“I thought I was getting a real bargain but then I realized I paid $100, not $10.” Oops. Has this ever happened to you? Or have you ever called home thinking it was a civilized 10 am, only to hear a groggy voice answering the phone at 5 am? When traveling through many different countries keeping track of time zones, currency, temperature and other measures can be a challenge. Many websites offer conversion services free of charge but there are a few that stand out due to their ease of use and customization tools.
XE isn’t the catchiest name, but does provide a well-designed site offering basic currency conversion in a simple format, as well as other sophisticated foreign exchange tools. Just enter the amount, choose the currency to be converted “from” and “to”, using a comprehensive drop down menu in the Universal Currency Converter, and the computation is presented. The currency can be selected from the drop down box by beginning to type in a variety of terms, all of which will narrow the options, including the country, currency abbreviation, and name of the currency. For example, typing the first few letters of Indonesia, rupiah and IDR all narrowed the search to the Indonesian rupiah. Typing in any of the following terms pulled up the American dollar: America, State, United States, US, Dollar. It’s is this type of detail that makes this site easy to use.
Other tools from XE include rate tables and currency charts, where foreign currency exchange rates can be tracked over various time periods—a valuable tool in these volatile times. For the business traveler the Travel Expenses Calculator is worthwhile due to the inclusion of “hidden fees” charged by credit cards, debit cards and foreign exchange providers, which, if not included, could lead to under-claiming travel expenses on expense reports.
XE offers currency exchange applications for most major cell phone providers, including iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows.
A tool that XE does not offer that would be handy is a customizable chart for a limited number of currencies that a traveler could set up for a specific trip. For example, if 10 or 20 currencies could be listed in a personal table, travelers to Europe or South East Asia could set up a chart of all the currencies they might encounter in one trip.
Yahoo Finance has a stripped down currency converter and while they don’t offer the range of tools and services of XE, they do have one good feature that is absent in the XE site. They offer a printable, wallet sized Pocket Guide that lists the currency conversions for ten different denominations between two currencies, in both directions. This is very handy for quick calculations, especially when bartering for goods in countries with currencies with many zeros (IDR 9,000 = US $1) as it is very easy to get confused and end up paying $10 instead of ten cents for an apple.
Having access to easy to use currency conversion tools while on the road smooths the way for hassle free transactions. It’s worth the time spent upfront to download apps to mobile devices, bookmark websites on the internet or create a paper pocket guide, depending on personal styles and preferences.
See related article: Time zone and other conversions for travelers.
XE Financial Tools
Yahoo Finance Currency Converter