A Look Back at Currency Exchanges

Most of you aren’t old enough to remember when getting on a plane to visit another country was one of the biggest thrills you could imagine. The whole process, from beginning to end, was an experience to be savored and replayed in your mind over and over again.

international currency

Traveling today is no big whoop. It’s as commonplace as getting into your car and driving to the local supermarket. Very little preparation is required and anyone can jump onto a plane at the very last minute if need be. And flying off across the ocean to foreign lands is only a fraction more exciting than turning on a football game taking place in Barcelona.

Years ago, one difficulty that had to be overcome when planning a trip abroad was the exchange of different currencies. You had to go to a local bank, stand on line and hand over your dollars in exchange for the currency of the country you planned to visit. If, by chance, while traveling, you got caught needing more of the foreign currency, it wasn’t such an easy matter to go to the foreign bank and exchange more dollars.

Remember ‘travelers’ checks?’ You had to purchase them at the bank and then you could use them as cash in any foreign country. The reason you bought them was they were safer than cash since you had to sign your name on each check as you used them. This prevented anyone else from cashing them.

The problem was that many small businesses and shops didn’t recognize them and you were left in a situation where you had to run to the bank to ‘cash’ the travelers checks and then dash back to the shop to make your purchase. What a pain!!

Today, these difficulties no longer exist. Credit cards were really the first method of using different currencies with direct exchange rates. When in London, you could use a dollar Visa or MasterCard to buy a product in British Pound Sterling. No problem. Present your card, pay in whatever foreign currency you needed, get charged at the end of the month in dollars. What a breeze.

In fact, as one currency became easier and easier to transfer to another, foreign currency exchanges started popping up and became another financial instrument for investors to use to make additional income. From the comfort of their living rooms and using only a simple desktop computer, investors started making money by trading currency pairs on any of the several currency exchanges available around the world. And in fact, Forex trading (short for foreign currency exchanges) has become more popular than equity trading because unlike most stock markets, Forex can be done almost 24/7.

Today, $5 trillion in Forex trading takes place on a daily basis and in terms of volume of trading, it is the largest market in the world. It is a continuous market and traders have access to it 24 hours a day except weekends. Trading can be done from 22:00 GMT on Sunday (Asia time) until 22:00 GMT Friday (New York time).

There are dozens of Forex brokers to choose from and each offers its own unique features and services. When starting out in Forex trading, traders should compare several brokers before settling on any one of them. There are even online sites that do the comparison for you by listing the many brokers and their outstanding features and products. This can be very helpful for the novice trader.

Yes, times have certainly changed and exchanging funds when traveling—or when not—is simply a matter of a few clicks on the keyboard. In fact, even traveling to foreign countries can be done without moving away from your computer screen. Fancy a tour of Buckingham Palace? Sit tight and enjoy the ride.