One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from clients who are traveling abroad is what is the best way to exchange money. Almost gone are the days of purchasing American Express traveler’s checks before a big trip. There are now several different ways to exchange money abroad.
- Use your bank : If you are nervous about having some foreign currency when you land, exchanging money at your local bank is a great idea. Exchanging at the bank will typically cost you a fee, but it should be less than exchanging at the airport with Travelex. You will need to make sure that you plan ahead if you are going to use your bank. Typically the main bank office (not the local branches) will have common currency like Euros onsite. However, you cannot count on this. They may need to order the money for you, and this can take time.
- Use Travelex : While this is probably the most expensive way to exchange money, Travelex can be a handy way to exchange money at the airport.
- Local ATMs : Local ATMs can be the best way to get foreign currency. Most airports will have ATMs and if not your hotel should. I always recommend booking transfers from the airport so you don’t have to worry about currency or finding transportation after what is bound to be a long flight. Getting money at the ATM will assure you get the most current exchange rate. The only thing you have to look out for is the fee that your bank will charge. I recommend checking with your bank ahead of time. There are some banks that are part of an international consortium that reduces the fee. Many of the fees are per transaction, so it is good to get enough money for the whole trip.
- Use Credit Cards : I always find credit cards the best way to spend money abroad. Not every place takes credit cards, so it is good to have cash, but a good credit card can take you a long way. You will get the latest exchange rate and there are some great travel credit cards that offer low to no fees and great perks like points and miles. Be aware though that American Express is not accepted most places outside of the US. Just like ATM cards, check with the company ahead of time to know the fees and assure that they will not put a fraud alert on your card when you are charging in another country.
I always try to keep a little cash at the end of my trip, some to leave for housekeeping at my hotel as a tip and some to take home. The cash I bring home is always great as a starter piggy bank for my next trip to the same area!