The euro-dollar exchange rate gives a sharp discount for Americans

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Americans traveling to Europe can do it a little cheaper than in recent years.

The US dollar is trading at its highest level in about two decades against the euro, meaning travelers can buy more from abroad.

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This means that Americans actually receive discounts on hotels, car rentals, tours and other goods and services denominated in euros. And it’s not just the euro – the value of the dollar is now the highest in recent years against many other foreign currencies, according to travel experts.

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No one knows how long the good times will last. Some may wonder: Should I act now to lock in a favorable exchange rate?

“Now I’m going to pull the trigger.” – Aiden Freeborn, senior editor of the travel site. Broken Touristtold CNBC.

“You can play it safe and wait until things improve, but that could backfire,” he added. “Don’t be too greedy; accept the fact that this is a very strong position.”

Here’s what you need to know and how to benefit.

Americans get a 16% discount

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How many discounts are travelers getting right now? Let’s look at euro for example.

Euro is the official currency for 19 out of 27 Members of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

The euro has been depreciating against the US dollar for over a year now. It reached parity with the US dollar on July 13 – for the first time since 2002 – meaning the two currencies had a 1:1 exchange rate.

Since then, the euro has fallen further. At the close of the market on Monday, one US dollar could buy almost 1.01 euros. Americans are getting a discount of about 16% over last year.

“The exchange rate is ridiculous right now,” said Charlie Leocha, chairman of the advocacy group Travelers United. “It does everything in Europe that used to be expensive, not so expensive.”

But the strength of the dollar is wider than just the euro.

For example, Nominal Broad US Dollar Index measures the appreciation of the dollar against the currencies of major US trading partners such as the Canadian dollar, British pound, Mexican peso and Japanese yen in addition to the euro. Over the past year, it has grown by more than 8%.

In addition, since July the index has hovered near its highest reading dating back to at least 1973, according to Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics. There is one exception: the period from March to May 2020, when international travel was practically unavailable due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I think overall now is the right time to travel overseas,” Hunter said. “Basically, now is a good time to buy foreign currency.”

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“Further gains in the dollar, if it materializes, are still likely to be relatively small compared to the gains we have already seen,” Hunter said. “But there may be a little more room for the dollar to strengthen further now than we previously thought.”

Of course, currency movements are notoriously difficult to predict, he said.

The European Central Bank also raised interest rates in July for the first time in 11 years. So far, this does not appear to have affected the strength of the US dollar against the euro, according to Freeborn.

“But it signals that the ECB is now taking action,” he said. “So it may only be a matter of time before the euro starts rising against the dollar – so now is the time to travel.”

Pay in advance to lock in low exchange rates

Of course, that’s not all to say that Americans are sure to reap financial rewards all over the world.

But tourists planning or considering a trip to a country where the dollar is historically strong can lock in that favorable exchange rate by booking a hotel, car rental or other service today instead of postponing spending, travel experts say.

This is especially helpful for those who have a trip of at least three months in advance, Leoch says.

“You can pay up front and sometimes you get a discount for paying up front – so you get a discount and a low exchange rate,” he said.

Please be aware that in some cases you may be charged an additional international transaction fee when purchasing with a credit card from abroad. Some passes don’t include these fees, which are typically 3% of the purchase price, Leoch said.

The fees may depend on where the company you are dealing with is located. There are no foreign transaction fees if the purchase is made through a third-party U.S. entity such as Expedia, Leoch says, but it is often charged if it is booked directly through a foreign entity, such as a real hotel.

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