Besides packing clothes, toiletries, meds, documents, and electronics, what’s one thing that you need to have before you start your trip? Well that’s money of course. I always make sure I have at least some foreign currency with me depending on where I go. Now with American Express Travel Money, this process is a whole lot easier.
Two schools of thought
Before we dive into that, I figured it’d be worthwhile to lay out on the table the two schools of thought when it comes to currency exchange. 1) Exchange when you get to your destination and 2) Exchange all your currency at home before hand. Let’s go into each.
Exchange when you get there
The thinking here is that you might get a better rate since you’re in the country itself. You won’t need to special order anything and it’s there when you need it. When you get to the country, you’ll be able to pick from local money changers, banks, ATMs, forex kiosks. This is nice because you never really need to carry a money belt full of cash everywhere you go.
Exchange everything at home
This probably speaks to the I-must-plan-for-everything travellers. I’m not ashamed to be in this group. The thinking here is that you want to make sure you 100% prepared. The worst is landing in a new country and not having any currency in-hand. Without local money, you’ll get ripped off and if you change money locally, there is the chance that someone might pull a fast one on you. Rate wise, there is the chance you could get a better rate at home because you’ll be able to buy foreign money in bulk or maybe you know a friend that works at the bank. There are a lot of “ifs” when exchanging or withdrawing money on the road. With the ATM, you’re at risk of getting charged fees and at money changers, you’ll never really know if you’re getting a good rate because it’s typically all over the place. This also means that you have to go out of your way when travelling to find these places and rate shop.
Why not do both?
Having travelled for so many years, you realize that neither of those work to the extreme. The best approach is to do a balance of both. I always exchange money beforehand to make sure I have enough to last me a couple of days in the country. Once those funds run out, I either use my American Express credit card if it’s a country that’s safe or I’ll just start exchanging/withdrawing more money. It works for me.
What do you do?
American Express Travel Money
Recently, I stumbled upon a new program run by American Express. Unfortunately it’s only for folks living in the US but it sounds quite brilliant. Why not have foreign currency delivered straight to you?
Hear me out. We’re all uber busy with our daily lives. Trips usually creep up on you pretty fast and between packing, buying supplies, getting work and home settled, and making last minute preparations, currency exchange is one of those annoying things you have to do that makes those last few days leading up to the trip pretty stressful. It’s stressful because you shop around different places for the best rate and if it’s a rare currency, you’ll have to wait for it. That’s more time eaten up.
In a nutshell, Amex Travel Money is essentially a way to buy foreign money online like you would buy anything else online.
How does it work
It’s ridiculously easy. Here’s the 4 simple steps that you follow.
 Pick the currency you want and the amount
 Put in your zip code and choose “Delivered to your door” (yes it’s free!)
 Pick the date that you want it to be delivered. You need to be home to accept the delivery.
 Enter your details + payment method and BOOM you’re done.
Pros and Cons
- It’s so easy.
- Ability to choose from 50 different currencies.
- Can either have it delivered to your home or you can pick it up at a Travelex location.
- Next day delivery as long as you put your order in before 4PM EST.
- Basically you don’t need to go anywhere to do this. Just order from the comfort of your home and that’s it.
- You can buy currency via your credit card (not only limited to Amex) so if you have a points card, you get points too.
- The minimum order is $250 USD up to $3000 USD.
- The rate is not going to be as competitive as your local money changer or the bank. That’s where you service fee truly lies.
- Only available in the US right now.
Exchange money made simple
What excited me the most about the American Express Travel Money service is just how seamless and simple this is. It’s the kind of thing where you think “how come nobody else has done this?”. With a few clicks you’ve ordered cash from another country and so you don’t have to worry about it. It’s modern, it’s safe and the bottom line is that it’ll save you time.