Don’t pay in dollars – International travel tip

Like it or not, the gold standard for international currency payment is now the Euro.

The United States Dollar is still being used, but it doesn’t hold the prestige it once did. There was a time when you could purchase goods at a great discount if you paid with hundred dollar bills. However, nowadays, merchants will increase their base price and round up figures to give you can even dollar amount. Merchants do not want $5 dollar or $10 bills. Whatever you pay will be rounded to the next $20.

So pay with local currency — or pay with Euros.

Counterpoint: Bring American dollar bills – International travel tip

Carry cash for the country you’re going TO – International travel tip

When traveling abroad, get at least a small amount of foreign currency for tips and other unexpected cash expenses before leaving the airport or crossing the border. Although many countries in Europe are now using the Euro, there are still some that are not.

Imagine our panic when we drove across the border from Switzerland — where we had been using Francs — and hit a toll in Italy before we got a chance to find an ATM for Euros. Luckily, there was an option to charge our 1 Euro toll, but other countries may not have that option.

[Ed’s note: this is a great way for train conductors on cross-border trains in Africa to earn extra money. The second you cross the border, the currency of the old country is no longer valid, and the trains will only accept currency from the new country. Changing money right at the border offers very poor exchange rates. Therefore, it’s wise to try to have currency for the destination country before boarding the train.]

Exchange traveler’s checks before going to dinner – International travel tip

When dining in a foreign country, exchange your traveler’s checks for local currency before going to a restaurant.

While traveler’s checks are pretty much accepted everywhere, don’t expect the restaurant employees to be adept at exchange rate calculation.

My best friend and I learned this the hard way dining at our first restaurant in Europe. We received far less change than we were owed and couldn’t communicate well enough to explain the problem. That, or we were taken advantage of. Either way, we didn’t make that mistake again!

Seven things to do with your unused foreign currency

Despite only taking out as much as money from the ATM as you thought you’d need each day, you somehow managed to come in under budget. Now what do you do with this extra foreign currency you’ve got burning a hole through your picket? You could convert it back to your home currency, getting hit with exchange fees again, or you could try one of these seven options.

Save it for next time.

If the currency in question is Euros, it may make more sense to just save the bills for your next trip to Europe. By the time you convert the money back into dollars (or whatever your home currency is), the amount you lose to fees may not make it financially worthwhile, even if the exchange rate eventually changes in your favor. Obviously, with more exotic currencies, this isn’t a good option. Who knows when you’ll be able to return to Uruguay.

Sell it to another traveler.
If you know of another traveler heading to the destination soon, you can offer to sell them your leftover currency. Offer then a rate that is lower than what they pay at the bank or once they arrive in country, but higher than what you would make selling the currency back for dollars. In this way, you both win.Donate it.
You were going to spend it anyways right? Why not give it to a worthy cause? At a few airports, I have seen donation boxes out near the security line. Throw your spare change in here and you may help improve life for someone in that country. You could also convert it and donate the changed bills to a charity at home.

Display it.
I’m fascinated by foreign currency. I always keep one or two of the most interesting or colorful bills and coins from every country I visit. I keep them in a glass jar on my mantel, as both a unique decoration and a subtle reminder of the places I have been.

Spend it on airport souvenirs. …
After arriving at the airport and realizing that (after we took out the money we wanted to keep and take home to display) we still had close to 100 South African Rand (a little more than $10) my husband and I decided to blow it on souvenirs. Since we had some time to kill, we each took 50 Rand and set out to spend as much of the money as we could on last-minute airport souvenir tchotchkes. We had a fun time and came away with a few silly mementos of our trip that we otherwise would not have bought.

Or be a big spender at the airport
I hate spending money at the airport. After spending money throughout my trip, I hate the idea of dumping more money right before I head home. But, when I have some leftover currency to get rid of, it doesn’t seem as annoying. Use the opportunity to get rid of the cash in style. Treat yourself to a a few glasses of quality wine at the airport bar, opt for the more expensive entree, or spring for one of the massages offered in your terminal. It doesn’t make sense to be wasteful of course, but sometimes it is fun to enjoy the little extras that you normally wouldn’t.

Add it to your travel fund.
If you do plan on changing the money back into your home currency, don’t just use the money for groceries or bus fare. Put into a special fund earmarked for travel and contribute to it every time you come home from a trip. After a few trips, you may not have enough to cover a plane ticket, but you might have amassed enough cash to cover a few splurges on your next trip.

French francs worth something again!

You know where your expired money is. Now a collectible rather than currency, your kids have those leftover lira in a shoebox under the bed. Or, they’ve stashed a jar of “funny money” on the nightstand. Wherever it is doesn’t matter. These random pieces of paper may ignite a child’s imagination about far-off lands or trigger a fond memory from an amazing trip, but the value is strictly sentimental.

Not any more.

The Currency Commission wants to help you turn all these strange bills into real money, specifically Euros. Sure, they’ll take a cut along the way, but that’s only fair. After all, The Currency Commission is turning nothing into something.

You may remember that the notion of a pan-European currency became a reality in 1999. Since then, sixteen countries surrendered their monetary identities in favor of the efficiency of conformity, in addition to others (such as Monaco) that have currency relationships with other countries. Clearly, the experiment has worked. Only three years later, €1 is worth $1.30, and that’s after a decline through much of last year.

Though we celebrate the Euro today, there’s still a lot of orphan old money out there, especially in major non-European countries such as the United States, Canada and Japan, according to David Brooks, The Currency Exchange’s public relations advisor. The people holding this currency missed the deadline for changing it to Euros. Often, the legal currency was in such small amounts that those holding it simply didn’t care.What The Currency Commission realized, however, is that there’s a ton of small money tucked away in sock drawers and coffee cans all over the world. In Germany, for instance, Brooks has seen a study suggesting that there could be up to €3 billion worth of unrecovered Deutsche marks. If you assume a similar amount of legacy currency outstanding for each of the 16 countries officially on the Euro, well, a lot of a little becomes a lot of a lot. And, The Currency Commission just wants a small piece of each transaction.

So, worthless money becomes worth something again. Yeah, I thought I smelled bullshit, too. When I asked Brooks why people should trust The Currency Commission, he made the obvious and powerful point: it’s not like you’re putting anything of value at risk. And, he’s right. At present, your 10,000 lira isn’t worth a dime. So, what do you lose by testing out this service? “Kick the tires. Try it with a small amount first,” Brooks recommends to the skeptics, “then, do more later.”

The process is pretty straightforward. Simply create an account, select the currency and amount you plan to exchange, print and sign the receipts, then mail them in with the bank notes. Your new cash will come back in fewer than 14 days. The company is working on a PayPal interface right now, which Brooks expects to make the process even faster.

If you rush over to The Currency Commission right now, you won’t be the first user. Hundreds have already come before you and swapped old currency for new since the service first launched in early October last year. Among them … Brooks’ parents!

Of course, there’s one big question in all this, and Brooks knew it before I could ask. “I know,” he said with a laugh, “how do we make money, right?” Brooks explains that even though the exchange deadline has passed, the various central banks in Europe are still willing to exchange aged cash for Euros. They just prefer to do it locally. So, The Currency Commission aggregates and repatriates. It collects currency from its customers, sends the money back to its homeland and makes the trade. Economies of scale kick in. again, all these small transactions add up.

So, if you have any dated dinero lingering on your desk, ship it off to The Currency Commission. Your money may be worth something (again).