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The best way to exchange your currency for a trip

Save money on exchange rates before you take your trip abroad.

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Our pick for currency exchange: Travelex Money Card

Travelex Money Card logo

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Currencies

  • No currency conversion fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No international ATM fees
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Your trip is booked, your bags are packed and you’re ready to go. Before you hop on the plane, convert your USD into the local currency. If you wait to arrive at a foreign airport to exchange your currency, you’ll be disappointed by the exchange rate.

Chances are you’ll pay more to exchange money at an airport kiosk. Weigh the pros and cons of exchanging at a bank, airport, delivery or transfer service.

Where should I exchange currency in the US?

Generally you’ll get the best rate exchanging your money at your bank or credit union. But ultimately the best place to exchange your money depends on your specific situation, your destination and what you’re willing to pay for convenience. One of the most important things to pay attention to when exchanging currency is the mid-market rate. This is the rate you see when you look up a currency pair on Google, XE.com or a similar website. When you’re comparing transfers, use the mid-market rate as a base.

Exchange currency at your bank

Your local bank or credit union is convenient, and almost always offers the best exchange rate.

Pros

  • Convenient
  • Best rate
  • If you hold an account with a major bank you may be able to exchange currency at your local branch

Cons

  • May pay a fee
  • The currency you need may not be supported
  • You’ll have to travel with all of the money you exchange
Depending on the bank, you may pay a premium to exchange money. If you’re visiting somewhere that values the US dollar, you may see stronger exchange rates abroad than those offered at home.

Exchange currency at the airport

Expect high fees when exchanging at both your departure and arrival airports.

Pros

  • Convenient
  • Your destination airport will always have its countries currency available
  • International airport exchange kiosks will most likely have an employee that speaks English

Cons

  • You won’t get the mid-market rate
  • High fees
  • You’ll have to travel with all of the money you exchange
Use this option sparingly, perhaps only to exchange enough cash for a day or two of traveling. Having cash on hand while traveling in a foreign currency is a good idea, but there is no reason to carry your entire budget in your pocket.

Exchange currency with a delivery service

You’ve planned ahead, you’ve been watching the exchange rates and you are confident now is the time to buy. If your trip is a few weeks away, and the rates offered by your bank aren’t ideal, a services like Travelex can deliver currency right to your door.

Pros

  • Typically offers strong currency rates
  • Order when rates are favorable
  • Buy multiple currencies if you are traveling to different countries

Cons

  • May not get the mid-market rate
  • You’ll have to travel with all of the money you exchange

Exchange currency with a cash transfer service

Relying on a service like WorldRemit is the most flexible of all of the above options.

Pros

  • Order currency to be picked up at foreign banks and agent locations
  • Spread out your cash pickups throughout your trip
  • Buy when exchange rates are favorable

Cons

  • May not get the mid-market rate
  • You won’t have foreign cash on hand until you get to a local bank
Using a cash transfer service may be the best deal, but it’s not as convenient. If you’re willing to work extra time into your agenda to swing by a foreign bank to pick up your orders, this may be the best option for you. Use the table below to see what a transfer through WorldRemit could cost you.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.832 EUR 4,158 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details

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Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

Should I use my credit card while overseas?

When traveling overseas you have a few options when it comes to spending money:

  • Cash. After converting your US dollars into a foreign currency, spending cash is the same abroad as it would be at home. Some destinations will even let you pay in US dollars, just beware higher prices.
  • Debit card. To access to your money overseas, using your debit card may be your best bet. It’s convenient, but it can be expensive you if you don’t find a bank that waives foreign transaction and ATM fees.
  • Travel card. Though not popular in the US, travel money cards can be helpful if you’re traveling to more than one country. Travelex allows you to load up to seven major currencies at once, making exchanging money a breeze. There are many currencies that aren’t supported on the travel money cards, so make sure you check before you leave.
Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

  • Credit card. Finding the right credit card for traveling depends on where you’re going and what type of rewards you want. Look for cards that waive foreign exchange fees and offer rewards for spending on your trip. Use our comparison table below to quickly find cards that may be right for you. Let your bank know you’re heading overseas — otherwise the credit card company could put a freeze on your card once it detects a foreign transaction.
Name Product Foreign transaction fee Annual fee Purchase APR Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
None
$95
15.99% to 22.99% variable
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
American Express® Gold Card
None
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Petal® 2
None
$0
12.99% to 26.99% variable
Build your credit with rewards and no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score of 600 or higher. See if you prequalify with no impact to your score.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
None
$0
15.24% variable
An impressive cashback card that offers up to 4% back on everyday purchases like gas, travel and dining all for the cost of a Costco membership.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
None
$550
16.99% to 23.99% variable
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
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How can I safely carry cash overseas?

Wherever you are in the world, take a few safety precautions when carrying cash. Pickpockets and muggers can strike anywhere you travel, so keep the following tips in mind when you set off on your adventure.

  • Keep it hidden. Don’t pull out big wads of money when you’re making payments or withdrawals.
  • Don’t carry a purse. Purses that aren’t strapped around your shoulders or kept close to your body are targets for pickpockets. It’s best to wear a backpack or put your belongings in your pocket.
  • Avoid carrying lots of cash. Use credit, debit or travel cards or leave any extra cash in your hotel room safe.
  • Avoid dangerous or crowded areas. Every city has its dangerous neighborhoods where there’s higher incidence of muggings and thefts. Use your common sense.
  • Travel with a friend. The extra security of having a travel companion can act as a strong deterrent to thieves.
  • Do your research. Hit up several online forums and blogs for advice and warnings from other travelers about common scams and areas to avoid.

Bottom line

Planning your perfect trip takes more than just picking a destination and booking plane tickets. Paying close attention to the exchange rate between your destination country and the USD will help you save money on your trip before you even depart. Read our guide to learn more about how to manage your money while traveling.

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