Exchange Cash vs Using Cards in Asia

Old May 4th, 2021, 02:51 PM
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Exchange Cash vs Using Cards in Asia

Hello everyone,

I am planning a trip to multiple countries in Asia after the pandemic is over.

I want to know if it is more convenience to exchange for cash or using cards.

I would like to hear your experience on whether you prefer to use cash or using cards in Asia.
And if you need cash, where did you go to exchange cash?
What are your pain points when using foreign currency abroad during your travels?

Last edited by elliego; May 4th, 2021 at 02:53 PM. Reason: more concise title
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Old May 5th, 2021, 04:48 AM
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I've done both for 20-plus years in S.E. Asia. It depends on where one is going in Asia. In S.E. Asia, I have no problem exchanging cash as exchange places are all over and the exchange rate is decent. I like to travel with a substantial amount of cash along with plastic and I'm usually gone for up to 6-weeks straight.

Happy Travels!
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Old May 5th, 2021, 08:55 AM
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Best exchange rates is when using ATMs, standard advice. I pay for large purchases like hotels with a card, most of the rest with cash. On the very rare occasion when I run out of local cash obtained with my debit cards at ATMs, I have a stash of US$100 bills & will exchange. So while the cash exchange rates can be not terrible, cash from a machine linked to a home account & credit cards give the best rates. Also many years experience & 2-3 month stays.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 09:30 AM
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Additional standard advice: get credit and ATM cards with no foreign transaction fees (try Capital One), and always decline an offer to pay with your home currency when using a card. Also, carry at least two credit and two ATM cards in case one gets eaten or declined. Do NOT use a debit card (or the debit feature of an ATM card.)
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Old May 5th, 2021, 01:13 PM
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ATM for cash using a non-credit card. I've used a credit union check card that had no fee. It has a Visa logo and Visa takes 1% but the rate is the inter-bank rate. I think my Chase debit card would charge a fee when used at a non-Chase ATM but give the IBR minus the 1%.

At the end of the trip, I use up the local cash to pay down part of the last hotel bill and use a no-FX fee credit card for the rest. If you have Japanese yen paper money left over you could just hold onto it to exchange on a future trip anywhere.

I recommend not carrying substantial amounts of cash when traveling from, to, or within the USA because of the threat of civil asset forfeiture. Add that to the risks of loss or theft.
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Old May 6th, 2021, 02:31 AM
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Just go to the nearest ATM machine, in most countries. Stick in your card, make a few choices and get plenty of local cash. Use the cash whenever possible to avoid all 'pain points'.
I also recommend ATM transaction fee-free cards to save $$.. I use Schwab bank.
If civil unrest beaks out during your stay, cash will be KING coz the ATM machines probably won't be working.
But i can venture an educated guess that your will not be going year 2021.
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Old May 6th, 2021, 02:57 AM
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jobin - just posting to alert you to the fact that the 'M' in 'ATM' stands for machine - 'ATM machine' - redundancy.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 02:32 AM
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Originally Posted by elliego View Post
Hello everyone,

I am planning a trip to multiple countries in Asia after the pandemic is over.

I want to know if it is more convenience to exchange for cash or using cards.

I would like to hear your experience on whether you prefer to use cash or using cards in Asia.
And if you need cash, where did you go to exchange cash?
What are your pain points when using foreign currency abroad during your travels?
Again. It depends on where one is traveling in Asia. I've been in KL, for example, many times and have gotten right at almost the same exchange rate that has been posted online as I travel with my laptop and check the online rates before I head to the exchange places and then check the rates when I get to the exchange place. I also keep a travel journal and write everything down.

Personally, I like to have more cash on hand than whatever my limit is on a one-transaction ATM withdrawal. I also don't like having to look for an ATM machine if I'm somewhere remote, for example, but need to have cash and ASAP. I'm also a lot more mobile having a substantial amount of cash on hand.

As for ATMs, make sure to check to see if your bank is charging you for making a withdrawal and also in the country of the withdrawal there might be a fee.

Now, if you are in Hong Kong for example, then exchange place rates aren't as good as in some other countries/places. But, as for exchanging cash in Thailand, for example, I have done it for 2 decades and also some other places without problems.

I won't travel only depending on plastic as I've had more than a few situations over many decades of international travel where suddenly out-of-the-blue my plastic didn't work even though the bank knew that I was traveling internationally. Once a card was eaten in the ATM machine and that particular card had been issued by the bank of the country that I was in and I was at the ATM machine outside of my bank branch one night. But, that situation was in Europe. So, I wasn't about to put my bank card issued from here at home into the same machine at that point. Thank goodness I had enough extra cash on me that night and until I could get to the bank the next morning at opening time and have them fish the card out of the ATM machine.

A couple friends were with me on one trip and their plastic didn't work, for whatever reason, and on another trip my best male friend had the same problem and both times I had to lend folks money until they got their situations straightened out and they had left their back-up card in their hotel safe across town.

If you're traveling alone, then make sure you have more than one option to access money as there will be no one there to borrow money from if for some reason you have a problem. I travel alone 99% of the time.

As for pain points in using foreign currency when abroad, I don't have any. Using foreign currency comes quite natural as I've been doing it since I was a young teen and traveling solo abroad. As long as I have a substantial amount of cash before leaving home and at least 2 credit cards and 2 debit cards, and an ATM card not connected to a credit/debit card, I feel like I'll make it through a long trip and solo. I used to be away overseas for 11 weeks straight (European trips) and had to deal with a lot of different currencies and money situations and there were no ATMs then. On the Asian trips, it's figuring out the money situation for usually 6 weeks.

In general, it's important to keep one's money organized. I just buy some rectangular-shaped vinyl zip pouches and store different currencies in different ones. I still do that to this day with all of my Asian currencies whereas before it was with the European ones before the Euro. But, I still have to do it when I'm in Scandinavia as they didn't go over to the Euro system. Keeping one's money organized, reduces foreign currency headaches.

Happy Travels!

Last edited by Guenmai; May 8th, 2021 at 03:18 AM.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 02:52 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Additional standard advice: get credit and ATM cards with no foreign transaction fees (try Capital One), and always decline an offer to pay with your home currency when using a card. Also, carry at least two credit and two ATM cards in case one gets eaten or declined. Do NOT use a debit card (or the debit feature of an ATM card.)
I totally agree about declining to pay in one's home currency. Have one's card charged in the currency of that country. As for not using a debit card at an ATM, I've done that with no problem, but with my credit-union issued debit card.

Happy Travels!

Last edited by Guenmai; May 8th, 2021 at 03:20 AM.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 03:00 AM
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"I recommend not carrying substantial amounts of cash when traveling from, to, or within the USA because of the threat of civil asset forfeiture. Add that to the risks of loss or theft."

I personally have never had that problem with carrying a substantial amount of cash when traveling. And as far as theft, I've never been robbed of money. I also don't store it all in one place. Plus, these days, thieves are probably more concentrated on trying to snatch people's expensive iPhones and other cell phones.

Happy Travels!
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Old May 8th, 2021, 03:04 AM
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"If civil unrest beaks out during your stay, cash will be KING coz the ATM machines probably won't be working. "

So, true. And I've been in all kinds of situations overseas over many decades which is another reason that I like access to cash on hand. And also situations of a possible strike and the ones on strike are those who supply money to the ATM machines. I've seen that situation, too.

Happy Travels!
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Old May 8th, 2021, 04:08 AM
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Please - the 'M' in 'ATM' is machine! - do not refer to ATM machine - likewise do not refer to GST tax - the 'T' is tax.

Last edited by Greenhorn; May 8th, 2021 at 04:16 AM.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 04:48 AM
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Guenmai - my point about not using a debit card was about not using it as a debit card. Of course, using it in an ATM is OK, although I would make sure it was a bank ATM. I also make it a point to use ATMs attached to open banks, preferably inside, except in airports on arrival. I do carry a few crisp, new, US notes for emergencies, but I don't remember any emergencies.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 10:54 AM
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thursdaysd: OK. Now I think I understand what you meant. I just think of a debit card as the type that is both debit/Visa so that it can be either used in an ATM machine or like a credit card. But, I also have a card (ATM card) that is one that doesn't have the Visa part and is used in the ATM machine. I think that one can also be used if one goes into a bank to a teller to get money using it, but then the rates are higher. So, I assume that that's what you meant.

Happy Travels!

Last edited by Guenmai; May 8th, 2021 at 10:58 AM.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 11:10 AM
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Three kinds of cards:

ATM only

ATM plus debit

Credit

All three can be used in an ATM (but a credit card will incur interest immediately). If you have type two it is much safer to pretend it is type one and ignore the debit feature.

Depending on the issuer of the ATM/ATM plus debit card you may be charged:

A fee by the issuer for using a machine not owned by the issuer
A fee by the owner of the machine
A foreign transaction fee

I don't pay any of those because when I travel I use a Capital One ATM plus debit card that accesses my Cap One current account. I also reject any attempt at dynamic currency conversion, which would result in a lousy exchange rate.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 11:24 AM
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OK. I'm aware of the there types of cards as I have all three. I did not know that one could use a credit card in an ATM machine. As in the past, if one wanted to get money by using one's credit card, then one needed to go inside of a bank and have a teller to do the process. And of course, the rates were high.

And as for "dynamic" currency conversion, I assume that just means exchanging one's cash at a money exchanger to get the cash for the country that one is in.

Happy Travels!
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Old May 8th, 2021, 11:54 AM
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And as for "dynamic" currency conversion, I assume that just means exchanging one's cash at a money exchanger to get the cash for the country that one is in.
Wrong. Absolutely and dangerously (as in expensive) wrong.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynami...ncy_conversion

In order to use a credit card in an ATM you need to know the PIN, which you should have acquired before travel. However, since you will incur interest charges even if you immediately pay off the balance, it is for emergency use only.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 01:29 PM
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There are only two types of cards: debit and credit, and both are ATM cards.
I would bet that an "ATM plus debit" would be an ATM Plus debit card and have a Visa logo on it. The payment would be made via the Plus System.

A debit card means that the money comes from a deposit account, usually a checking account.

A credit card means that the money comes from a line of credit. You can expect that a cash advance on a credit card will have a cash advance fee and that it will incur interest charges from the date of the transaction and be at a high interest rate.

My credit union ATM card is now called a debit card and has a MasterCard logo. The payment would be processed via Cirrus.

My old defunct CU "check card" was a debit card and I think that it did not have Visa or MC logos but did have Cirrus and Plus logos.

Technology has changed in the last 10 years, if not 5 years, such that advice about ATM cash older than that is pretty irrelevant.

Last edited by mrwunrfl; May 8th, 2021 at 01:33 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 02:06 PM
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That was a lower case "plus" for a reason. It is, or at least was, possible to get a card that is ONLY an ATM card. So, when I write "ATM plus debit" that is precisely what I mean, a card that works BOTH as an ATM card AND as a debit card.
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Old May 8th, 2021, 06:36 PM
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Ok, I get it: All debit cards are ATM cards, but not all ATM cards are debit cards.
ATM = bank transactions (e.g.; cash withdrawals)
Debit card = ATM plus EFTPOS transactions

Last edited by mrwunrfl; May 8th, 2021 at 06:50 PM.
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