From the moment you step off the plane in the Bali airport to every street corner in the cities, you will see signs for currency exchange rates. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been to an Asian city with so many money changers per city block.
But are they really giving you the best possible exchange rate? Or is the reason there are so many of these in Bali is because it is a very profitable business where they are taking advantage of tourists.
The reality is, the latter is true. Money changing is a profitable business where only the business wins. Not the individual customer. Even if the exchange rates look too good to be true, they often are.
One of the most common scams in Bali is where the money changers do not give you the correct amount they owe. Instead of giving you a note for 100,000 Rp, they will try to give you a 10,000 Rp note. Then if you touch the money before calling them on this, they will pretend ignorance and blame YOU for trying to cheat them.
*Be very watchful when you use the money changers in Bali!
So how do you get the BEST currency exchange rates in Bali without getting scammed?
Use the ATM machine
If you want the best possible rates, you want to use your credit card to withdraw cash. Because when you use your credit card, you will get the exchange rate that Visa or Mastercard gets.
If you use your debit card, you will get the exchange rate from your bank, which can be as much as 4% less that the Visa / Mastercard rate. (Which is often better than the money changes.)
Note: When you withdraw using your credit card, this will be considered a “cash advance” and the interest fees will start that day (not after 30 days like a purchase.)
So be sure to pay off your credit card the next day after doing an ATM withdrawal.
Also Note: Yes, when you withdraw using an ATM there will be a small fee associated with it. Usually around 2 dollars. However, if you pull out more than the equivalent of 100usd, you will easily make that money back by getting the best exchange rate possible.
Or if you are like me, I always withdraw the maximum allowed for my credit card which is 500usd. Then you really come out ahead. But in Bali, move of the ATM machines have a limit of 2.5 million Rp, which in around 210usd.
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If you have some spare cash, using a money changer isn’t the worst thing in the world to do. But I’d recommend stopping by the ATM machine as soon as possible. For me, that is always my first stop in the airport after baggage claim.