Are you off on an adventure abroad? Make sure you cover your financial bases by getting the right currency before and during your trip. While many people wait until they get to the airport to exchange some cash, this isn’t necessarily the wisest– or cheapest– strategy. Read on for our top 5 tips on how to exchange money while traveling. You’ll save time, stress, and money by following them.

Step 1: Get to the Bank Before Your Trip

Your first step is to get to your bank, which you should do a few weeks before your trip. Head to your local branch and exchange some money into the currency of the country you’re visiting in advance. If you’re traveling to more than one country, plan on having some cash for each one. Don’t carry a lot of cash, but do keep in mind that sometimes it’s the only option – you don’t want to be without it. Depending on your bank, they may need to send away for your desired currency, so plan ahead! Note that there may be a fee for this service.

Step 2: Wise Up on ATM Fees and Charges

While you’re at your bank, figure out how much money you’ll be charged to use ATMs abroad. If this fee is a problem for you, you may want to ask about  the possibility of getting credit card that waives or partly waives them. Some banks offer them, and if you travel a lot, this might be a convenient thing to have. ATM fees can range from 2-5 dollars per use, which can definitely add up. The best advice? Be sure to get this information from your bank and credit card companies before you travel; it could save you from some unpleasant surprises when you see the bill.

Also, be sure to ask about what your daily ATM limit is, especially if you’re planning on paying for a big ticket item in cash. Finally, let your bank know you’ll be travelling so they don’t think your information has been stolen and freeze your card.

Step 3: Consider Ordering Traveler’s Checks

For certain destinations, you may also want to look into ordering some traveler’s checks. American Express traveler’s checks are easily exchangeable for cash in many destinations, including most Western European countries. One big advantage? They can be refunded if stolen. Don’t expect to be able to pay for many purchases directly with them, however. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll need to get to an American Express bureau to trade them for cash in the local currency.

Step 4: Avoid Exchanging Currency at the Airport

If you can avoid it, don’t exchange currency at the airport. The currency exchange bureaus at most airports can charge high fees, and may even grant you an inaccurate exchange rate to make a quick profit. Your bank is generally much more reliable.

Step 5: Minimize Transactions (and Fees) While Abroad

While you’re abroad, try to withdraw your money in as few ATM transactions as possible to reduce the amount of fees you end up paying. That said, always use an ATM in a public area that has good visibility. Be aware of your surroundings, because robbery and pickpocketing is more common around ATMs. Go with a friend if possible, and keep your money close to your body to prevent pick pockets from swiping your cash. Never allow a stranger to “help” you with a transaction, and make sure you shield your code from prying eyes.

Read related: RFID-Blocking Wallets: A New Necessity For Safe Travel? 

Enjoy your travels!


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