Foreign cash

Do you typically get foreign cash from your bank before you travel abroad, or do you wait until you arrive at your destination? Why?

  • Depends on where you are going. I have used an ATM in India, Colombia, Mexico, and Costa Rica to get cash with my debit card. I did notify my bank ahead of time, and that helped but was not foolproof. In Colombia in 2017, it worked only about half the time even at airport ATMs, and the max was about $120 (and twice that per day) which was not enough to pay for a event I was attending or a week's lodging--which I could not pay ahead of time with a credit card online. Several places in Colombia would not or could not accept a credit card, even when the amount of cash was nervewracking to carry around. In my other travels (post-eons-ago traveler's check days in Europe, and when I lived 30 miles from the Canadian border it wasn't an issue), the ATMs worked ok but had a limited amount of cash available and some did charge relatively high fees, but I thought it was worth it to avoid carrying lots of cash around. I have not paid a lot of attention to the relative difference between getting cash in the states and abroad because I've had to have the equivalent of hundreds of dollars to pay for lodging and travel, and there wasn't really a choice. If you order cash from my bank, it comes in the largest denominations, which were often not usable until they were split, so that wasn't a great choice either. However, if you are on a Road Scholar trip, the amount of money needed is a lot less. On our Costa Rica trip, we mostly bought ice cream every other day or so, and it wouldn't have mattered what the exchange rate was. We stayed longer than the RS trip, and that was when it was necessary to have some cash, but many places accepted dollars.
  • I usually wait to use an ATM upon arrival so that I don't carry a lot of cash in airports. I found that any remaining foreign money can be added to my Starbucks card-usually at the airport. It is converted to US by the time I get home, with no fees.
  • In reply to gamesafoot011149:

    I just looked at the Travelex Cash Passport site and they no longer issue new cards.
  • AAA I have found to be the least expensive to get cash from before foreign travel. I prefer to have cash in the event something happens and cash only option. Call your local office for details.
    On a LOL note. Recently on a Native American reservation I was asked if I had another card with numbers. I said it does have numbers. The I saw the old credit card machine in her hand. She needed a raised number card so she could get run the bar across and get carbon copies. Lucky I had an old AMEX card in my wallet as a backup!
  • I have travelled several countries in Europe and recently in Canada. I find it much cheaper and simpler to use the ATM at the train station or airport as I arrive in that country. Many European countries use the euro, and within the European Union countries I was not charged a fee. For those countries not on the euro I again use the ATM where I arrive. When you do that the rate you receive is set by MasterCard or Visa and saves you those expensive fees charged by the currency vendors. I also notify my financial institution of my travel plans, I also use online banking through the internet, which allows me to quickly update my financial institution of any change in plans or to freeze my card if it is lost.
  • In reply to charlotte.drayer010411:

    When you say that you use your local bank provided it doesn't have a "service fee," you are missing a crucial point: there is the fee and there is the exchange rate. If the exchange rate is not recent and/or doesn't reflect where the market is at the time you make your transaction, you could pay a hefty price for the convenience of having cash on hand when you land. My habit is to try to have some local currency before departure, but when I don't I head for the first bank associated ATM, use my debit card that covers the local bank's fees and withdraw the maximum I can for that day ($500 US)
  • Recently, I went with RS to four Nordic countries and did not use the ATM once. The local leaders told us that we were in pretty much cashless societies and wouldn't need cash. They were correct! Furthermore, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all accept Euros even though they have their own currencies. Finland's currency is Euro. I had some Euros with me from a previous trip but did not need it.

    I usually save some money from my trips if I know that I will be returning some day but I had an interesting experience in the UK recently. I was told that one of the bills I had was no longer valid and that I needed to go to a bank to exchange the paper money for the new version. The currency exchange place at the airport could not do it for me.
  • In reply to zen021519:

    Zen, that's interesting about your UK bills. I knew they had changed the 5 and 10 GBP note and had dumped my old 5 notes last time I was there. I'll have to check and see what I've got in my stash! The plasticized ones are weird feeling!