As the year-end approaches, many people will undoubtedly be planning to go on a much-needed holiday. After all, a recent survey has revealed that 80% of Malaysians were excited to travel this year.
While planning for a vacation abroad can be thrilling, exchanging currency can seem like a complicated and daunting task for those who don’t do this frequently – or at all.
If you fall into these categories, don’t fret: here are some pointers to help you get the most out of your ringgit, so you can enjoy your holiday without breaking the bank.
1. Understand how money changers work
Money changers have bright displays with the headers “we buy” and “we sell” above the exchange rates listed for each currency. In this situation, “we” refers to the money changer.
If you wish to buy foreign currency from them, this means you’d want them to “sell” to you. Conversely, if you have foreign currency in hand and would like to exchange it for ringgit, this means you’d like them to “buy” from you.
Depending on your intentions, you would then refer to the exchange rate listed for the currency of choice under the relevant “buy” or “sell” column.
The money changer will typically ask how much you’d like to buy or sell and, with a quick tap of the calculator, will present the corresponding amount to you. You can then agree to continue with the transaction, disagree and leave, or try your hand with negotiating to get larger sums in your favour.
2. Know if the country you’re visiting accepts large notes
This is a little-known thing – many merchants in other countries don’t accept banknotes in large denominations. Imagine handing over a £50 or 10,000 yen note to a reluctant seller: some might even reject it outright. It would be like giving RM100 for a 50 sen drink.
Apart from making it difficult for merchants to give you sufficient change, large denominations are often counterfeited, leading many to be wary about accepting them. And in this day and age, just as in Malaysia, merchants in some countries prefer cashless transactions.
Most money changers will hand over large banknotes as they don’t usually stock up a lot on smaller breakdowns. So, before you travel overseas, make sure big notes are commonly accepted, or ask your money changer to provide smaller denominations.
3. Check cashless options, limits and restrictions
It should go without saying that, for your safety, carrying stacks of cash with you is not advisable.
Instead, do some research into cashless options in the country you are heading to. Visa, Mastercard, Apple Pay, Alipay, and Wise are just some options that may be available to you no matter where you visit.
Questions to consider include:
- Where can it be used, or how convenient is it?
- Is there a credit/spending/withdrawal limit, and do you need to increase it?
- What restrictions are there?
- What is the currency exchange rate?
Knowing the above will help you determine how much you can spend via cashless transactions, and how much cash in hand you should have with you.
4. Avoid exchanging currency at airports and banks
It can be convenient to change money at airports and commercial banks. Chances are, however, that the exchange rates at these locations will be unfavourable. Be prepared to pay an arm and a leg.
As such, make time in your schedule to visit dedicated money changers and examine their rates. Which brings us to the final point:
5. Compare currency changers
It can be tedious trying to determine the best exchange rates available, as this would require you to visit various currency-exchange locations.
Thankfully, a growing number of money changers list their daily rates online now. Utilise these and other currency websites to determine the best rates around.
There is a caveat, though: just because the rate is good, it does not necessarily mean the money changer has the amounts in stock for you. As many people flock to the best rates, many foreign-currency supplies run out fast.
Otherwise, money changers may be restricted in terms of how much they are able to convert. You might need to scout out several spots to get the best bang for your ringgit.