Currency Converters

Oct 7, 2011

As many know I love to travel and this year I’m heading to Nicaragua. I want to make sure I have a good currency converter in my pocket and not one that costs a lot of money. So what do I mean by good? Here’s the criteria:
1- must be able to find the currency you’re looking for easily. This is a no brainer isn’t it? You’d think!
2- must save information so it works when you’re not connected. Sure the information will be a bit old but at least you’ll have a clue. It’s not like most money changers have free wifi and most of us don’t have the cash to use a foreign data plan.
3- visually simple. Whatever is on the screen it needs to be easy for me to see what I’m looking for.
So here’s the converters I’ve checked out. To save you a bit of time the winner? It’s a toss between XE Currency and Currency (by Jeffrey Grossman).

XE Currency

I used this app while travelling in Baja Mexico just to see if I was getting ripped off (usually not!) It gives you the quick and dirty currency exchange information you’re looking for, allowing you to get quick information and possibly bargain for a better exchange rate. The only trouble I had with this app is that it (obviously) doesn’t update without a wifi connection so best check it while you’re at the coffee shop and not when you’re at a booth trying to make an exchange.



There are tons of currency converters out there and you’ll have to decide which one is best for you. My requirements are as follows: Ability to show somewhat obscure currency. I travel to weird places, I need to know what the exchange rate is for slightly off the beaten path locations. Ability to log the last rate and tell me how old it is. How many travelers only want to convert currency when connected to wireless or data? Yeah, again, if you’re ever travelling to an out of the way place you may not have data (expensive if available) and likely don’t have wifi (money changers are usually not hotspots) so having the last known price is absolutely imperative. Needs to be obvious to use. If I have to poke around to figure out how to use the app I’m annoyed. It’s not a particularly difficult subject to make easy to use. This app mostly wins on all fronts though changing the amount you want to convert wasn’t obvious to me at first. That said, it’s a clean and easy to read layout which is helpful for tired eyes trying to do math and speak a foreign language so that’s also a win. This is definitely one of my top two converter apps.


Currency Banknotes

There’s an app for that may be the big slogan around the iPhone but the reality is that there are many apps for that. Certainly when it comes to currency conversion there are plenty of apps for that and each one tries to do something specific the best. This app is no exception. As you can read from the app description this app is very proud of showing you the currency of any country it has available. Want to know what a Nicaraguan Cordoba looks like? This is indeed the app for that. So what’s not to like? In my past when travelling I was often not around a wifi connection. Most likely if you’re in a foreign country you’re also not using a data plan. This means that you get updates when you find a place with wifi. This also means that apps that require connection to work won’t. This is just that app. But how could it possibly work without a connection you ask? The app I used in Mexico would update when you found a wireless connection and from there it would store the information you searched for and tell you when it had been updated last. Sure this means you have 2 day old information but that’s likely a lot better than no information. Sadly that’s what this app gives you if you don’t have a wireless connection. It will not pull up saved data because it doesn’t save data. Frankly with this limitation in mind I will not be travelling with this app. It really seems more like something a person would use to explore currencies around the planet than something you’d use while travelling.

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Currency Convert

At first I didn’t think this app had the Nicaraguan Cordoba. It does but unlike every other country it’s filed under Cordoba oro rather than the country name. Sigh. Fail #1 and frankly lucky I kept poking and didn’t just delete the app right then. Then I tried the obvious “airline mode” test. Any converter worth anything will save your last updated information so you can see the conversion rate offline. After all, many countries don’t have wifi everywhere (heck, the US doesn’t!) and certainly most money changes aren’t wifi hot spots. You may have guessed where I’m going with this…. to Fail land. The app doesn’t save your last conversion rather so when you try to use it offline it’s useless. Lame. Finally, it only shows one conversion at a time meaning I can’t watch the price of the Euro with longing when I do my Nicaraguan Cordoba to US Dollar conversions. Sorry app but without offline functionality you’re worthless to me.


Currency Converter

This app is clearly not the best converter out there. Why? Because it fails at least two of my currency converter tests. First, it must save the last conversion rate so it works offline. Sure, that means it’s not the most current rate but it’s better than nothing and any app I’ve seen that works offline will tell you how long ago it updated. If it’s 30 minutes you’re probably fine. Last month, not so much but then that’s your fault for not checking at a wifi spot or while you had data. This app does not work offline which means either you’re travelling in a foreign country and paying for data (hey I have this great bridge for you to buy…) or you’re only exchanging money around a wifi hot spot. You’re likely not traveling to off the beaten path locations. Sorry app developers but not being able to use a currency converter offline is silly. Second the app isn’t easy to understand. It gives you a bunch of choices for rates but doesn’t really explain what they all mean. When you look at the information it states that you sell and buy at different rates (yeah, I get that) but then why are there 11 choices including things like 10% Interbank Rate? I know there are money geeks out there that understand this and that’s great. For me I want a basic rate or at least explain my 11 choices better mkay? Skip this one and get an app that works offline.

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