The Malaysian currency is called the Ringgit. (RM / MYR)
Each Ringgit is divided into 100 Sen.
MYR coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 Sen denominations in a variety of different materials and finishes.
Bank notes are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Ringgits, but some merchants might refuse the very old notes, especially if they show some damage.
Other currencies aren’t widely accepted in Malaysia, so you’ll need to exchange some cash to get you through.
Exchanging currency in Malaysia
Exchange money once you arrive in Malaysia
Avoid exchanging in or around airports and hotels
Currency exchange in Malaysia is fairly easy. You can change your cash at a bank, with a money changer, or at a currency exchange desk – at a hotel or the airport, for example. As a general rule, it costs more to switch currency at a bank or currency exchange desk, and airports and hotels tend to have even higher fees.
If you need larger sums, money changers in town are the best way to get good deals. Steep competition means you will get a better exchange rate than those offered in airports or hotels.
If you’re in need of cash in a hurry, your best option may be to use an ATM to withdraw what you need.
When you choose an exchange service, you’ll need to watch out for hidden fees. Even if a service claims ‘Zero Commission’, they’ll simply add their profit into the poorer exchange rate they offer you.
If you’re exchanging cash, make sure the notes you have are in good condition. Torn or damaged notes might be refused by money changers.
Using traveller’s cheques in Malaysia
Traveller’s Cheques can’t usually be used in Malaysia as a form of direct payment. Banks and exchange services may cash the Cheques for you, but there will be a fee for each Cheque they change.
If you’re carrying Traveller’s Cheques, look carefully at the exchange rates and fees applied. Often, the combination means that you’re worse off than if you were using cash or spending on a card. Add in the inconvenience of needing to find an exchange bureau who can deal with Cheques, and many travellers decide to avoid them altogether.
Using credit cards and debit cards in Malaysia
Many smaller businesses don’t accept cards
Smaller traders and stores don’t accept debit/credit card payments in Malaysia – but you should have no problems with large, established businesses in tourist areas. All the major card providers are accepted, but make sure you have some cash on you too, just in case of any issue.
Tell your bank before you leave home
Many financial institutions will have Malaysia on their ‘watch list’ for suspect activity. This means it is crucial to tell your card provider in advance that you’re travelling there so that your card isn’t blocked. It only takes a minute or two to call your bank and it can help avoid an embarrassing and awkward situation later.
Avoid letting foreign ATMs convert for you
Spending on credit or debit cards is a convenient option for many travellers – especially for larger purchases or hotel bills. However, because you’re using a foreign card, you might find that you’re asked if you want to be charged in your home currency.
Being charged in your home currency is something called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). It lets you see the cost of the transaction listed in your home currency when you pay. Though it’s described as a “service”, DCC isn’t a great idea. It leaves you exposed to hidden fees with a poorer exchange rate assigned by the local bank. Always opt to pay in the local currency (MYR) instead – that way, your home bank (who wants to keep you as their customer) will assign a much better exchange rate.
Finally, apply sensible precautions when using a card in Malaysia. Tourists are easy targets for scams, so don’t let your card out of your sight. If you have any doubts, use the ATM finder in the next section to withdraw cash and pay that way.
ATMs in Malaysia
ATMs are common in Malaysia and can be found in banks, shopping malls and transport hubs. You can find one easily using one of the locator tools below.
Visa ATM locator MasterCard ATM locatorAmex ATM locator
Research ATM fees
When you use an ATM, your home bank will apply a fee for overseas withdrawal. You may also find that the Malaysian ATM adds its own fee. Ask your home bank before you leave what charges will be added – and watch the notices on the ATM to understand any additional fees.
Choose to be charged in the local currency
Usually, despite the fees, using an ATM is a convenient and reasonable value way of getting cash abroad, as long as you avoid DCC.
DCC is when you’re charged for the withdrawal in your home currency. However, this means that the exchange rate applied is selected by the Malaysian ATM provider – it’s almost always a poor deal. While your home bank has an interest in keeping you, an ATM provider will be very happy to take your hard-earned cash.
Always select to be charged in local currency when withdrawing money abroad to access the rate set by your home bank.
Banks in Malaysia
Five Major Retail Banks in Malaysia
Hong Leong Bank
International Banks Operating in Malaysia
Deutsche Bank Malaysia
Bank of America Malaysia