Onboard currency trading with your room steward. Aka: tipping money

If you are going to tip your room stewards, or anyone onboard for that matter, you should try and use only clean, fresh, unmarked American bills. No rips, no pen marks, no creases. The reason for this is that in Eastern Europe and the Philippines the exchange houses will not give full value on money that is marked or ripped or OLD. I have even had it happen to me; they will rip you off and give you 75% value. I have been to these places and exchanged money myself and I know it to be true. During payroll onboard the Eastern Europeans and Philippines crew even ask to be paid in clean, 1998 series bills because other series have a higher counterfeit instance and they often get less value for it as well. Sure it’s money making scheme by the exchange houses but there is NOTHING you can do about it.

If you tip in old, damaged bills they must exchange it onboard first and this can be a hassle as crew offices do not mind changing currency but just changing old for new sometimes isn’t always possible.

Also, tipping in “fun” or collector money is pointless. A $2.00 bill will not be exchanged by an exchange house in eastern Europe or the Philippines. Some crew offices won’t even take them. Yes, I know, your all getting angry now and saying “but this is good honest American currency”, well this is true but these people are not Americans nor are they in America.

In fact, even if they try and exchange money ashore in America old for new, or $2.00 bills for $1.00 bills they are treated like money laundering drug dealers because not everyone in the USA trusts a foreigner these days, let alone a foreigner on a temporary seaman visa trying to “clean” some money! You may want to argue that with me, but if YOU owned an exchange house and an Indonesian, South African, Romanian, Russian, Philippine or Malta citizen came to your window with a crumpled handful of 1000 dollars in old American money and asked to exchange it for new American money, what would you honestly think? We don't even have passports, just I-95's which look fake because they are on cheap tissue paper and ship ID cards. That's it. Would YOU trust these crew and not suspect them?

It is true that if they have a bank account in their home country they can exchange the bills but remember many crew in these countries do not have bank accounts. It is not the same in all countries as it is in the USA.

So do the crew a favor. If your going to tip I recommend new, clean $1.00 bills, or $5.00 or $10.00 they are easiest to exchange. $20.00 have a very high counterfeit rate so they are harder to exchange.

I read some comments from a person who was going to experiment and see if crew would take a two dollar bill. Well they probably will, but if you want to experiment properly offer them a choice of a two dollar bill, or two one dollar bills I am betting they will take the ones. ;0) Also, if your going to offer two dollar bills versus a single one dollar bill, then you would have to ask the Crew Purser how many two dollar bills of yours he ended up with because the crew will go right down and exchange them for "real money". They will not take them if they think the Crew office will not change them.

Also, if you don't have American money in good shape, and if you have them, Euros are very much prefered at exchange houses in Philippines and Eastern Europe, and Canadian money is exchanged for value almost everywhere as well because it is very difficult to counterfeit. The VERY NEW American money just released is VERY hard to exchange because the world is not used to it yet. So using American, a few years older but in mint shape is best for crew.

I know some Americans are going to get offended now, because they think I am insulting them about the US dollar. I am not, its just the facts of life. Not everyone wants or takes the US dollar like so many people believe. In fact, I am in Sydney Australia today and before I could even pay to get online I had to exchange my American money for Australian because they don't take American here.

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11 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Useful information that I had never even considered before. Thanks! I will be sure to bring a cache of clean lower denomination bills and keep them aside just for tipping from now on.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I had no idea that $2 bills cause so many problems. The cruise boards recommend bringing them but you make a valid point. No more $2 bills for us.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    This is great to know. On CC they had suggested taking $2 bills as the stewards, etc. loved them. Great to know this is not the case. I'll know next time. What good is a thank-you-tip if it really isn't?

    Love your blog. Have learned so much.


  4. Anonymous Says:

    Great info - now on new 5&10's no 20's.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    As a Brit I normally have to order $1 bills from the bank. Would much prefer to use Euros for tipping. Thanks therefore for posting. Very helpful.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Your not insulting anyone. American money has been counterfited for so long that even if the "new" designs are not as counterfitable, just being American money is going to raise eyebrows in other countries, especially in $20 denominations.

    A funny thing on Euros. We were in Mexico in March on a cruise, and another passenger was having trouble getting the street vendors to accept Euros. I was going to trade her for U.S. dollars but a store owner beat me to it.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I feel like an idiot. I, too, thought they would like the unique $2 bills and went out of my way to bring them on my last trip. Good old Cruise Critic strikes again.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for the tips on tips! Before my next cruise in 2 weeks, I shall go get nice crispy US currency for extra tips.

    Thanks for the pointers...I just assumed that there wouldn't be issues for exchanging money.......


  9. Anonymous Says:

    Can you clarify the issue of tip pooling? There's lack of clarity as to whether autotips are allocated specifically to the stewards of the corresponding cabins, or whether the tips are all pooled together and distributed evenly among the staff. Also, with respect to cash tipping, it's unclear whether staff are required to turn those in so they can be pooled as well. If you could shed some light on these issues, especially as they relate to different types of staff (stewards vs. waitstaff vs. bartenders), and whether this varies a lot from cruiseline to cruiseline (as far as you know). Thanks much.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Going to the bank and going to request crisp and clean bills to take on our cruise. Thanks for the advice!

  11. Andrew Says:

    I will be sure to get crisp and clean bills from the bank before going on our cruise in December. Thanks for the tip on tipping.

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