Whether it’s for business or pleasure or Broadway, people really flock to The Big Apple. In 2015 alone, NYC attracted 58.3 million visitors.
The city that never sleeps has something for everyone, wrapped up in the spirit and attitude of a truly world-class metropolis. However, making the most of New York requires dollars in your pocket - and that means finding somewhere to exchange your home currency.
Exchanging currency in a new city can present challenges. You don’t want to waste time, but you don't want to be ripped off either.
So if you’re headed to New York, check out this guide to avoiding the scams, and getting the best deal when you exchange your money for dollars in NYC.
Never trust signs offering ‘Zero Commission’, money exchange services have to make money somehow. A vast majority hide their fees by giving you a poor rate.
There are many other things to look out for, so keep the following things in mind as you shop around for the best bargain:
- Get familiar with the mid-market exchange rate. Know the true value of your currency against the dollar.
- Compare the exchange rate you’re offered with the real rate using an online currency converter. Make sure you aren’t getting ripped-off.
- If you can help it, stay away from changing money in and around airports and hotels. These deals aren’t usually the best.
- ATMs are a great option, but first check with your home bank to see if they have a partnership with any banks in NYC. Using their ATMs could save you on fees.
- Avoid any conversions offered by foreign ATMs. Choose to be charged in the local currency (USD) to save on hidden charges and poor rates the bank tries to sneak in.
Exchange rates fluctuate all the time but there’s really only one real rate. The mid-market rate is the one that banks use to change currencies on the global market and it’s the same one you’ll find on Google. It’s the base rate without any mark-up or commission added.
It’s important to start your search with the knowledge of how much your money is really worth. The easiest way is to use an online currency converter to check the latest exchange rate. (To calculate, enter your home currency on the left and USD on the right.) Use it as a benchmark to help you gauge how fair the tourist exchange rates actually are.
Avoid airport currency exchanges, or changing money at your hotel. As convenient as these options may be, you pay for the privilege - even if the headline is ‘No fees!’. You’ll still be charged, but it’ll be in the disguise of a poorer exchange rate.
Instead, consider using ATMs to withdraw cash. They’re convenient and usually offer a fairer deal when converting currency.
If your home bank has a partnership with a local bank in NYC, you might be able to withdraw money in dollars without incurring extra fees. Check this with your bank before you leave, and at the same time notify your bank if you plan to use your card overseas.
You may get asked by an ATM if you wish to be charged in your home currency. While this can feel more familiar and comfortable, it’s just a sneaky way to give a poorer exchange rate. Don’t be fooled. You should choose to be charged in the local currency - so in this case, USD. By choosing local currency you should get a rate closer to the mid-market point for that day.
Just make sure to avoid exchanging more money than you think you’ll need. If you have cash left over after your trip, you’ll be paying the banks twice for their services to convert it back. Better to change what you need, and spend what you change.
All exchange services charge fees, whether they’re declared upfront or wrapped up in their rates. Before you select one, it helps to be aware of the live mid-market rate for comparison. Lots of services claim to apply zero charges, but they simply add in their profit margin by the rate they offer you.
To make sure you’re not being scammed, check out the terms of each exchange service, including any fees and charges. Ask exactly how many dollars you’ll receive after conversion and fees are taken into account.
Below are some exchange services operating in New York you may want to check out.
Travelex has branches in LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Liberty Airports. There are six other locations in NYC including Times Square and Herald Square, see the Travelex store locator to find the closest.
Check the website for branch-specific contact information.
Just like the city that never sleeps, each of the branch locations have operating hours seven days a week.
If you’re passing through one of the stations - Union, Penn or Grand Central - CXI has locations in all of them located inside Apple Bank branches.
|Avenue of the Americas: 1330 Avenue of the Americas||+1 (212) 956-2400|
|Grand Central Station: 122 East 42nd Street||+1 (212) 972-6800|
|Penn Station: 371 7th Avenue||+1 (212) 695-1599|
|Union Station: 4 Irving Place||+1 (212) 533-0003|
|Upper East Side: 812-814 Lexington Ave||+1(212) 421-2220|
- Avenue of the Americas: Mon-Fri: 8:30am-8pm, Sat: 9am-8pm, Sun: 11am-7pm
- Grand Central Station: Mon-Fri: 8:30am-9pm, Sat: 9am-9pm, Sun: 11am-8pm
- Penn Station: Mon-Fri: 8:30am-9pm, Sat: 9am-9pm, Sun: 11am-8pm
- Union Station: Mon-Fri: 8:30am-8pm, Sat: 9am-8pm, Sun: 11am-7pm
- Upper East Side: Mon-Fri: 8am-7pm, Sat: 9am-5pm, Sun: 10am-4pm
If you’re near Madison Square Garden or Penn Station, they’re right around the corner.
|357 7th Ave (Between 29th & 30th Street)||+1 (646) 473-1222|
Mon-Fri 9:30am-7:00pm, Sat 11am-6pm, closed on Sundays.
Alternatively - for an even better deal - use TransferWise. If you have a USD bank account, or know someone who does, you can transfer money between accounts using the real mid-market exchange rate. Use the time you’ve saved comparing tourist rates to get on with enjoying your trip to the Big Apple.