Find out the currency of the country you plan to visit.
You can click here to create and print your own customized currency converter reference or to find exchange rates for the various countries. Or you can look in your local paper in the business section. Exchange the bulk of your funds overseas. The exchange rate is always better overseas than at home. If you need cash immediately upon arrival in your host country (for a taxi to the hotel for instance) most international airports have ATM machines or exchange counters open at all hours. You should to be sure to compare service fees and surcharges in addition to the exchange rate before you make a decision on where to exchange your money. ATMs usually offer the best rate. Also check to see if you can exchange leftover currency upon your departure and try to plan so you don’t have a lot of leftover local currency when it’s time to leave. NEVER change money on the black market.
Leave all of your US store credit cards at home, but do take a few major credit cards with you. It pays to make major purchases with your credit card – you get a good exchange rate, the protection of the card’s charge-back provisions, and often an extra guarantee on your purchase. Be sure to notify your credit card company of the countries you will visit and the dates of your travels so they won’t think there is fraud and block your card from being used. Also inquire about any foreign transaction fees they may have so you won’t have any surprises when you receive your bill.
If you don’t have a currency converter or calculator, make your own conversion chart and carry it in your purse or wallet for handy reference while shopping, dining, etc.
Be sure to take your ATM card with you because that is the best way to get the local currency. The exchange rates are the best and you can easily get more currency as you need it. You use the machines the same as you do at home, by putting in your personal identification number (PIN) and the amount of cash you want (which will be in the local currency, not in dollars). You will benefit from the wholesale exchange rate that banks use for large-scale transactions (sometimes up to 7% more favorable than at the bank counter). Be sure to check with your bank before you leave to verify that your card will work in the country where you will be traveling. You can ask your bank for worldwide directories. Also check with your bank to be sure that your PIN number will be accepted abroad. Your bank can confirm this and help you change your PIN number if necessary. Also ask your US bank if any charges will be applied for using a foreign ATM. The strip on the back of ATM cards can become demagnetized when passing through airport security checks and x-rays and that will cause it not to work properly. Ask the security guard to hand-carry your card through the check point.
It is not recommended that you get a cash advance on your credit card unless you have an emergency. Most credit card companies start charging interest immediately on the day you get the cash and the interest rates are usually very high.
Buy them in US dollar denominations from a company that doesn’t charge a commission. Don’t exchange a traveler’s check for more cash than you’ll need for a short time. That way, you’ll lose less in case of theft and won’t get stuck with extra currency when you enter another country.
Personal checks are not accepted everywhere, but some stores do take them and occasionally give you a better price than for credit card purchases.