How to Avoid Losing Money During Overseas Exchange Trips

How to Avoid Money Problems During Overseas Exchange Trips
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I kept losing money through daily transactions during my university exchange across Europe – here’s the three biggest problems I faced over six weeks.

During my summer university exchange to Vienna last year, my friends and I decided to travel to Eastern Europe – a venture that cost more than I expected.

#1 Always Juggling Currencies & Loose Change

Unlike the most of Western and Central Europe, countries in Eastern Europe transact in local currencies instead of Euros. I juggled through Croatia Kuna, Polish złoty, Hungarian forint, Romanian leu, Bulgarian lev, Albanian lek, and various other currencies. I could only exchange as much local currency as I predicted I’d need, because it wasn’t easy to exchange the smaller bills back home in Singapore.

While trying to juggle so many currencies, I ended up with lots of loose change of different currencies. While I thought they were negligible amounts at first, it’s actually quite significant after accumulating over a few countries.

SGD $6 in Croatia, SGD $10 in Prague, SGD $2 in Budapest –  the list went on and I definitely missed out on a good meal or two 🍜.

As I’d probably never (or not in the near future) visit these countries again, my accumulated loose change had gone to waste.

Total amount lost: SGD $31

#2 Always Not Having Enough Cash

As a cautious Singaporean, I avoided carrying large amounts of cash overseas (in case I get pickpocketed, or carelessly lose my wallet). I relied on ATM withdrawals when I needed more cash, which costed me SGD $5 to SGD $7 per withdrawal 💸.

I needed SGD $4,000 for a 6-week trip, so I withdrew a total of 5 times and that added up to around SGD $35 in withdrawal fees. These fees could be even higher for those on a longer university exchange program.

Paying with a credit card overseas wasn’t feasible too, because bank-issued cards come with a price tag of 2.5% to 3.5% in fees when paying overseas. I could even rack up over 8% if I were to fall into the notorious DCC trap overseas.

An average meal costed £12 and if I had used a credit or debit card for daily meals, this were the fees I would’ve paid.

DurationMeal CostAfter Card Fees Total Fees
1 day£12£12.40+ £0.40 (SGD $0.71)
1 week£60£62+ £2 (SGD $3.54)
1 month£240£248+ £8 (SGD $14.17)
6 months£1440£1488+ £48 (SGD $85.02)

This didn’t even include many other expenses such as daily essentials, occasional entertainment and shopping. Hence, relying credit or debit cards wasn’t a financially-sustainable solution.

Total amount lost: SGD $35

#3 Money Changer Always Claiming ‘BEST RATE’

I sincerely hope no one makes the same foolish and totally avoidable mistake as I did.

I travelled to London for a week and only had Euros and other European currencies on me, so I had to exchange for some pounds. After a fruitless search for a money changer in the past hour, I finally found one in Piccadilly Circus with a huge banner that said “BEST RATE IN TOWN”.

It was really crowded. I was tired and freezing. The many numbers on the screen didn’t help my throbbing headache. I was aware of the interbank exchange rate between Singapore Dollars and Pounds, but wasn’t sure of the exchange rate between Pounds and Euros. I mean, how bad could it be?

Plus, I may not find another money changer in the next hour. In my hastiness, I blindly trusted the sign.

Well, guess what? It was only a few minutes later that I chanced upon another money changer who would’ve given me SGD $52 more. As a student who had been scrimping and saving for the past one month, that was a really painful realisation. UGH 😫.

Total amount lost: SGD $52

So Where Did I Lose Money?

Juggling currencies:SGD $31
ATM withdrawal fees:SGD $35
Poor exchange rates:SGD $52
Total amount:SGD $118

As the old adage goes, a little goes a long way. Insignificant costs here and there could really add up without knowing. It’s especially agonising when you’re living on a budget overseas.

If you have a personal story to share, drop a note to editorial@you.co and we’ll be happy to tell your story!

Tips from YouTrip

Yes, it’s not easy to manage your finances while being overseas for a prolonged period. However, that doesn’t mean you should be losing money all the time. With YouTrip, this is how you can strategise your options and save some money:

1. Use YouTrip card to avoid juggling currencies 💸
It’s difficult to estimate how much you’ll need before the trip, especially when you’re travelling to more than one country. Lugging cash and finding money changers at every country has proven to be difficult to you as well, not to mention the poor exchange rates that you’re unfamiliar with and having to juggle currencies afterwards. Whether it’s Croatia Kuna, Polish złoty, or Hungarian forint, YouTrip got has got you covered with 150+ currencies!

2. Strategise your ATM cash withdrawals 💡
When you need to have some petty cash, rely on your YouTrip card to withdraw cash from ATMS to enjoy Wholesale Exchange Rates. Yes there’s a SGD $5 fee per withdrawal, but instead of withdrawing everyday, you should withdraw a chunk once. If you’re spending a week in London, estimate your expenditure when you arrive and just withdraw once so that you’ll only pay SGD $5 once. This is also safer than carrying cash everywhere and trying to find a local money changer.

If you’re wondering if it’s worth to pay the SGD $5 ATM withdrawal fee instead of using a credit or debit card, here’s a simple breakdown with the average 3% card fees:

Overseas Transaction (SGD) 3% Bank Card Fees (SGD)
$100$3
$170$5.10
$300$9
$500$15
$1,000$30

When making a SGD $170 transaction, you would have already paid more (SGD $5.10 in this case) in card fees as compared to the withdrawal fee. If you’re spending more than SGD $170 overseas, then it wouldn’t be feasible to keep relying on credit or debit cards.

Furthermore, when card payment is available, you can use your YouTrip card to enjoy zero fees and Wholesale Exchange Rates instead.

3. Cross check currency exchange rates on YouTrip 📈
When exchanging currencies at a local money change, check against the exchange rates in YouTrip for 10 in-app currencies. For the remaining 140+ currencies, simply use the Mastercard Currency Converter. This way, you’ll know for certain if the money changer really has “BEST RATES IN TOWN”.

Read: Fake Foreign Currencies and How to Avoid Them

Read: How to Avoid Credit Card Scams and Frauds Overseas

Read: 7 Best Holiday Booking Hacks to Score Best Deals

Read: Best Travel Insurance Singapore 2019 Comparison Guide

Read: How to Avoid DCC in 2019: SGD vs Local Currency

Enjoy a worldwide fees-less travel experience!

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