Banks and credit unions are generally the best places to exchange currency and offer reasonable exchange rates and the lowest fees. We do recommend avoiding airport kiosks once you’ve arrived at your destination.
If you haven’t packed your bags, you may have the time to get the best currency exchange rates before you leave. Many banks offer currency exchange to their customers. Though there may be a small fee, your bank or credit union will almost always be the best place to exchange currency (and the cheapest). You may be able to order currency at a branch location or by phone or online to pick up at a branch.
You can also order through an online currency converter, which will have the cash delivered to your home. But exchange rates are less favorable, and the delivery charges will eat into your funds. And airport kiosks or stores should be a last resort. Exchange rates are poor, and fees are high.
Request several small bills for the mom & pop shops, souvenirs, and tipping.
Once you’ve reached your destination, avoid airport kiosks or other exchange houses. Your bank’s ATM network is likely the best option. You may be able to withdraw cash in the local currency with competitive exchange rates and low fees (1% to 3%).
Use your institution’s app to find an ATM near you. Try to withdraw larger amounts if your bank charges ATM fees. And avoid out-of-network ATMs — in addition to a possible foreign transaction fee, you could end up paying surcharges to your bank and the ATM owner.
Again, your bank is probably the best place to exchange currency, but it may not buy back all types. If not, you can exchange your money at a currency exchange store or kiosk in the airport abroad or in the U.S., even though you likely won’t get the best rate.
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