If you’ve ever returned from a trip and wondered, “Can I deposit foreign currency into my bank account, the answer is yes, but there’s a big “but.” U.S. banks typically don’t allow customers to deposit foreign currency directly into a personal checking or savings account. Instead, you’ll likely have to convert the money back to U.S. dollars first, then make the deposit. And there may be a few steps — and costs — involved in that process.
Let’s take a look at the five steps involved in depositing foreign currency to a bank account as well as your alternatives.
How to Deposit Foreign Currency into a Bank Account
If your pockets are jingling with foreign currency and you want to deposit it into your bank, you’ll have to exchange it into U.S. dollars first. If you live in a major city or have an account at a larger bank, you may not have too much trouble accomplishing this. If not, you might have to shop around a bit for another bank or business that can help. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
1. Check with Your Bank First
It may save time if you contact your own bank or credit union (or look on its website) to see if it offers foreign currency exchange services. Many financial institutions require that you have a checking, savings, or money market account with them in order to do an exchange. This could wind up being a win-win for you.
If they do offer to exchange foreign currency, you may want to schedule an appointment to make the exchange — even if you’re a regular at your local branch — instead of just going in and heading to the nearest teller. That way, you can be sure the bank staff is ready for the transaction, that it can take the currency you’re carrying, and that a knowledgeable person will be on hand to assist you and answer your questions. You can call your branch, or you may be able to make the appointment online or on the bank’s mobile app.
2. Find a Bank to Convert Foreign Currency to U.S. Dollars
If your bank can’t do the exchange, another financial institution may be willing to work with you. But again, you might save on time and frustration if you check in advance and are clear about the type of currency you have, how much you have, and whether you have to have an account with that financial institution. This will save you time and energy versus just strolling into local bricks and mortar banks.
3. Sell Foreign Currency to Buyer of Choice
Whether it’s your local branch bank, your bank’s larger main office, or a different bank than you usually use, you’ll likely have to do the transaction in person. It’s a good idea to come prepared with a current photo ID and some understanding of what will happen when you get there. Here are a few things to be aware of:
• The bank may have a required minimum value — $20 in U.S. dollars, for example — for the currency you hope to exchange. If you don’t have that much leftover currency to exchange, you might decide to just keep what you have as a souvenir, save it for another trip, or give it to a friend or family member who plans to travel abroad.
• The bank may only be able to exchange commonly requested foreign currencies. If you have Canadian dollars, Euros, or Mexican pesos, for example, things should go smoothly. But if you come in with paper money you picked up a bit off the tourist-beaten path, you may be out of luck. Checking in advance about services offered can be a very good idea before you head to a location.
4. Learn the Official Exchange Rate
Before you went on your trip, you probably had to figure out how much of the country’s currency you needed and how much getting that money would cost you in U.S. dollars. (Or perhaps your banker or travel agent did the math for you.)
That amount was calculated using the current exchange rate (the basic cost to exchange one country’s currency for another), plus whatever the bank charged you to convert your dollars prior to your trip.
The process is the same when you return and want to convert back to U.S. dollars. The amount of money you’ll get when you hand over your leftover currency (Euros, yen, pounds, francs, etc.) will be based on the current rate of exchange for that currency, plus the bank’s markup.
It’s important to note that exchange rates fluctuate frequently, based on what’s happening in foreign currency markets. It’s probably that the exchange rate when you get home from your trip may not be the same as when you were preparing to travel.
You can check the exchange rate online at sites like Google Finance, Xe, and Oanda. Just keep in mind that wherever you end up exchanging your currency, a fee will likely be added.
The bank also may charge a transaction fee that’s based on how much currency you’re converting. This could be on top of the fee that’s already figured into the exchange rate.
5. Deposit the Money in Your Bank Account
Can you deposit foreign currency directly into your account? No. But once you’ve exchanged your foreign currency to U.S. dollars, go right ahead! You can deposit the money into your bank account — or do anything with it you like.
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What Banks Will Not Accept
While you may want to exchange and deposit all of your foreign currency after you travel, be prepared to hear a couple of “sorry, but no” responses. Specifically, banks generally won’t accept any foreign coins. They also won’t exchange old foreign currency that isn’t in use anymore (so if you were hoarding some French francs or Italian lira, you are out of luck unfortunately). And if the bills you have are in bad condition, you may have trouble exchanging them.
Other Places to Exchange Foreign Currency
If you can’t find a bank that can exchange your leftover foreign currency, you may have a few other options, depending on where you live. It can take a bit of research and/or legwork, but if you have more than a few dollars left from your travels, it can be well worth it.
Some possibilities include:
• You can try a large hotel. If you live near a hotel that’s popular with international visitors, you may be able to sell your currency there. There could be an exchange desk or the front desk could prove helpful.
• Your travel agency may be able to help. If you worked with a travel agent, see if they might be willing to exchange your foreign currency back to U.S. dollars. Or your agency may have suggestions for where you can go to have the currency converted.
• You can exchange money at an airport kiosk. If you’re flying into an international airport, you can convert your remaining foreign currency at a booth that sells this service. But customers typically pay a higher markup for this easy access, so you might want to weigh the cost vs. the convenience.
• You can look for a nearby currency exchange storefront. One way to find local businesses that might exchange your foreign currency is to simply do an online search of the term “currency exchanges near me.” Once you get a list and/or map of local exchanges, you can check out their websites or contact them to see if they will convert your money, what they’re charging, and if they’re licensed. Remember, the markup will be higher at some locations than others, so you may be able to save money by doing a little research.
In the future, if you want to avoid the inconvenience and cost of coming home with foreign currency, you could go old-school with traveler’s checks. But they can be more difficult to get and use than in the past — and they also may come with a cost.
If you come home from a trip (welcome back, btw) with leftover foreign currency, don’t expect to deposit that money directly into your bank account. You’ll likely have to exchange those foreign funds to U.S. dollars first, then make the deposit.
A local bank or credit union may be willing to convert your foreign currency if you have an account there. But if not, you’ll likely have to do some research to find the most convenient and affordable alternative for making the exchange.
All this talk about fees leads us to an option: Consider opening a SoFi Checking and Savings account, and start banking better. Open an account with direct deposit, and you will have access to any of the fee-free 55,000+ ATMs in the worldwide Allpoint Network when you travel. But the benefits don’t end there: SoFi Checking and Savings currently offers a competitive APY, and you won’t pay account fees.
Can you deposit foreign currency into an ATM?
Probably not. ATMs generally accept only one type of currency. Instead of using an ATM, you likely will have to go in person to your local branch bank to exchange foreign currency, then deposit it into your checking, savings, or money market account. Or you may need to seek out another location to complete your currency exchange.
Can I receive money from abroad into my bank account?
Yes, you can use an international money transfer service to send money from abroad directly into your bank account. The process may differ depending on the service provider you choose to send the funds, but you should be prepared with some key bits of information. You’ll need to provide your full bank account number, your full name (as it appears on your account), the bank’s address for incoming wire transfers, and a Swift Code that identifies your bank. The fees involved will vary. And, again, the exchange rate will apply as your foreign currency will be converted into U.S. dollars before the funds are credited to your account.
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