Sep 24

Any given Money Changer in Seminyak, Bali

I usually don’t use Money Changers at all. Other than the ones at Singapore’s Changi Airport or big, official Banks with receipts and all I just don’t trust them. It’s what you read and hear, that most of the time people get cheated or aren’t paid the agreed rates or simply have less money at the end, then what they bargained for. The next episode only confirmed those worries:

Over the last 3 weeks we had some visitors from Germany and Singapore. Driving around the Island it became almost inevitable that someone had to change their cash EURO oder Singapore Dollar into the local currency Rupiah.

What is the obvious institution that comes to mind? Right, a Money Changer!

There is an abundance of Money Changers in Kuta, Legian or Seminyak along the main tourist routes, like Jalan Dhyana Pura, Jalan Legian or Jalan Raya Seminyak. Piece of cake you might say. They announce their rates on billboard signs (see left) standing by their shops. On the above mentioned roads you can see them every few metres.

So what problem should arise? Count your Cash, do the math, hand the bills over and count the Cash you get in return? Unfortunately, not here in Bali.

3 out of 3 Money Changers we tried to exchange Money tried to cheat us. With pretty obvious tricks though:

  • First, they almost always come in a pair of 2 guys, who run a Money Changer shop. So one is always trying to keep you busy, by asking questions like “Where you from?”, “What you do?”, “Where you stay in Bali?” and other standard chit-chat.
  • The other one will quote you a rate, sometimes already an other, than advertised. They type you the local sum into a calculator, which could be rigged too, although we didn’t have that problem yet. If you didn’t walk out by now already, you are ready for the main show
  • After handing over your 50 Euro, 75 USD, 100 SGD or whatever other currency, they will count the local agreed equivalent right in front of your eyes. It matches perfectly the agreed sum. Now it’s your turn. You count and everything is fine usually. Hold the notes tight – because now he wants to count them again! Don’t let him!
  • They mainly try to hold it close to their belly so notes can easily be slid out and fall under the high desk on which both sides the 2 of you are standing. All while the other guy is pumping up his ‘chit-chat’ attack, maybe even touching your arm, showing you something he want to sell or jumping around next to you, so you can’t but look at him from time to time.
  • Very quickly you have the double-counted money back. Deal done? No. You can bet that you have much less than the agreed sum, especially, if you changed for than just a few dollars or if the sum is pretty uneven
  • When you insist to count the money in front of their eyes again, they will begin to make some ‘tohuwabou’ or telling you, that *you* want to cheat *them*. You might say “Excuse me? I just want to count my money again.” and that’s basically it.
  • They will grab the money away from you and will quote you another (much lower) rate, say that you have to pay a 5% (!) commission or that they have to ask their boss, if you are allowed to change money with them. Their money is withdrawn.
  • You can walk out now! ;-)

The trouble with those guys is, that their offer is too good to be true. Their motto is “I give you a good rate, if you let me cheat you!”, but a bad rate if you want a fair deal. They all announce ‘No Commission’, ‘No Tricks’, ‘No Cheating’, (see picture above) but on the contrary, it’s basically all you get. My visitors were surprised that after 3 trials, the outcome was always the same. Us leaving the shop and the Money Changer shouting and swearing after us, that we tried to cheat *them*! That’s no fun.

I wonder, if anyone is still doing business with them?

We found only one better example in Jalan Kunti, at the corner Jalan Sunset Road, close to ‘Chat Cafe’, which had a different setup. One guy is sitting behind a glass wall with only a small opening and you will even get a receipt! Of course the rate is lower and even very different from the announced Standard Interbank Rate, you can see daily in newspapers, CNN or on the internet. The difference is between 3-5%; that way they really don’t have to charge a commission on your amount.

If you really still want to use a Money Changer, here is what you should do:

  • use them only, if absolutely necessary
  • change small amounts only
  • use extra precautions, like walking in with a friend who can keep the 2nd guy busy and watch the counting process for dirty tricks
  • count, count, count!
  • don’t give the money out of your hands again, after you counted it and the returned amount was correct

My tip: Avoid Money Changers altogether. It’s your hard earned money – not theirs!

Better: Use your Banking Card at an ATM of a well-respected Bank instead. There are plenty in Bali (BCA, BNI, BII, Citi, Bank Negara, Permata and others) and elsewhere. This way, you will most of the time still pay a fee for every exchange, but you will likely get the Standard Interbank Rate of the day and therefore more ‘Bang for the Buck’. The other advantage is, that you don’t have to bring larger amounts of hard currency with you, which might get lost along the way. If you have a Bank Card of a partnering bank (DBS->BII, HSBC->BCA), the fee you have to pay is usually lower or even completely waived.



Need a comparison of the Pros and Cons of Money Changers and ATMs? Click here:

How to obtain local currency when traveling abroad

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written by Chris

24 Responses to “Never Trust A Money Changer…”

  1. kslyeNo Gravatar MALAYSIA Says:

    You know what? This is absolutely true! I experienced the same trick last year when I was in Kuta, Bali with my wife. But I have heard of the tricks before, so while the money changer guy was trying to ‘take back and recount again’, I quickly snatched the money and walked off…

    The dudes were pissed…Haha..

    Another scam is the Jimbaran seafood scam. They have this large shell seafood (looks like the scallops’ shell) which when they present it to the table, they switched the meat with this tiny shellfish meat (called lala in Malaysia). The bill? They charge you for this large shell thingy. I guess, after that they wash and refill/reuse the shells again. Gosh I hate that.

    P.S: Good post..let other travellers know about this.

  2. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    I heard about that one too. Or they charge the fish ‘per gram’, but it’s filled with little ‘weight’ items to make it more heavier. Oha! ;-)

  3. AndrewNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    Even though its not alot of money I hate being cheated. i would much rather pay more or tip.

    They have a lot of different tricks to distract you while they swipe some money off. Even though small notes are really handy in Bali when they starting pulling out the 10,000 rp or 20,000 rp notes walk away. There are a lot more things to consider but the best tips are
    1. always change in nominations which are easy to calculate i.e. $100.00 that way you can calculate what you get in your head easily.

    2. If a rate is too good to be true .. it is. They all get their money changed at the same rate. If the average rate is say 7,800 rp for A$ 100.00 then someone offering 8,100 rp is not going to deliver. Even if you stop them cheating you, they will cancel the transaction (this happened).

    3. I would suggest using the one place as much as possible (the one closest to your hotel) and leave a tip each time. If you skim of 20,000rp or so and give it to the guy early it he doesn’t ahve too and it takes a lot of stress out of the transaction.

    4. Just becasue a place looks nicer doesn’t mean you can relax. The places on the main street near Matahari’s in Kuta are some of the worst.

    Well I would give more tips but I don’t want to make out like Bbali is a horrible place. As soon as you adjust to the fact you are seen as a bit of a meal ticket you should be fine. Just balance being nice with not being a soft touch.

  4. BoboNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    I’m from Singapore… I guess scams like that are really really common in SEA countries (except here). You would know them better than I do… :)

    Scams like how they’ve promised you a hotel room at a cheap rate then when you arrive they tell you they only have the expensive ones left… or people wearing “official” looking uniforms standing near immigration tell you to pay extra to have visas done immediately (otherwise it would take 3-5 days, etc)…. I guess it’s really important to be smart when travelling to these places.

    Hey going to link ya up in my blog. I enjoyed the way you wrote. :)

  5. brokencodeNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Go to trusted money changer or bank. Get the latest currency exchange over internet. yahoo finance the most recommended.

  6. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Andrew, Bobo and Brokencode – thanks for the additional tips. They are well received and appreciated!

  7. The Unlawyer » The Sweet Science UNITED STATES Says:

    […] Elsewhere, overseas Filipino workers and tourists are often victimized by unscrupulous Philippine money changers, but do you know that this isn’t a uniquely Filipino crime? Friskodude links to a Nomad4ever entry about their counterparts on the Indonesian island of Bali. Ditto too for Pinoy couples worried about peeping Toms intruding into their motel trysts: Jeepers creepers, your love hotel might be crawling with peepers. […]

  8. niruNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    We were in Bali recently. Useful tips. Some more from me:

    1) if you use a debit card from a credit union or cooperative bank, like I did, the ATM fee is waived. even though I used a 7-11 ATM.
    2) change money in the airport, even if the rate is not fabulous, you are safe. Always count, of course.
    3) we changed in a shop where there was only one clerk and changed only about $20 or so.
    4) carry your own small pocket calculator and do your math before anything.

  9. wusNo Gravatar GERMANY Says:

    very useful tips here, hope that the word spreads so widely that these lousy ‘businesses’ go out of business one not too distant day:-)

    You can add to this if you turn the tables and walk out with your money changed at the advertized amount. To do so, take them by their own word – those they advertize. Be very friendly, but determined. Ask them if the rate written on their billboard is correct for today (“please double check, your exchange rate is almost unbelievably good”), and once they confirmed this, continue with asking them if ” no commission, no cheat” is also true.

    Some will show you the door at this point, realizing they won’t be able to cheat you, but others will (of course:-) confirm and still try to rip you off.

    Then, as you also write, once they counted out the notes (in my experience they are not necessarily always only small notes), and you counted them, too, say “thank you, see you next time”, and walk out.

    They will now want to avoid their loss, and find a newer, unfortunately lower exchange rate, but since you first asked them to double check, you have a good argument that this is now their own fault, and you’re not willing to step back. In some instances it may be useful at this point to give some unclear hint which could be interpreted the way that you might otherwise report it to the police, although you defintely shouldn’t say it clearly. Keep smiling at them all the time.

    If they shout and swear after you when you leave, you weren’t cool enough:-)

    I managed to do this once, just to find out if this would work. Of course it wasn’t a big amount, after all I know how poor the guys are. Also, being alone I didn’t want to try my luck too many times.

  10. wusNo Gravatar GERMANY Says:

    To put this in a perspective, I’d like to add that money changers in various European countries offer exhange rates so bad that they could be called rip offs as well – and there’s nothing you can do about it, because it’s all advertized like this. I hate these just as much as the Kuta small time criminals.

  11. Living the Good Life in Bali - a Wrap up after 2 Years | nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

    […] meaning that as a foreigner you are naturally overcharged at almost every day-2-day situation. Cheating Money Changers are best avoided by withdrawing money solely from ATM’s or exchanging notes in directly in […]

  12. Indonesian Rupiah slides further - Expats and Travelers celebrate | nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

    […] Cash with you while traveling in Indonesia, get to an official Bank and exchange them into Rupiah. Avoid Money Changers who publish fantasy […]

  13. visa79No Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    I just got cheated in Bali airport.They had 2.5 times lower change rate than should have. Didnt ask for any receipt. Lost 60 euros…

    And in lonely planet they said you can trust them..yeah right!

  14. robertNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    the bank mandiri in ubud, near the market, gave the best rates…compare but be careful if the rates are high ….atm is much safer and good rates too…

  15. camillaNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    very useful and love it seem like in singapore some cheat some gift me good value,once this happen in money changer in singapore

  16. robertNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    camilla, what happened ? did the money changer cheat you??

  17. KenNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    This is an odd post with odd comments because Bali is the cheapest place I know to change money and money changers are easy to find. The cost is mostly less than 1% from the mid rate and the solutions proposed here are all much more expensive. For example I pay about 2% from an ATM plus a $3.5 fee with a maximum transaction size of about $250. There are some crooked money changers but they are easy to spot because the rates they advertise are impossibly high. If you walk around looking for the highest advertised rate you will get stung every time. I’ve noticed crooked money changers are often in groups as well. It is sad to see what is mostly an excellent service so maligned. Money changers in some places I’ve seen can be 8% from the mid rate.

  18. DeanNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Hi all, I just had the same experience at 3 different places in Seminyak. There is a money changer right opposite the Villa Jodie which played the same tactics as mentioned above. I never thought my poker skills would be so handy on the street ;-). Same scam, 2 guys, one asking me where I was from. I started with a small amount $100 USD, to make it easy for me to calculate in my head. The advertised rate was 9300, which all of them along the street match.

    We settled on 8000 (I know, considerably down, but close enough to the current rate). He counted out the complete amount, then counted out my 100USD again. I said, “yes, fine with that”. Then he picked up the IND again, counted it and dropped a portion behind the counter. I said “Hey, you dropped some, I want a recount. He said no, this is rate, showed me the calculator again with 7250 on it. I said no way, we agreed on 8000. After about another minute of “no no no I didnt, I said give me my money back. Which he did.

    I went back to the Villa and asked reception, is there any respectable money changer in this town. He was rather concerned and asked me if I wanted him to call the police. I said, no bother, just take me to the money changer.

    If you’re in Seminyak and want a decent honest respectable money changer (more like a little bank) go to PT. Mertha Alam Bali @ Oberoi No. 43 Kerobokan. Their number is (0361) 736 754. You feel secure, they give you a sliding scale rate (the higher the note, the higher the conversion) and you get a receipt.

  19. william leowNo Gravatar MALAYSIA Says:

    Me and my family stayed at Febris Hotel IN Kuta (Bali) end of August 2011. As a matter of fact, we just got home yesterday. 2 minutes walk from Febris Hotel (toward right hand side at the main street), there is another hotel called Sun’s Island Hotel (1 to 2 minutes walk from DIscovery mall as well). The money changer is right beside Sun’s island hotel. The rate they offered wais obviously higher than other changers. There were always a few guys squatting in front of it. I never trust any money changers there because i had read quitwe a lot of advices from internet. So, i avoid going to some changers offering higher rate but lead you to a small path behind some shops. So i chose the one at the main street. i requested they gave me big note like rp100000 each, I wanted to change rm600 Malaysia currency but i told them i just wanted to change RM300. That was to test them if they were honest or not. If they were honest, i would go there again and again since it was nearby my hotel. after I gave him my rm300, they were supposed to give my Rp892,500.00 the guy gave me all rp20000 each. i counted carefully and made sure it was correct. after the guy gave me (actually put in front of the table.) RP890,000.00, he asked me if i had small note of RP7500.00 so that he could give me another note of RP10,000.00. I partner who stood beside me and my two sons tried to distract us by explaining something. 3 of us turn our heads to look at him for a few seconds and then one of my sons took Rp7500 from his wallet to them. Then I just got the money in front of the desk and go away. after we went away like 20feet i looked back and saw them smiling and looking at us. i felt strange and and went inside a restaurant to take out my money from my pocket and counted again. OH Man! no matter how many times I count, there were only Rp600,000.00. Almost RP300,000.00 gone! after that i went back there, they closed the shop already. no one there! the next day we passed by their shop again. They opened again, It same like they didnt even remember us. we didnt go there and asked back the money because they were always a a guys of them in front of their shop and doing nothing (perhaps waiting for another one who tried to look for trouble) . 1 nour later when we walked back to our hotel, we saw their shop closed again. Must be somebody became victims! a few hours later, i walked out to buy someting again, we saw their shop opened again!. After the incidents, we talked to our car driver, he said these happened in Bali all the time. i felt sad about this. Not because of RP300,000.00, it is not much money to us (travelers.). What I felt sad is that Indonesia government dont do any thing about it. be careful guys when u go there! dun get cheated!
    Another advice to u guys, dun go to eat at sea side restaurant for bbq dinner because it is a ripoff!.

  20. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    The only 2 Money Changing Franchises, which have emerged above the rest over the last 2 years are BMC and Money Changer Central (with a red/blue square logo). They both have now several branches in the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak area and so far, I didn’t hear any horror stories about them. They have current electronic rates, several tellers, officially printed receipts and a minimum of 5 employees in every branch, overseeing each other.

    Still, if I have a choice, I would always vote against money changers and simply withdraw money from one of the thousands of available ATM’s, rates are most likely better and the fees are very low or non-existent. In that regard and especially in comparison with Thailand and Philippines, I would say that Bali has the lowest ATM fees Asia-wide.

  21. Money-changing scams in Bali | Travelfish on Bali UNITED STATES Says:

    […] If you'd like another take on these tricksters, Nomad4ever has a good piece on why you should never trust a money-changer. […]

  22. imranNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:


    i almost got a bad taste too….i was in bali and did hear about the dirty tricks they play..but then again one too many shops showing prices which cannot be avoided the hotel rate said 9100 for 100 us , but street display 9700 , 9800 ….being very careful i avoided shops leading in to small lanes and decided to change for just 100 dollars , i went into a shop which was offering 9395 and asked him if the price was true…he said yes and i asked him can you show me the amount on calculator …here comes his trick he shows me 9395 so i add the 00 and i ask him is this right? no comission? he asks me how much you want to change i say 100 dollars now i guess he has evaluated the corn not much i guess? but still i believe him….and pull out 100 dollars wondering if he gives me the said price i can exchange may be another 600 ….bythen he puts up a hell lot of notes of denominations and i striaght away object i want 100000 rupiah notes…..annoyed tells me go to next shop….then i realise it was bull shit…and walk out

  23. MurrayNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    My wife and I both had the same experience on the same day at different money changers in Seminyak!. Both money changers attempted to, by sleight of hand, diddle us out of 400,000 rupiah (we both wanted to change AUD $100) and when they were sprung claimed that was their commission! I realise these people are poor, but if this is going on as regularly as it looks, then this can only harm the islands reputation long term…I love Bali and have been 15 times, so next time will use ATMs..I hate to think how many less observant tourists have been stung this way…

  24. JR JordaanNo Gravatar SAUDI ARABIA Says:

    Hi, do money changers in Bali exchange Saudi Riyals ?…thanks

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