A Guide On How to Complicate Converting Currency Before Traveling Abroad

Last Updated on March 25, 2021

In this guide, I go over the most intricate ways to convert money from US dollars into other currencies. All for your convenience, I have put together a useful guide on how to convert money in what has been proven through personal experience to be the least efficient way possible. In this guide, I will report back in great detail on exactly what I did and how it worked out so you can then attempt to duplicate my results and maybe exchange some money before you travel to another country. Or maybe not. Let’s begin.

Step 1: Call Your Bank

Begin by contacting your local bank. Ask the teller, “Hi! Does your location have any (currency) available for exchange or does it need to be custom ordered?” If you happen to be looking for Euros like me, the bank will inform you that they actually just distributed the last of their Euros and you should try contacting other banks in the area unless you are willing to wait for them to be re-ordered and delivered to their location.

Step 2: Call Another Bank

For demonstration purposes, let us pretend you need Euros for your trip. When the second bank answers the phone, you simply ask them, “Hello. Does your branch have any Euros available on premises for exchange if I were to come by today? I would like to exchange for Euros please.

The bank teller will respond, “Just four Euros?”You will reply back, “Yes. Well, I’m saying for Euros as in, to Euros!”

“Sir, you only want to exchange two Euros? Like the coin?”

‘Like the coin!?’ No, no, no!! I am trying to exchange MY US dollars in the direction of Euros. I would like to give you my money and leave with (# of) Euros.”

“Ah, I see. Sorry, sir, I thought you only wanted two Euros. Let me check if we have (x amount of) Euros in the vault. One moment, please.”

“Thank you.”

“Sir, we have the Euros you are requesting. You are welcome to come in today.”

If your request does not produce this level of confusion, try contacting another branch.

Step 3: Visit The Bank & Prepare For Disappointment

When you visit the bank, someone will probably greet you. If they are busy working with another client, as they were when when I arrived, they may ask you to be seated and to wait between ten to fifteen minutes or more. Once they are ready to help you, they will ask how they may assist you today. Simply respond, “I am looking to exchange my US dollars for (x number of) Euros.”

The worker will respond, “My apologies. We only have denominations of 5 and 500 Euros so if you want (x Euros), that may not be preferable.”

“Yeah, hmm, that really isn’t preferable, to be honest. You mean to tell me you can only give me the total amount I need in 5 or 500 Euro bills?”

“That is right.”

“Okay, well… I kind of wish they specified that earlier when I had called to discuss this transaction. Will you be getting larger denominations of Euros anytime soon?”

“Tomorrow afternoon.”

“Okay, so… if I come back in the afternoon tomorrow, you will have larger denominations?”

“That is right.”

“Okay. Thank you. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then!”

Step 4: Drive Back The Next Day

The next day you should return to the bank, as instructed. You will most likely be asked to wait again. Do take a seat to add an additional fifteen minutes to this process. If you wait more than thirty minutes to speak to one of the special bankers who typically handles currency exchange-related business, you may then try going to the front desk instead. You will need to re-explain what you’re trying to do. They may need some help doing the currency exchange so this is nice because it will add even more to the total time span it takes for you to complete the transaction at your bank.

Step 5: Allow Them to Fill Out the Incorrect Exchange Form

One of the tellers behind the desk might look at one of the other workers and ask, “Is that a ‘buy’ or a ‘sell’ order?” They will then quickly talk amongst themselves to try to guess what you are trying to do within their banking lingo and procedures. A little while later, they will come out with a slip that needs to be filled out. The worker will then ask you, “How many Euros do you have?”

At this point, you will begin to feel the frustration setting in since no one seems to be able to understand that you do NOT HAVE Euros but that you wish to RECEIVE them.

“I do not have Euros. I WANT EUROS. I have ordinary US dollars in my bank account and I would like to receive Euros for a trip to Europe please.”

“Ohhhhhhh, okay. Sorry, sir. We thought you wanted to exchange Euros.”

“Nope, sorry about that. I want Euros.”

“Sir, how many Euros would you like?”

“I would like (x amount of) Euros in denominations of 20 please.”

“Okay, just 20s?”

“That’s right. That’s why I’m here today. Thank you.”

Step 6: Wait As They Retrieve Currency From the Vault

From the vault, the bank employee may shout back, “Did you only want denominations of 20?”

“Yes, please! Thank you!”

“Okay! Of course, sir! One moment, please!”

Step 7: Receive Currency In Incorrect Denominations, Say Thank You, Do Not Question The Bank, and Leave Peacefully

“My 20s”

I wish I could explain to you how I left the bank with 5s, 10s, and 20s after specifically requesting nothing but 20s but I have concluded there are no words that could possibly answer such a question.

I chose to leave the bank in peace figuring everything happens for a reason and maybe I will need 5s and 10s on my trip after I arrive in Europe. Who knows. Maybe this might have been for the best.

*Bonus* Pro Tip

Wait until 3 days before your trip to exchange the currency for added pressure and excitement. This way if it happens to be a national holiday (like, say, the 4th of July…) or a *weekend*, you get the thrill of waiting until only 1 or 2 days before you leave to exchange for the currency you need.

This is only recommended for thrill seekers.

Like it? Put a PIN on it!

Also read: Why Charles Schwab Is The Best Bank For Travelers

Disclaimer: The encounters referenced all throughout this post did not take place while working with Charles Schwab. I still think very highly of their bank.


    1. The Rocky Safari

      “Just four Euros?” …. I literally needed to take the phone away from my face and question my own sanity when she asked if I was trying to exchange for a 2 Euro coin.

    1. The Rocky Safari

      I know! She probably honestly believed I was trying to convert only 2 Euros too. So it wasn’t ill intent but maybe just peculiar judgement and confusion. Certainly did not lend to a more positive experience with the bank in general.

  1. Rocky–I am so sorry, but I laughed throughout this post. Hello, people! Let’s try a new concept–it’s called listening! OMG. Kudos to you for sticking by this bank. You were probably their one and only Euro request for the year. But next time, please–only 2 Euros. 🙂

    1. The Rocky Safari

      When I tried correcting my verbiage from “for Euros” to “to Euros,” I was already thinking in the back of my mind, “Oh no, this isn’t going to end well.” Sure enough, she did not disappoint.

  2. Michael Perry

    Wow! Now that’s a guide. I’m glad I wimp out and use airport currency exchange. One interesting note about currency exchange. When I was in Hanoi I had to get US dollars for a tour. Normally a jewelry shop in the old quarter works to get VND. To go the other way I had to go to the back room where I saw all kinds of currency being exchanged. I gave this guy an amount of VND equal to what I needed in USD. Done deal.

    1. The Rocky Safari

      Up until very recently, that was how I always exchanged! For instance, I converted quite a bit of money in the airport before my trip to China a few years back. However, airports usually offer a less favorable exchange rate so I try to avoid doing that now. On the flip side of that though is that at least that process is mostly headache-free! And instantaneous! Aside from the line, there isn’t much waiting.

      Glad you managed to find a location in Hanoi that doubled as a currency exchange! Strange to hear that they specifically wanted US Dollars for the tour. As long as it is fast and simple and not a rip off, why not! I have noticed that sometimes you will find random exchanges while shopping abroad.

  3. At least you didn’t have to work with Wells Fargo Bank. They are unable to complete a transaction without proper identification and a PUBLISHED thesis on what you plan to do with your new euro treasure. It does help if you have an account with a bank in Greece. You can then eliminate all the steps above. Naked hugs!

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The Rocky Safari