How to buy dollars
Find the best rate, alternatives to cash and how to sell them back
Heading to the US and think you might need some cash? Use this guide to check which countries do and don't take the US dollar, where you can get the best exchange rates and whether using a top overseas card might be a safer (and cheaper) option.
Other top MSE travel money guides...
- TravelMoneyMax. Find the top travel cash rates
- Travel credit and debit cards. No exchange fees on purchases
- Cheapest ways to get travel money. Foreign exchange tips and tricks
- Prepaid travel cards. Lock in a rate before you go
Cash isn't usually the cheapest option
Say 'travel money' and many automatically think of an image of a glass boxed bureau de change in a supermarket, post office or travel agent. Yet getting cash isn't usually the cheapest way to spend abroad.
For near-perfect rates each and every time you go away, consider a top specialist overseas credit or debit card instead. These cards charge no fees on spending worldwide, so you can just use them as you would at home.
You'll also be able to use them to withdraw cash overseas with the same great exchange rates - though a specialist travel debit card's usually better here as most credit cards will charge interest on cash withdrawals.
Though we know many prefer cash, so here are some pros and cons on taking it away with you...
- You know how much you have to spend.
- You will lock in an exchange rate ahead of your trip, which could be appealing if the pound's strong in the weeks/months before your trip (though you'd need a crystal ball to know for certain).
- Physical cash is easier to lose/get stolen.
- You might get stuck with loads of dollars after your trip. You can sell them back but you'll typically get less than the amount you paid.
- You could get a better exchange rate with a top travel credit or debit card.
How to find the best rate
If you're still sure you want to take cash, first check if your travel destination takes US dollars as a valid currency (see this list). Then you can think about where to get them.
Next, rather than just walking into your nearest bureau de change or bank, check our TravelMoneyMax holiday money comparison tool. Currency sellers compete to offer the top exchange rates on euros, and we compare 16 online and high street rates.
Through this tool, you can check the best available rates in your local area for collection, or the best rates for delivery.
Always aim to avoid buying your currency at the airport as you're then a captive audience so rates are usually hideous. If you've left it late, at least see if you can order ahead for pickup at the airport, as rates are typically much better than simply walking up to a bureau.
Leftover currency? How to sell your dollars
You can obviously save leftover dollars for your next trip, but if you can't wait that long and want to sell, most bureaus de change will buy your dollars back from you.
This is best avoided if possible though. Buyback rates from bureaus are usually pretty terrible, so you'll be losing even more money. It’s worth asking when you get your currency if they do special rates on buyback for their customers.
Use our Buyback Page for a (limited) comparison of rates on offer.
MSE weekly email
FREE weekly MoneySaving email
For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!
Clever ways to calculate your finances