Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser Disclosure

Guide to buying foreign currency

If you need to buy currency in the form of cash, there are several options to explore.



CurrencyFair logo
  • First ten transfers free when you sign up through Finder
  • Find the best rate on the CurrencyFair marketplace
  • App available for both Apple and Android users
Go to site

There are many providers that allow you to buy and sell foreign currency electronically. However, sometimes you need foreign currency in the form of cash. You may simply prefer to have cash for an upcoming holiday, or you may need to make an international purchase with a merchant that only accepts cash.

Whatever the reason, here’s what you need to know about buying foreign currency as cash.

How does buying currency work?

Buy foreign currency through your local bank, though you may not receive the most competitive exchange rate. Specialist currency exchange providers with storefronts allow you to go in and physically buy cash in the same way that you would make any other purchase. You tell them how much of a particular foreign currency you need and they will tell you how much it will cost you in US dollars.

The price in US dollars will depend on the exchange rate the provider offers, so shop around to ensure you’re getting the best deal. These exchange rates change daily, so do a comparison on the day that you’re planning to buy the currency. Also check what transaction fees the provider charges since this will affect the price you pay.

As these providers are selling physical cash, they don’t have an endless supply and can run out of a particular currency later in the day. If you’re buying a large amount of a particular currency, for example £10,000 GBP, it’s best to call the provider a few days in advance to ensure that they will have the cash available for you to purchase. The same applies for currencies that are less commonly purchased.

Compare international money transfers: Get the best rates and fees when sending money abroad

How do I buy currency online?

If you’re unable to get to a provider’s physical store to buy the currency or if you live in a regional location with no currency exchange providers, purchase the cash online and have it delivered to you. You might find that there are better exchange rates if you purchase online, although you will usually have to pay a delivery or courier fee. Alternatively, order and pay for the currency online and pick it up in-store or at an airport at your convenience.

To buy currency online, head to the provider’s website and create an account with your personal details. You’ll need to select the currency that you wish to buy and the amount that you need to see the price in US dollars. Again, this will depend on the exchange rate for that day as well as any transaction fees or commissions the provider charges.

Once this is set up and if you’re happy with the price, purchase the currency using your credit or debit card. You may be charged an additional fee for credit card payments.

The currency should be available for pickup or it’ll be delivered to you after a couple of business days. You might be able to opt for same-day delivery if you need the currency urgently. But like anything that’s express-posted, it’ll cost you more.

What ID do I need to provide to purchase foreign currency?

Currency providers will need to confirm your identity before you can buy any currency, meaning you will need to provide a photo ID to purchase cash either online or in-store. A valid form of ID should be government-issued, like your driver’s license or passport. Your ID will need to include your photo, your full name, your date of birth, your residential address and the issue and expiry date.

Tips for buying currency

  • Compare providers on the day that you wish to purchase the currency as exchange rates change daily.
  • Call ahead if you’re planning to buy a large amount of cash or a less commonly purchased currency to check that they have the cash available.
  • Consider your own bank for less common currencies, such as the South African rand, since these may not be available at many currency exchange providers.
  • Check what transaction fees and commissions the provider charges, or look for a provider that doesn’t charge any fees.
  • Steer clear of buying cash at the airport, as the exchange rates are often poor and the transaction fees are high.
  • If you’re traveling with over $10,000, you are required by law to declare it.

How do I compare my options?

When comparing your options, look at the offered exchange rates, transaction fees and commissions the provider charges.

You may be interested in

Dunbridge Financial international money transfers review

Dunbridge Financial international money transfers review

Sign up for an account and pay no fees to send quick and easy money transfers to multiple beneficiaries.

Read more…
Sigue international money transfers review

Sigue international money transfers review

Sigue offers speedy money transfers to 50+ countries, but you have to set up a transfer to see the transaction fees.

Read more…
Boss Revolution money transfer review

Boss Revolution money transfer review

Join Boss Revolution with an email address and phone number, and send money within minutes.

Read more…
Remittances weakened by a struggling US dollar

Remittances weakened by a struggling US dollar

Understanding your money sending options can help you send the most money abroad while the dollar struggles.

Read more…
Usend review

Usend review

Usend combines money transfers, bill pay and mobile phone reloading.

Read more…
Paysend review

Paysend review

Paysend offers transfers to more than 70 countries through its app and online service.

Read more…

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site