost.
3. Capital One
Capital One offers currency exchange without any additional fees, which is a significant advantage for those looking to avoid currency conversion fees. This could make them an appealing option for anyone wanting to exchange foreign currency.
Chase Bank is another popular choice for exchanging currency. They provide a service where you can order currency and have it delivered to your home or local Chase branch. However, Chase sometimes imposes a limit on how much you can exchange.
Citi customers can exchange foreign currency and have the option to hold multiple currencies in a single account. This can be particularly useful for frequent travelers or those who deal with various currencies regularly. Their exchange rates are competitive, but it’s always wise to compare rates from multiple financial institutions before making a decision.
6. Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank offers a foreign exchange service that lets you order online, then pick it up at a local branch. They offer 50 major currencies.
7. First Citizens Bank
First Citizens Bank can exchange over 70 currencies for its customers. Customers have the option to order online, and then pick it up from their nearest branch.
8. First Horizon Bank
First Horizon Bank, a regional financial institution in the Southeast U.S., offers over 65 currencies. If you wish to use their service, you will have to visit a branch.
9. Huntington Bank
Huntington Bank, primarily serving the Midwest, offers foreign exchange services to its customers. However, the availability of certain foreign currencies and the exchange rate might not be as competitive as larger, nationwide banks.
10. Navy Federal Credit Union
Catering primarily to members of the armed forces, Navy Federal can exchange your currency if you’re a member. One advantage for members is the ability to avoid high currency exchange fees. However, their availability of foreign currencies may be limited compared to larger banks.
11. PNC Bank
PNC Bank offers foreign exchange services to its customers. They can provide many currencies, making it easier for travelers heading to multiple destinations. They don’t charge any transaction fees, but there is a delivery fee for smaller orders.
12. Regions Bank
Regions Bank provides foreign currency services to their customers, offering a broad range of currencies. You’ll need to visit a local branch.
13. Service Federal Credit Union
Service Federal is able to exchange currency for its members. SFCU offers over 60 types of currencies. They also have an online system that allows members to purchase currency and have it delivered to their home, adding a layer of convenience.
14. State Employees Credit Union
State Employees will exchange currency for its members. They offer a variety of currencies, though not as many as some larger financial institutions. However, they make up for it with a competitive exchange rate and lower fees.
15. TD Bank
TD Bank offers 55 different currencies. You can order the currency online and have it delivered to your home or picked up at a local branch. Additionally, if you have a TD Bank account, you may receive preferred rates.
Truist, formed by the merger of BB&T and SunTrust, exchanges currency for its customers. They provide a wide range of currencies, and customers can order online or at a branch. However, fees may apply, so it’s a good idea to check before making any transactions.
17. U.S. Bank
U.S. Bank customers can order foreign currency via app or online and pick it up at a local branch. It will be delivered to the branch of your choice the next business day.
USAA, which primarily serves military members and their families, offers a wide range of currencies, making them a good choice for those heading to multiple destinations.
19. Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo is another large bank that allows you to exchange currency. They offer a broad range of currencies, and customers can order online and have the currency delivered to their home or pick it up at a branch. Wells Fargo also offers a foreign currency savings account that can hold numerous currencies, a handy feature for frequent travelers.
20. Wings Financial Credit Union
Wings Financial offers over 90 currencies. Members can order online and have it shipped to their home, adding an extra layer of convenience. However, like many credit unions, they might have fewer currencies available compared to larger banks.
The ideal financial institution for exchanging currency will depend on your specific needs, such as the currencies you require, your location, and your membership or affiliation with the bank or credit union. Additionally, while it’s crucial to find a bank that offers competitive rates, it’s equally important to be aware of the associated fees and charges to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I exchange currency at any bank?
Not all banks and credit unions exchange foreign currency. It’s always a good idea to check with your bank to see if they offer this service.
When should I exchange currency for my trip abroad?
It’s generally a good idea to exchange some currency before you leave, especially if you will need cash right away for transportation, tips, or meals. However, remember that exchange rates fluctuate, so you may want to monitor the rates and exchange your money when rates are favorable.
Can I use my debit card in foreign countries?
Yes, you can typically use your debit card internationally. However, you may be subject to a foreign transaction fee and ATM fees. It’s a good idea to check with your bank before you leave to understand any potential charges.
Is it a good idea to exchange money at airport kiosks?
While airport kiosks are convenient, they often have less favorable exchange rates and may charge higher fees. It’s typically best to avoid exchanging large amounts of money at these kiosks.
What should I do with unused foreign currency?
Most banks will allow you to exchange your foreign currency back to your home currency. However, not all banks will take coins, and some may only exchange certain currencies.