Money changers in Bali
What's the deal with pristine $100 bills? Is this true and necessary? And how much different is the exchange rate at one of those airport deals compared to on arrival in Bali?
It's true. Not even a crease. I've had $100 bills in pristine condition rejected because the series letter (in the string of numbers in the upper right corner) was a K and not an L (I think that was the two letters involved). If you ask your bank in advance, they can give you a stack of brand spanking new bills. You will pay a premium at the bank. Also consider using the ATM.
I've stood at the bank counter and gone through stacks with the teller in order to get perfect 100's. Creases are less of a problem than marks, any marks. No highlighters, pen marks of any kind. Even a dot.
I don't remember the rate difference. It wasn't crazy bad. What was crazy bad was the rate difference for a $20 bill.
Do not bring 1996 or series #CB.
Do not change at the airport unless you have to. Just walk up and down the street wherever you are staying.
On our trips to Asia, we do not bring a lot of US cash. Instead, we use the ATM's (they are pretty much everywhere tourists might visit, except perhaps very small towns) and withdraw Rupiah. You typically will pay less when paying Rupiah instead of dollars.
We settle live aboard expenses with credit card, and use Rupiah for crew tips. We have heard that if you charge the tips to your credit card, the crew often never gets them.
FYI, there is an ATM in the arrivals area of the airport at Denpasar. Better exchange rate than the moneychangers there. Just beware that you will need to take out cash in increments, due to high number of rupiah to dollar. Big wads of cash ;^)
There is some info about travel in Bali/Indo from our Bigass Group Trip Report from several years ago. You might find it helpful in planning your trip:
Ditto on what Judy said. We use ATM's for most of our cash needs and a credit card for other purchases. Do be aware that most US credit cards will charge you a 3% foreign transaction fee for every charge, which can really add up. We use a Capitol One card for our foreign travel specifically because they do NOT charge a transaction fee. It's also a good idea to call your credit card company to alert them that you will be traveling out of the country so they don't put a hold on your card due to "suspicious activity". You are going to love the diving in Indonesia!
When I was in Jakarta in March, for fun I tried an experiment. Within one 12 hour period I paid for three IDR transactions using
1. Rupiah from an Indonesian ATM (withdrawn with a card which charged no foreign ATM fees or transaction charges - not the most common case)
2. a Visa Infinite card (at an international hotel which did not charge the usual 3% Indonesia surcharge for paying by credit card) and
3. cash I had converted to IDR at the Jakarta airport money changers (from $100s)
Which one offered the best rate? The Jakarta airport money changers - by about 2%. The Visa and ATM rates were almost equal. That would not have been my prediction. If you are paying transaction fees, foreign ATM charges and/or the customary 3% surcharge to pay by credit card (ubiquitous, including when you have to pay overweight luggage charges at Indo airports), you'd be looking at a 4.5% difference minimum. Personally I like the convenience of cash, since I've usually also paid the largest bills (liveaboards, domestic flights, dive/hotel packages) by wire transfer in advance.
A tip on ATMs: look for those with "100,000 Rp" stickers on them. Not only do they dispense ~$10 bills instead of ~$5s (imagine carrying $250 in 5s), but they also have higher limits. 100,000 Rp machines will dispense up to 2,500,000 Rp. ATMs with "50,000 Rp" stickers will only dispense 1,250,000 Rp per transaction.
I would use whatever payment method you find easiest - you're on vacation after all!
Very helpful information!
Two notes about the Bali moneychangers: If the rate looks too good to be true, there's probably a catch. And ALWAYS RECOUNT YOUR MONEY BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Either they'll add a surcharge to the entire exchange (which is fine, and sometimes your exchange is still a good deal so you come out ahead), or they'll try a bit of funny business.
A couple years ago I went into one of the Sanur moneychangers offering an amazing rate. The guy exchanged for me, counting out the money on the counter in front of me. A friend of his walked in and started talking to us as he counted this out. When I got home and divided up the money I noticed about Rp. 100,000 were missing. I suspected funny business, so went back a couple days later to exchange in the same place.
This time I kept an eye out, and I caught them red-handed. What happened is this: The guy exchanged money for me and I recounted. When I found that Rp. 150,000 was missing, he blustered around a bit and added the money to the pile, then started a recount again himself. Before he started, he creased/folded the entire pile lengthwise, as as he was counting (and his friend came in again to distract me) the changer let a few bills slide down the stack behind the counter. If I wasn't watching for it I wouldn't have noticed. When I caught him he laughed it off, but I took my USD back and left (of course). I chatted with friends of mine who live there and say this is a common trick they use to cheat tourists, many of whom are not used to the stacks and stacks of money you get because of the nature of the rupiah.
Since then I've always recounted my money before I leave any exchange place, whatever the country.
Do you think they cheat the locals too? Any way to not look like a tourist?
No & not likely.
Originally Posted by TheHawk2002