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?

  • 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.
  • In England, most of the ATM's I went to were free to use, but your own bank will probably charge you a fee. There are money exchange places all over the place. You can use your credit cards but there might be a small fee, I found my card added 35 cents for a $35.00 dollar charge. I took some American dollars and just walked up to an exchange place and got pounds. The fees were minimal.
  • In reply to beverlyejohnson041507:

    In general, Canadian stores, etc will accept credit/debit cards without chips, because many non-Canadian bank cards still only have the 'swipe' strip. You will have to sign the printed receipt if you swipe, but otherwise you are OK. As for ATMs, you still don't need a chip, but you will need a PIN.
  • In reply to kmwhite012435:

    We made a brief visit to Turkey. To ensure we had no problem, I notified our bank, Bank of America of our trip. when we arrived in Turkey, I went to use the ATM . It did not work. I tried again, with no success. Fortunately I had a card for our bank in Slovakia (we were living in Bratislava at the time). It went through with no problem. However we had a number of automatic payments for electrical and other payments to be made through our account with Bank of America. B of A put a freeze on our account. It took huge difficulties to resolve the problems. Needless to say we no longer have the account with B of A.
  • In reply to beverlyejohnson041507:

    Check your credit card fees associated with cash advances. Some charges are quite high. If you have the option, try to get a PIN associated with your card - makes it easier when store asks for a PIN.
  • In reply to beverlyejohnson041507:

    I’m a Canadian and have had a chip cards for years, and most larger retailers now also have a ‘tap and pay’ option which allows purchases up to a certain limit (usually $100) without needing to enter a PIN. However I think the swipe option is still available pretty generally. Occasionally you will find small businesses that still use a paper credit card receipt with signature required. Just check to see what system your home bank is affiliated with --Interac, Plus, etc. and you should be able to use affiliated ATMs without difficulty. You definitely can get a cash advance on your credit card. Pretty easy to spend money these days!
  • In reply to kmwhite012435:

    Good point. We always exchange our foreign cash at the airport when we return. They won’t exchange coin, but you can unload the bills. Even if the exchange rate is poor, it’s better than coming home with a wad of foreign money we can’t use.
  • I always get money from the ATM at the airport or the first available ATM if there's not time at the airport. My state does not charge a fee although the ATMs abroad may. Better to use one connected with a bank rather than one in a shop or motel. I always take some Euros home with me to have for the next trip. Nice to have a few in case you are connecting at an airport and just want a beverage or a snack.
  • I usually get cash from an ATM at the airport in Europe because it is sometimes difficult to find one near the hotel. However, the leaders usually would take people to the nearest ATM as one of the first things on the agenda. Try to estimate how much you might need in cash for small purchases. I usually use my credit card for most purchases and meals since the exchange rate is generally better through your credit card than ATM. I have checked this out for the last few decades and it has been true. I usually end up with very little cash at the end of my trip and I would just go to the duty-free shop at the airport and spend it. The duty-free shops are willing to take more than one kind of currency for the same transaction. Once I used four different currencies in pre-Euro days. If you still have some coins left, your grandchildren might like them. Do notify your credit card companies and bank that issued your ATM about your upcoming trip and always take more than one credit card from different banks, just in case. Take a few checks also in case your ATM doesn't work.
  • In reply to zen012501:

    My bank (BMO Harris Bank) in Wisconsin has Pounds, Euros, and Pesos in envelopes, like petty cash. If you need more than they have at any one time, it only takes a couple of days to get it. They always have the "freshest" versions of currency, and they'll buy back any paper notes you have left. Their exchange rates (IMO) are very fair.

    The hotel we stayed at in Wales had a large piggy bank at the front desk. Foreigners, checking out, would unload all their coins into it.

    I got lucky buying Pounds months before my trip: the dollar was at a high. When I was at the Manchester airport on the return leg from a wonderful RS photography tour of Wales, the Pound had recovered quite a bit and I ended up making enough money to more than cover all the fees involved in both sets of transactions!

  • In reply to archerychampion010427:

    We ordered Euros from AAA when the dollar was strong and got a great exchange rate on them. Check that out, too, if you are a AAA member.
  • In reply to beverlyejohnson041507:

    About Canada--the Calgary airport had several automated ATM machines conveniently available. The one I used had an exchange rate posted, but did not post any fees, so until I got home and viewed my statement, I was in the dark there. I found the fee though was very minimal, but I may have just lucked out in terms of choosing which machine to use. I did inform my credit union ahead of time that I'd be using both my debit and credit cards in certain areas of Canada and gave them the dates, adding a day or two at the end for unforseen circumstances. Neither has a chip. Having Canadian money obtained right away for smaller expenses at various places made those purchases convenient and from my perspective minimized the risk of exposing my card to a number of smaller merchants and processors. I'm not sure how widespread the practice is, but one restaurant had a portable card reader, accepting both chip and non-chip cards, which the waiter/waitress brought to your table to process transactions. This solved any concern about someone disappearing into a backroom with your card! Other places (museum shops for example) accepted my no chip card without a problem.
  • In reply to beverlyejohnson041507:

    Portable card readers are commonplace in Canadian restaurants now.
  • In reply to eliztravels021352:

    I really liked these. Maybe in the U.S. they are also commonplace now in some places, but not where I live. I encountered one on one of the evenings when RS did not provide dinner. We had a large table of about 10 of us (half the group!) who decided to dine together. I think the reader made it much easier on the servers in a situation like this, i.e. probably at least 8 separate checks. Also, I was able to smoothly personalize my transaction with the server by saying I wanted to pay for my dinner by card, but leave a cash tip. I did this in part because I was trying to spend down on cash in Canadian dollars towards the very end of my trip.