Changing money


I am an American tourist. I travel around Europe for a couple of weeks. Returning home, I find I have not spent all my Euro currency, decide not to change it back to US dollars at the bank as the rates + commissions are really stacked against me.

Then my neighbour surprisingly tells me that he is going to travel around Europe’s capital cities for a few weeks of culture. I offer to sell him my euros for dollars at mid-market rates (what you see on the internet for example at A win-win all around.

Would we be breaking some currency law with our transaction? Is this like operating a black market? Would it be classified as illegal?

AFAIK it’s not illegal in the US to privately buy/sell slips of paper printed overseas, regardless of what’s printed on them (excepting things like child porn).

Just don’t do it in a temple. There’s this guy who gets really pissed at that. :slight_smile:

What Machine Elf said. If it ran into significant amounts (over $10k strikes me as likely), there might be agencies that would want to know. But for a few hundred, maybe a $k total, it’s a non-issue. Get a good rate.

I think that would be due to the dollars changing hands, rather than the foreign currency.

It is useful to note that no printed euro bills contain images of child porn, so you’re probably safe in that regard.

If you have more than $10000 worth of leftover euros, you were probably supposed to report that to customs as you entered the country, and if you sell the euros for significantly more than you bought them for, you’re probably supposed to report that as income on your taxes later, but making the exchange itself is not illegal.

The OP would also, under European law, have been supposed to report to customs if he takes more than €10,000 out of the EU, so the declaration requirement can kick in twice - under EU law for taking cash out of the EU, and under American law for taking cash into the US.

I don’t know of any prohibition against buying/selling currency in a manner you are suggesting.

FYI, though, in bigger cities there are banks/services such as Travelex. If you exchange more than $1000 U.S. there are no fees, commissions, etc… I use AAA to get my currency and there are no fees or shipping charges, and then I use Travelex to exchange back. I haven’t paid any fees or commissions ever. I always take more than I need so I don’t end up paying fees at an ATM when I’m abroad.

Places that don’t charge fees or commission for foreign currency exchange will earn their share of the transaction from bad exchange rates or wide bid/ask spreads. Running a bureau de change is so expensive in terms of storage, rents for the physical place, risk of loss or counterfeit money, labour costs, foregone interest etc. that you’d be surprised how much you lose on the transaction compared to the going rates on cashless forex markets. Some places make this transparent by means of commission, others hide it behind their rates and then put up big “no commission” ads, but you’re ripped off either way.

You credited that quote to the wrong poster.

when I exchange currency I am well aware of what the current exchange rate is, to the minute. I’ve never gotten less than what it was worth.

Of course you got less than “what it was worth.” No one works for free.

Probably not so much in Europe, but in Asia including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand it’s a lot easier to bring your own currency and exchange it at the corner money changer on an as-needs basis. USD is universally acceptable.

You do need to pick your money changer as the more upmarket ones can be quite expensive when you look at the exchange rate split. Under no circumstances use Travelex or equivalent.

Most duty free stores at Asian airports accept different currencies for payment and often give a good rate.

That’s not necessarily so. In many places foreign currency has an perceived value above the exchange rate simply because it’s not the local currency and buying it from a tourist circumvents Government restrictions on acquiring it.

In Malaysia you can usually sell your foreign currency at a 1% margin. One money-changer I use in Kuching does it at 0% with no fees or commission (in contrast to the flashy joint upstairs who run a 5% split and charge fees to gullible Western tourists)

That is odd. I did edit the quote to cut out the parts I wasn’t referring to, but I don’t recall making changes to the poster name. Maybe there was an inadvertent copy/paste on my part involved. Sorry for the confusion, I didn’t intend to attribute anything to anybody they hadn’t said.

Compare the rate you’re getting at a bureau de change for cash exchange to the rate that currencies trade at on the forex markets. You’ll be astonished to see how much wider the cash spreads are. Want to see an example? I just checked to see how much (in USD) they’d charge somebody who wants to get euros for US dollars. Their rate is $1.1761 per euro. At the same time, I checked the Financial Times for the international forex markets, and it’s $1.0599 per euro. On a transaction of 100 euros, the difference amounts to more than $11.

Applies also in the reverse scenario. On their Italian website, they (Travelex) are offering to sell you dollars for euros, at a rate of $0.9765 per euro. If you were to exchange 100 euros into dollars at that rate and swap it back to dollars at the rate above, you’d get $97.65 for your euros, which would then be converted back to 83.03 euros. You’d lose almost 17 of your 100 euros on bad exchange rates alone.

Yes you have. Closest you’ll get for trivial amounts is using an ATM on an affiliated network, which can be close to the inter-bank rate.

I retract that post. I forgot you are probably in the US, pkbites. The personal banking system there is different from what I’m used to.

Also, you probably want to be careful about any big cash/cash transactions ($10,000+ ??). There are normally reporting requirements for any big cash withdrawals, deposits or conversions.

On a related note, is it always cheaper to convert into a local currency than into a foreign currency?

I’ve noticed that I get better rates buying US in the USA, or Sing in Singapore, and better rates buying $AU in Aus, but I don’t know if its a general rule?

Why? If one isn’t doing anything sinister let them report away.

The thing to be careful about is if YOU fail to report something because you were unaware of the reporting requirments.

I know that ordinary money changers have reporting requirments. I do not know if this extends to my neigbour and me: we aren’t financial institutions.

But I would not do any large conversions ($1000) with my neighbour, because I would be worried about being inadvertantly caught in some stupid rule, and I would certainly not do $10,000 transaction, because I know that there are suspicious minds out there who confiscate first and ask questions… only if they are forced to, by the courts, and only under protest.

That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of it works. You’re getting your undies in a bunch over nothing. By your post you wouldn’t buy a car for kripes sake. Relax.