With Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, Discovery Cove and SeaWorld, it's small wonder that Orlando, Fla., is the theme park, attraction and amusement capital of the world. And, in recent years, the town has gained traction as a culinary and luxury resort destination as well, populated with prestigious hostelers like the recently opened Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton and the Waldorf Astoria.
In 2016, more than 68 million tourists came to Orlando – an average of almost 186,300 people a day – making it the most-visited destination in the United States and setting a new all-time record for the U.S. travel industry. About 10% of these tourists hail from overseas, and most will have to exchange some money. Here are some of the best options – places that will also be helpful for Orlando residents headed to South America, Europe or elsewhere overseas who need to pick up some foreign currency before departing.
While you won’t get the best exchange rate at the airport, getting currency there is convenient – and sometimes necessary if you need cash to pay for that first meal or taxi ride. Interchange is the sole foreign exchange provider at the Orlando International Airport, and the company operates four stores inside the main airport areas. All are open 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m, seven days a week:
- Arrivals B. 407-825-4566
- East Hall. 407-825-4563
- Airside 4. 407-825-4575
- West Hall. 407-825-4569
In addition to standard currency exchange services, Interchange offers cash advances on Visa, MasterCard, JCB (a Japanese brand), and Amex credit and debit cards, plus money transfer services through Western Union.
An ATM card is considered one of the best ways to get cash while traveling abroad. Because withdrawals are based on the wholesale exchange rate, you’ll usually get a better deal than you can at a currency exchange store. If your home bank has an agreement with a U.S. bank, you might even be able to skip the expensive ATM fees – check with your bank before you leave home so you know what to expect, and so they don't deactivate your card due to "odd charges." If you do pay a per-transaction fee, try to manage your withdrawals so you make a few larger transactions instead of a bunch of little ones.
SunTrust Bank ATMs are located throughout Terminals A and B of the airport, in both the secured and non-secured areas. Other ATMs close to the airport include:
- Bank of America. 10419 Narcoossee Rd
- Chase Bank. 5189 S. Conway Rd.
- Citibank. 3911 McCoy Rd.
- Wells Fargo. 6491 S. Chickasaw Trail
Currency Exchange Stores
If you have to, or prefer to, use a currency exchange store, you'll find a better rate once you’re outside the airport. (Read Understanding The Spread in Retail Currency Exchange Rates to see why rates vary.) A few options around the city include:
Currency Exchange International – multiple locations including:
- Two locations at The Florida Mall, 8001 South Orange Blossom Trail, 407-854-0860 and 407-251-7722
- At The Orlando Eye, 8401 International Dr., 407-903-9055
- At The Mall at Millenia, 4200 Conroy Rd., 407-363-3555
- At Orlando Premium Outlets, 8200 Vineland Ave., 407-238-7787
- At Visit Orlando (the visitors’ center), 8723 International Dr. #101, 407-363-5872
Money Exchange Bureau. 8000 International Dr. Ste. 112, 407-354-2233
Travelex. 15657 South Apopka Vineland Rd. (at the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Center). 407-465-1932.
The Bottom Line
Even though a currency exchange store advertises "no commissions or no fees," don’t assume that there aren’t any hidden charges in the cash that you receive. To make sure you know what kind of deal you’re getting – no matter where you exchange money – it’s a good idea to ask the clerk, "How many U.S. dollars will you give me?" before handing over any cash. Don’t settle for just the exchange rate; ask for the actual dollar amount you will receive in exchange for X amount of your home currency.
A currency converting app can be useful whenever you exchange money. These apps let you enter the type and amount of currency you want to exchange, and then calculate how much you can get at the current rate. Free apps like XE Currency and GlobeConvert are available for both iOS and Android phones. Use these apps to evaluate how good a deal you're being offered – and decide whether to take it and how much money to exchange at that vendor.
Credit cards provide an alternative to paying in cash– as well as allowing you to limit the amount of cash you need to exchange and carry with you. However, many credit cards charge hefty foreign transaction fees that can add 2% to 3% to the cost of each purchase. If you travel frequently, or even if you’re planning on using your card a lot on just one trip, it’s worth looking into a zero foreign transaction fee credit card. (See Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fee.)