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young smiling couple checking out FX rates on mobile phone; image used for HSBC International Life Abroad article 7 FX tips to save money.

7 essential FX tips to save you money

Little charges, like cash withdrawals and currency exchange transaction fees, can really add up when you're spending money abroad. Save some cash by keeping these 7 FX tips in mind.

If you keep forgetting them, maybe you're better off with a multi-currency account to avoid those hidden fees altogether.

1) Stay in your banking network

If you use a local ATM to take out money, make sure it's one that's in your bank's network. You could be charged a substantially higher transaction fee. 

You can also avoid fees and charges if you have a multi-currency bank account. Just make sure you have some of the local currency in your account before you go. This way, you can use your card for retail purchases, online shopping and cash withdrawals with usually zero fees, even those from third-party cash machines.

2) If you have the option, pay in local currency

Whether you're using an ATM card or a credit card, always choose the local currency if you're given the option of paying in either your home currency or the local currency. The merchant's bank or credit card device usually has a much wider FX spread compared to making the exchange through your own credit card.

3) A credit card might not be the best option

Credit cards offer some convenience when you travel, especially for settling large bills like tickets or accommodation, but the card companies don't usually offer the best foreign exchange rates. If you prefer to use a credit card when you travel, maybe consider using your ATM card instead to withdraw cash when you need it.

We know those credit card points are really tempting but are they worth the extra fees and charges?

4) Avoid weekends when exchanging your money

You'll get the best rates when you exchange currency during bank hours. The worst time to exchange is on the weekends because markets around the world are closed. Why is this a problem? Since banks don't know what the new rate will be on Monday morning, they charge a slightly higher rate to protect themselves against unforeseen market movements when the market re-opens.

5) Check for any hidden fees

Many currency exchange shops will give you a great rate on the board but make sure you get all the details. Ask whether they charge commission or transaction fees. That good rate might only be applicable to notes of a certain denomination or year. If they ask you to convert a certain amount to get that rate, this could be their way of adding fees to your exchange. It all adds up.

6) Choose a larger exchange shop

Smaller shops will often have fewer notes in stock, so you'll be charged a premium for exchanging your money. Choosing a reputable brand for your FX needs will also give you the security that you won't get short changed or cheated with fake notes. Sure, you might have to wait longer in the queue to change your money but a busier shop will usually be a safer option.

7) Open a multi-currency bank account

If you have a foreign currency account all set up before you go abroad, you can avoid any extra FX fees. With an international account, you can move money between your accounts and manage your global accounts together online or through mobile banking. Some multi-currency accounts even allow you to set the exchange rate you're comfortable with. 

HSBC foreign currency products and services

Foreign exchange is the world's most traded investment market, and any client that holds an account with us can transact in FX.*

We provide a range of FX and multi-currency account services, such as cash deposit and withdrawals; term deposits; home mortgage loans; and remittances, so you can easily manage your finances wherever you are. You can place your foreign currency exchange instruction with our 24-Hour Foreign Exchange Service through online or mobile banking. 

You can also: 

  • Keep track of the global currency markets with FX insights
  • View real-time exchange rates and set your own FX rate to convert funds automatically
  • Set up a Limit Order or an alert and we'll track exchange rates for you
  • Send money internationally on the go with the Expat FX app
  • Receive preferential FX rates and no conversion fees

Ready to open an overseas account?

If you're doing global banking and want to avoid exchange rate fees and transfer charges, leave your details on our quick form. We'll get in touch on your preferred time and date to answer your questions and to help you open an overseas account.

Still have a question about foreign exchange and global banking? Chat with one of our advisers.

*FX services vary by country/territory

1 Exclusively for HSBC Premier and HSBC Jade customers