Cash is king. And the worst place to exchange your money is the airport: Foreign exchange desks are known to rip you off.
In fact, it's often much, much cheaper—and more efficient, to boot—to withdraw from an ATM. Especially when there are no charges.
The best way to avoid this is to withdraw money from an existing bank within the Global ATM Alliance. The alliance is essentially a network of major banks throughout the world that waive the charges at partner banks.
For the U.S., the partner bank is Bank of America, so Bank of America customers can breathe easy if they're withdrawing from Barclays or another partner in London.
Thankfully, they’re big banks, on —wait for it— all six major continents, unless you're keen to do some shopping on Antarctica. If you’re preparing for a big trip, it's worth checking out to see if your bank is already a member.
Most banks will charge transaction fees (anywhere from $3 to $5) and often charge an additional percentage for each foreign currency withdrawal.
This means people typically withdraw tons of money at a single time, but if you’re on the up-and-up, it is completely avoidable.
Specific policies may vary by country, so check with your bank before you go all cash-happy.
Here are the member banks:
- Bank of America (United States)
- Barclays (United Kingdom)
- BNP Paribas and affiliate banks (France, Italy, Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Morocco, New Caledonia, Réunion, Guyane, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Luxembourg)
- Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (Italy)
- Deutsche Bank (Germany, Belgium, India, Spain, and Portugal)
- Scotiabank (Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Guyana, and the Caribbean)
- Westpac (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea)