As with every city and country in the world, when you arrive at the airport you are most vulnerable due to the fact that numerous travelers will carry lots cash on them to spend on their trip so care is always suggested to travelers visiting and leaving New York.
For the most part, you may be using a debit or credit card to purchase big ticket items in New York but there will be times that you may not be able to use your cards (for example when buying a delicious hot dog from a street vendor) and will need to pay via cash. Over time, street vendors will accept debit and credit cards using their smartphone so travelers can travel with little or no cash.
Members of our New York Forum has found out that when they wait until the last minute and change their currency at the airport, they were given terrible rates and felt as if they had a gun to their heads. With their backs to the wall, they caved in to the deals given at JFK, LGA and EWR airport. If possible, change your money on the “black market” before you leave to or from New York but be very cautious of counterfeits.
New York has Travelex Worldwide Money and American Express locations across the city. Before going, it is recommended that you call ahead to verify that they are open. While verifying the hours, you should also confirm directions from your hotel or point of origin along with rates which may or may not include commission fees.
For additional options to get the best rates, you may also look into local banks. You will want to find a local bank that offers credit cards (not just debit/check cards) to their customers. In the USA, Bank of America and Chase are such banks that provides currency exchange.
Need to break a dollar? The easiest why to do this is to find a laundromat with a change machine. Since there are no fees to use the machines, this is the best and cheapest way to go. Other places are Video Arcades but may not allow minors during the day time as minors are supposed to be in school in the day time unless it is a holiday or closed due to inclement weather. Grocery stores are another option but they may require you to purchase an item from the store. If the cashier believes you are making a purchase just to get change, they may refuse the sale if you are buying a small cost item with large bills.
Do you want to have an idea of the rate you are supposed to get or need to know how much your hotel, taxi or other services will cost? Fortunately, XE.com and similar currency calculator exchange sites will help you in calculating from USD (United States Dollars) to any other currency.
The Two Dollar Bill
On rare ocassion, you may encounter a US $2.00 bill in New York. This is actually legal tender and can be used anywhere. You may actually want to keep it as a souvenir as these are not much in circulation. The bills are more found however at strip clubs. Why strip clubs? Well, the clubs will hand out the US $2.00 bill as change instead of singles (or US$1.00) to increase the amount money given to their dancers. However, singles will be given out when they are specifically asked for from the club.
If you see a US$200 bill on the black market, head for the hills. It is fake and not worth the paper its printed on. You may be offered these to make your wallet thinner/lighter and that exactly what will happen. Also, when you try to use the bill yourself you will be embarrassed when the vendor calls the police on you and to take you away for possession and distribution so be warned. On top of this, it can hinder your chances of obtaining a travel visa for stay in the USA.
For under US$25.00, you can invest in a special pen that test currency by drawing a line on the bill. When marked it will change color. If the mark is yellow, the bill is correct and if the mark turns dark the bill is suspect. On better pens, the mark will fade away so you won’t have illegally marked your currency.
If you do not have a pen or marker handy, here are some alternate methods.
-Check for security features by holding the bill at an angle
-Check to see if the ink is bleeding
-Check for smudges on the bill
-Check for duplicate serial numbers on multiple bills
-Check for unmatched numbers on the same bills
Join us in our New York Forum if you have any comments or questions.