Always Pay in the Local Currency!

Vendors try and make money anyway they can. And for the last few years, one additional way they’ve been doing this is by attempting to increase the price you see on purchases. When paying with a foreign credit or debit card in duty free shops, restaurants and other touristy places, you’ll frequently be given the option to debit in the local currency or your own currency. Always pay in the local currency, not your own currency.

Hungarian forints can deceive you into thinking you have much more money than you do. $1 US=220 forints. debit in the local currency
Currency that is vastly inflated, like the Hungarian forint, can deceive you into thinking you have much more money than you do. $1 US=220 forints. Exchange rates like these can be tricky to convert and understand whether you received a good rate.

Foreign Transaction Fees

You might think that by debiting in your own currency that you’ll avoid the foreign transaction fee that your bank charges, but that’s not the case. Your bank will still charge you a foreign transaction fee because you still made a foreign transaction. On top of this, the vendor typically gives you a lousy exchange rate if you convert currencies through them because that’s how they make money off this “service” to you (so frankly it’s pretty insulting).

If you just pay in the local currency, your bank will generally exchange the money at a value close to the current real time exchange rate, with the added percentage fee they will take either way, typically around 2.5%.

Paying in US Dollars Abroad is a Disservice that Will Cost You Money

This “service” is a huge money maker for big businesses who already make boat loads off liquor, perfume and knick knacks, and we’ve noticed the trend seeping into more main stream businesses than ever before. We always see people trying to debit in their own currency because they believe they will get the better deal that way (it sure sounds better right?). When we’re waiting behind someone in a duty free line and they make this mistake, we tell them to pay in the local currency, often to the annoyance of the store clerk.


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

    View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.