If you are traveling out of the country there is a good chance that where you are going will not accept your currency. Converting your cash to the money of the place you are visiting will be necessary. The fees for such a service vary wildly. With the right planning you can save yourself a significant amount of headache and money.
A good number of credit cards offer currency conversion. You use your credit card just as you would here, you pay for your item in the currency of the country you are in, and the credit card coverts that amount to dollars on your bill. For my Honeymoon I called some of my credit card companies and found that a few of them offered this feature. Some of them wanted a 3% fee, I found that my Chase Hyatt Visa Signature Card that I used to plan my Honeymoon with, offered currency conversion for free. I used it the entire trip and never once had any trouble with it.
While having a good credit card is very helpful, you still need paper money for places that don’t accept plastic. Taxis, small cafes, and street vendors want and will only accept cash. Many banks will allow you to “buy”currency for free, provided that you are a member of that bank. I am a member of Cititbank and they offered this service. Unfortunately you have to “order” your currency 2-3 days before hand and pick it up at a local bank. By the time I discovered this my Honeymoon was a day away.
The bride and I opted to take American dollars with us on the flight and convert them at the airport in Paris. When we landed we found an exchange kiosk, we converted our money are were charged a 3% fee. I don’t like to carry large sums of money, particularly in foreign countries. When our first round of cash ran out we used my credit card to buy more Euros in Venice, the fee 6%. In Rome things only got worse. When I went to buy our last batch of Euros, they wanted 15%! That’s robbery or at the very least usury and I refused. I opted to use the conversion service of my hotel. They charged a much lower 3%.
In hindsight the best option for us would have been to use the credit card for majority of purchases and to convert our dollars to Euros here at our bank for free. We could have locked away that money in our hotel room safe and dipped into it as needed. Something to keep in mind on your next trip.