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?

  • We have done it both ways. If our local bank can get the foreign cash for us, without a service fee, we take some with us because one time when traveling independently we were surprised by a toll booth in Italy without cash. If our bank doesn't have the currency we need (Thai Baht) we wait. I learned that getting the Baht from a local bank that could get Baht had a $40 fee associated with it. No thanks. Our most recent trip was a nice surprise. In Ecuador they use American dollars.
  • A little of both. I research the foreign exchange rates--xe.com is a good place to check--and if the rate is favorable and looks to remain fairly stable in the time before the trip, I buy foreign currency online. My Wells Fargo VISA allows purchase of cash, and ships it right away with FedEx. Very handy, and you have cash for airport purchases or tips etc. the moment you land. I have used my own chip-enabled cards at ATMs and in shops abroad with no problem. Note, I usually go to the UK and Western Europe, so I can't speak for other areas. Also, a great thing is a Travelex Cash Passport; it's a chip card you buy online before you go, and you can load it with any number of foreign currencies. This can save you lots, especially if the rate goes up in the interim, and also if your bank card charges foreign transaction fees. You can load it with more than one currency, e.g. GBP and Euro, so you only need to carry one Cash Passport card. And if you have a little money left on the card at the end of your trip, you can keep it on the card and use it again, or cash it in. It's awesome. Hope I helped someone!
  • Depends on where we are going. To Europe - no. It is really easy to get local currency (Euros) from ATMs on arrival and I'll bet the fees are less than what the money changers get here. For Canada, same - in fact our bank is owned by Canadians. For Mexico I am not so sure. Mexico City, no problem - Baja - I don't know.
  • In reply to burns0591010517:

    I have recently done almost as well as buying abroad by buying at a foreign exchange place here in NY. I look for dips in exchange rates before my departure.
  • A little of both. I always have 10 crisp, new $50 USD bills tucked away for emergencies. They came in handy in Myanmar in 2014 when the countries entire electronic banking system went down for several days rendering all ATMS useless. Generally, I've found ATM's to be reliable these days, even in off the beaten track places. I say generally because presently I'm in Buenos Aires and all the ATM's are down. But, I tend to carry a couple of days expenses just in case and 3 different bank cards as well as a Visa and a MC. I've had ATM cards "eaten" by bank machines in isolated locations and there is no hope of getting them back. Good luck with your travels.SW.
  • Now I only get cash after arrival because it is quite easy and the exchange rate generally is better than getting the cash in the States.  Of course, the fluctuation in the exchange rate might mean that you can get a better deal at home but it requires constant checking.  If you live in a major U.S. city, it is probably easier than if you live in a small town to get the cash.  I also use my credit card that doesn't charge extra for foreign transactions.  The exchange rate sometimes is even better than cash but be sure to ask to be charged in the local currency rather than in U.S. dollars; you get a better rate.  Be sure also to alert your bank and credit card company about your upcoming trip so that you don't find your cards rejected when you are overseas.  

  • If it is odd currency, such as Croatian Kuna, I get at least a few hundred $$ worth before leaving the US. You often get there on a day/time when banks are not open and hotels, say they'll have currency but if all foreigners want it, they run out. Also, some countries/places don't take credit cards. Better safe than broke. It may take upt to 10 days so get it early. If it's an often traveled places it doesn't matter; your best exchange rates are with credit cards and used the day of purchase.
  • If it is odd currency, such as Croatian Kuna, I get at least a few hundred $$ worth before leaving the US. You often get there on a day/time when banks are not open and hotels, say they'll have currency but if all foreigners want it, they run out. Also, some countries/places don't take credit cards. Better safe than broke. It may take upt to 10 days so get it early. If it's an often traveled places it doesn't matter; your best exchange rates are with credit cards and used the day of purchase.
  • A lesson we recently learned is to give your ATM home bank a list of each country you will be visiting.  Our bank did not specifically ask for such info and we were denied access to cash in numerous countries in Europe.  Fortunately some kind American travelers we were with on a Viking River Cruise accepted our personal check in exchange for cash.

  • It's so convenient at my bank and their fees are very low (I'm lucky). They'll also buy back any bills I don't spend, when I come home.

    N.B.: Be sure to spend your coins before returning, as banks don't usually exchange them.
  • It is always a good idea to let the banks behind your ATM and credit cards know when and where you will be traveling. The credit card companies, especially, want to make sure no bogus charges are made on your cards because they are liable for everything but the first $50. AmEx wanted the precise dates and every country I would be visiting or passing through.
  • In reply to gamesafoot011149:

    Uhmm--now you've raised some questions. I wonder if my non-chip cards will work in Canada. I guess I need to do research on it. Many stores in the U.S. aren't using the chip cards and many don't have chip cards, at least where I live.
  • In reply to chillwills011005:

    Interesting, because many stores in the U.S. will not take 50.00 bills, no matter how crisp they are.
  • In reply to burns0591010517:

    At the ATM, do you use, or can you use, your credit card and get what is called a cash advance (I've never done that) or do you use your debit card. I'm interested in Canada, the major parks or towns. Do you know if Canadian stores and ATMs use only chip cards?
  • In reply to archerychampion010427:

    A word to the wary. Just because the teller at your bank says they'll buy back unused currency does not always mean they'll do it. Last year I bought Russian Rubles at Wells Fargo and tried to sell some back upon my return from Russia. I was then told that WF will buy "some" currency, but Rubles wasn't one of them. I eventually got the local WF to buy them back with a petty cash stash the local manager had, but WF corporate policy would not bend. Ask specific questions when yous hop for money at your bank.