A:

Most major banks provide their currency conversion rates and fees online. Additionally, banks usually have a foreign exchange service center, a branch that is designated for doing currency conversions. The foreign exchange service center typically displays a sign that lists buy and sell rates for all major currencies, or at least for whatever currencies transaction history has taught the bank branch that customers are likely to desire conversion.

Banks are traditionally not the most favorable places at which to exchange foreign currency. Their bid-ask spreads may be huge in comparison to the negligible interbank exchange rates that banks charge each other. In addition to utilizing artificially high exchange spreads, many banks charge a separate currency conversion fee. Altogether, with spread rates and fees, it's not uncommon for a currency conversion at a bank to cost you more than 10% of the amount exchanged.

Once your bank provides you with its buy and sell rates, you can calculate the spread you're paying as follows:
Spread rate = (Bank's selling price for a currency - Bank's buying price for the currency) ÷ Bank's Selling Price × 100

There are numerous alternatives to conducting foreign currency exchanges through your local bank. A foreign exchange broker almost always offers currency conversions. Broker exchange rates differ. Some may not be noticeably better than bank exchange rates, but some brokers do offer substantially better rates. Another alternative for currency conversions is provided by a growing network of peer-to-peer currency exchange networks. These networks simply match a member who wishes to sell a type of currency with a member wishing to buy that same currency, and the conversion fee charged is usually less than 0.5%, which is quite an improvement over standard bank rates.

An alternative to purchasing foreign currency for use when travelling abroad is to use credit or debit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees. Credit and debit cards also provide help in avoiding high currency conversion fees by virtue of the fact that ATMs often provide much lower conversion rates.

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