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Money Matters: Currency Exchange

Have you ever been stuck somewhere with what you thought was a perfectly good $100 dollar bill… until you reached the exchange bureau counter? The receptionist inspected your bank note with a critical eye quickly discarding it for a tiny rip on the corner that was in fact covered up by a piece of tape and a nearly invisible hole that was probably made by a stapler. In addition, there was something written on the back like “Happy Birthday Gina!” and before you knew it, your coveted $100 dollar note was reduced to a mere value of zero at this worthless foreign money exchange. You may have gotten frustrated and tried to argue with the clerk or just stormed out with your meanest glare thinking “Now what?”.

Currency exchange troubles! Don’t worry, if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it most likely will at some point during your exciting and adventure-filled travels around the world.

If you get the chance to read this before travelling, then you may save yourself the headache of dealing with exchanging old crumbly bank notes.

different country money banknotes texture

As a general rule of thumb, most countries only accept foreign bank notes that were issued in the year 2000 or higher. The banks and exchange bureaus often do not accept notes that have rips, tears, holes, writing, stamps or have been taped back together. Before travelling always try to always check that the notes you receive from the bank are in crisp (nearly perfect) conditions. Exchange them at your home bank before departing on your trip as it will be difficult to exchange these during your travels.

If you do get stuck travelling with these faulty notes, don’t worry. There are still a few options to avoid the hassle of finding yourself stuck with no cash.

  • Try spending these notes on accommodation or activities since operators that deal with foreign currency so often might not be as strict.
  • Use your credit card or PayPal for larger purchases so you can save your cash. Try to pay for activities and book your accommodation online. 
  • If you are travelling with a group, offer to pay for a meal or activity with your credit card and ask everyone else to give you the cash.
  • Try to calculate the amount of cash you will need in each country and take it out of the ATM upon arrival. (This is usually the best exchange rate although you should check if your bank will charge you a foreign fee).
  • Ask around for someone who is travelling back to the country of origin of your bank notes, they may have extra local currency they want to trade.

Good Luck and Happy Trails!