Dealing with foreign currency while traveling abroad

As an avid traveler of 35 countries (and counting!) I have dealt with a lot of foreign currency. If you are not careful you can pay hefty exchange commissions and fees when you try to get local money. I have a system that combats this as much as possible.

The absolute best way to get local money in any country is to use an ATM. Most of our debit cards have either a Visa or Mastercard logo on them and will work worldwide. Just look for the same logo on the ATM itself and you are usually good to go. Getting money from the ATM almost always gets you the best exchange rate.

I also carry about $100 - $200 in small US Dollar bills (no larger than $20). They are the easiest to exchange overseas and are the most widely accepted. I do not use this money unless their is no ATM within a reasonable distance or if your card is not working for some reason. You usually have to exchange the dollars for local money (at usually a not-so-good rate) at a bank or change house. NEVER exchange in an airport as you will always get the worst rates there. Banks are best! Only exchange the amount you need to limit the damage.

Traveler's checks are almost useless these days. With ATM's in nearly every country and our handy debit cards there is really no need for them. I also feel it is silly to pay someone to hold my money as they usually charge a fee for them. I have never used them and don't plan too. They also get worse exchange rates than cash most of the time. These are best avoided!

Dealing with local money while traveling is not a complicated process and if you following my system you will never be stuck. Just go to the ATM like you would at home and get the money for a couple of day's worth of activities. Check with your bank to see if they charge foreign transaction or ATM fees. It is best to change banks if they do as it is silly to pay these fees. ING Direct only charges a small commission (less than changing money!) on the foreign ATM transaction, for example.

If you follow this guide you will have a great time and not have to worry about getting local money!