I’m not a fan of carrying much cash. 99% of my purchases are made on a debit or credit card. I like to travel that way, too. It’s safer, I have immediate record of it with my mobile banking app, and I’m protected against fraud by my bank should my card be stolen. That being said, there are plenty of instances where cash is required or just more convenient.
The first country I’m hitting on this upcoming trip is New Zealand. After that, I’ll be in Vietnam. I decided it’d be a good idea to have a bit of cash on hand for each of those countries prior to arriving. While New Zealand doesn’t require U.S. citizens to have a Visa to enter, Vietnam does, and they require it paid in cash on arrival at the airport. It goes without saying that all airports, no matter where you are, are notorious for price gouging on everything from a bottle of water to a cab ride, and also for ATM fees and currency exchanges.
I decided $100 USD-worth of each currency would be enough to get me started. I plan on using my Simple Bank debit card or my American Express credit card for the majority of transactions while I’m overseas, some of which I’m paying for in advance of my trip.
To get both of these currencies, I went to a local bank (I don’t have an account there). Their fee was 7.5% on the New Zealand Dollar (NZD) and 5% on the Vietnam Dong (VND). In all, I gave them $96.89 USD for $105 NZD and $95.06 USD for 2 million VND. Fun fact: the smallest VND bill is 5,000 Dong. The scale of foreign currencies is interesting, to say the least.