We have compared the most common ways to exchange money for your next trip. If you know your options you can safe a considerable amount of money.
Swipe your Credit Card (recommended)
Depending on the country you are visiting using your credit cards usually give you the best conversion rate. Nevertheless you should check whether your credit card company is charging you foreign exchange fees (most credit card companies charge up to 3%). Call your credit before you travel abroad to let them know about it. This will reduce the risk of your card being declined.
Tip: CapitalOne is one of the few companies that doesn't charge a foreign exchange fee at this time.
Exception: Using your credit cards to get cash is usually very expensive since it is technically a “cash advance” and you usually will be subject to an additional cash-advance fee and you'll be charged interest starting from the date of withdrawel.
Use your ATM/Debit Card to withdraw Cash (recommended)
Instead of using your credit card for cash advances it is usually cheaper to use your ATM (debit card). Your bank is usually only charging you a flat fee between $2 and $5. Before relying on your ATM card you should ensure which payment networks are supported (Plus, Cirrus…). It is also recommended to bring a second card as backup.
Cash Exchange at your Bank (ok)
Larger banks usually offer foreign currency exchange. Your bank usually charges you a delivery or exchange fee for this service. Nevertheless this is a good way to make sure you have some cash for your cab ride in case you are arriving late and other exchange options aren't available.
Order Foreign Currency online (ok)
If your local bank doesn't offer foreign currency exchange you can also order cash online. Because of the high delivery fees and the exchange rate it is not the best way to exchange your money.
- AAA (www.aaa.com/AAA_Travel/TravelMoney/foreign_currency.htm)
- Wells Fargo Foreign Exchange Services (www.foreignexchangeservices.com)
- International Currency Express (www.foreignmoney.com)
Foreign Currency Card (avoid)
This is a fairly new way of exchanging currency. A Foreign Currency Card works like a ATM/Credit Card. The reasons to avoid it are the different fees (card load, withdrawal, inactivity, close account...) as well as other restrictions (daily limits, excluded countries). Foreign Currency Cards are currently available Euros, British Pounds and US Dollars).
Traveler's Checks (avoid)
Traveler checks are a way to bring larger amounts of money with a lower risk of loss and theft (American Express traveler's checks can be replaced worldwide within 24 hours). The main disadvantages are the high fees and the cumbersome process of finding a place that will exchange it into local currency (not always well liked, long waiting lines if it needs to be exchanged in a bank, cumbersome use if the merchant isn’t convinced the signature matches to tiniest detail…)
- American Express Traveler Checks (https://www.americanexpress.com/us/content/prepaid/travelers-cheques.html)
Foreign Exchange Desk (avoid)
Using the exchange desk at the airport, hotel or city centre is usually comes with a extremely high fees of up to 20%. You should avoid this and only use for emergencies.
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