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- If you already have a credit or debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, this will usually be the simplest way to spend money abroad.
- If you don’t have a travel-friendly card, your local bank or credit union may be the most convenient and affordable place to exchange currency.
- Other ways to send or receive money abroad include using online money-transfer companies or withdrawing cash at international ATM machines.
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Traveling abroad can be an exciting experience, but it also requires some planning. In addition to making sure your passport is up to date, you’ll want to think through how you’ll get the foreign currency you’ll need while you’re away. When it comes to exchanging currency, the goal is to get the best exchange rates with the lowest fees.
The good news is that there are multiple ways to exchange currency. But the bad news is that if you wait till you’re overseas to look for currency-exchange options, you’re more likely to get unfavorable exchange rates and pay more in fees.
Airport currency exchange kiosks, while convenient, tend to offer some of the worst exchange rates due to high markups. Here are four better ways to exchange currency that can help you get the most bang for your buck.
1. Use a travel-friendly debit or credit card
Many travel-focused credit cards charge no foreign transaction fees in addition to offering rewards for travel expenses, like airline tickets and hotel reservations.
If you already have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, this will usually be the simplest way for you to spend money abroad. There’s no work to do ahead of time. You can just use your card as you normally would at home.
Also, some travel-friendly checking accounts may offer debit cards that have no foreign transaction fees. Capital One’s 360 banking products and Schwab Bank’s High-Yield Investor Checking are two examples.
2. Get cash from your local bank or credit union
If you don’t have a credit card or debit card that you can use fee-free overseas, your next best option may be to get cash from your local financial institution.
First, banks and credit unions tend to offer some of the best exchange rates. And most banks will give you the option of picking up your cash in a local branch or having it shipped to your home address.
This strategy will only typically work before you leave home. However, if your bank happens to have in-network ATMs in the country that you’ll be visiting, this would be another strong option.
There’s also a strong chance that your bank or credit union will also be able to buy back any foreign currency that you have leftover after your trip. Check with your financial institution to see which currencies they will exchange into US dollars.
3. Order foreign currency online
If you’re only looking to move money electronically from a bank account in one country to another, an online money transfer company might be a good option. You can compare currency exchange rates from online providers by using sites or apps like XE, Best Exchange Rates, or Currency App.
With one popular online money transfer company, TransferWise, you can send and receive money in over 50 currencies with just one account. Plus, you’ll get a debit card with no foreign transaction fees and can make up to $250 in free ATM withdrawals per month.
Note: Travelex has long been a popular company to order foreign currency from online. Unfortunately, the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic recently forced them to announce that they were shutting down their operations in the United States and Canada.
4. Withdraw cash from international ATMs
If you’re already overseas as you’re reading this article and you need cash right now, you may need to use your US debit card at an out-of-network ATM.
Before you insert your debit card into a foreign ATM, however, you’ll probably want to give your bank a call to let them know that you’re traveling overseas. This will prevent the transaction from causing a fraud alert and, potentially, a…