“There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy, hypocrisy, fraud and tyranny.”
– Frederick William Robertson

You’re on vacation in a foreign country. You check in to the hotel, leave your luggage in your room, grab the most needful items and go sightseeing. There’s so much to investigate!

Once you’re out, you notice a souvenir shop with cute backpacks. “I need to have one,” you think. In this very moment, you remind yourself you’ve only US dollars in your purse. “Right. I need to find a currency exchange.” You look around, notice at least three, and choose to go to the closest one.

Once you get there, you hand in $100 and receive some money in the local currency. “Perfect! Now I can buy that backpack!” you think. While you’re walking down the street towards the shop, elated, you pass by another currency exchange. You stop to check their rates and realize you’ve just been conned.

Does this situation sound familiar?

How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off By A Currency Exchange

When we plan a vacation abroad, we tend to focus on three things:

  1. Buying airline tickets,
  2. Booking a hotel room, and…
  3. Checking what places are worth to see.

Now, that was my to-do list when I was arranging my first vacation abroad, in Prague. As you might guess, the time I spent there was bittersweet. On the one hand, I had a great time sightseeing, buying souvenirs and meeting new people. On the other, I lost quite a lot of money because I didn’t pay attention to exchange rates.

To prevent you from getting conned when changing money, I created a short list of three most popular ways currency exchange places cheat tourists around the world.

Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

#1 Commission Fee.

Commission is a fee that foreign-exchange providers charge for exchanging currencies. Now, one of the most popular ways to con tourists is to hang a sign “No Commission,” “0% Commission,” or “Commission Free” on the window of a currency exchange. This way, tourists are fooled into thinking that they’ll receive more money for the exchange.

Unfortunately, those signs are a deliberate attempt to make you pay much more than you actually need to. How come? Well, the commission can be easily disguised into the rate you pay. Thus, if you notice a laughably bad rate in a “No Commission” currency exchange, it means there is a hidden commission and so, the currency exchange isn’t legit.

#2 Calculators With A Difference.

Since most people don’t bother to calculate by themselves how much money they should receive for the exchange, there’s another way tourists can be conned.

Basically, in some currency exchange places, people swap positions of two buttons on their calculators: the Memory Recall and the Equals buttons. Thus, when you exchange currencies, they show you a different amount of money than the one you should receive. Because you see the calculation with your own eyes, you don’t question it. Thus, you get conned.

#3 The “Buy” And “Sell” Rates.

Another way in which they can cheat you in a currency exchange is to reverse the “buy” and “sell” rates or present them in an unusual way. If you’re not attentive and don’t know the meaning of the words “we buy” and “we sell,” you’re likely to get conned. To prevent it from happening, let’s discuss how to read currency exchange boards.

First of all, remember that “we” means the currency exchange. So, the currency exchange either buys or sells:

  • “We Buy”: we buy foreign currencies and give you local money,
  • “We Sell”: we sell foreign currencies (i.e. you can buy a foreign currency from us with local money).

Thus, if you live in the US and go to the Czech Republic for vacation, you need to change dollars (a foreign currency) to korunas (the local currency). That means, you’re the seller of a foreign currency and the currency exchange is the buyer. So, you need to look at “we buy” section.

If that’s too complicated for you to remember, write it down. Also, if you tend to confuse the two, remember that the lower number on the board is the one you should pay attention to.

3 Tips From A Traveler.

It’s unbelievable what currency exchange places do to earn more money, isn’t it?

Thus, when you’re abroad you need to keep your eyes open and be smart when exchanging currencies. Remember:

  1. Never change money in the first money changer you find. Compare the rates!
  2. Don’t trust “No Commission” tags!
  3. Don’t hand in your money before calculating the sum you should receive.

Keep it all in mind and you won’t get conned!

About the Author:

Emily Johnson is a freelancer, a blogger, and a content strategist at OmniPapers. She loves travelling, learning foreign languages and meeting people from all over the world. In her articles and blogs, she teaches others how to monetize their hobbies, arrange their home cabinets and be more productive. To read more of Emily’s posts, check her Twitter.