I am traveling to Ecuador this week, and I just read that they do not accept the US$50 and US$100 bills in most stores. My bills are all $100 bills and from the years 1996, 2003 and 2006, so I think I may have a problem. Is it possible to change $100 bills to smaller denominations in Spain? Or can I do it somewhere in Guayaquil or Cuenca, Ecuador, which is my first destination?
Trying to break those bills in Spain probably isn’t a good idea: since it’s not legal tender there, the only people who hold USD are those who make a living out of exchanging USD for other currencies (taking a margin in the process), and it’s unlikely they would just break your bills. You could of course convert USD to EUR and then back to USD, but it’s probably going to cost you a few percent of the amount (and since in the process you will get non-round numbers and they usually only accept bills, you will definitely get a lot less USD than you started from).
You can still try to ask at currency exchange counters if they would be willing to break your bills for free, but I don’t expect a positive response unless you stumble onto Simone who that would help. Likewise, you could ask your own bank, but I would be surprised if they did it.
It’s probably best to perform the operation in Ecuador, where USD is legal tender. And then it’s exactly like if you had a big Euro note: try to find places which are more likely to accept them (while smaller shops will have a problem with big notes, some other places will just shrug).
The first place I would try is your hotel’s reception. If they can’t do it themselves, they may be able to point you in the right direction. This won’t work if tou are staying in a cheap hostel, but any hotel where you are likely to end up with a bill of over $100 should be able to do it.
The next two options are:
- Banks, though in many places banks just won’t deal with cash anymore, or will do so only for their own customers — no idea if that is the case in Ecuador;
- Places which are more likely to accept larger bills. Fancy/luxury shops, bars, restaurants drawing a clientele more likely to use such bills. You may have to buy a token item, and you are likely to be able to break only one bill at a time this way, but I’ve broken numerous larger banknotes this way.
The usual difficulty is if you need to get a cab out of the airport, in which case you need to have acceptable bills before you get to your hotel. Either use an ATM to get the required amount, or try telle shops in the airport. Again, you may have to buy something and probably need to pick the place carefully, but you are quite likely to find a place there.