Currency Conversion When Traveling

Recently I’ve been traveling a lot more (a topic for another blog post) and I thought it might be good to write up some of the travel tips I’ve learned along the way to make life easier for those of you reading this. I’ll probably have a few other posts along these lines in the future.

One of the big headaches when traveling is converting money to the foreign currency of the country you’re traveling to. You often need local cash shortly after you land for taxis or other incidental purchases, but getting foreign cash while in the US or at the airport is often very expensive due to poor conversion rates and fees.

So what should you do? I suggest using a local ATM to withdraw some local cash instead. I can hear you already, “Really? Aren’t ATM fees just as bad, if not worse?”. And yes, in fact, they are often quite expensive. However there are a handful of banks that will actually reimburse your ATM fees, which suddenly makes the ATM conversion not that expensive. You essentially are just getting the current conversion rate of your bank, which in my experience is much better than the rates and fees that come with traditional currency conversion services. I personally use a Charles Schwab checking account, which I’ve been pretty happy with, for my ATM reimbursements. They just put a credit on my account at the end of the month for that month’s ATM fees – I don’t even have to do anything to receive it.

And perhaps the best part about this tip is that it’s actually often even more convenient than finding a currency conversion service. ATM’s are readily available in most places (especially transportation hubs) which makes converting cash a very simple task.

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