Cash is king. And the worst place to exchange your money is at 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.
However, most banks will charge transaction fees (anywhere from $3 to $5) and can often charge an additional percentage for each foreign currency withdrawal. This scenario often leads people to withdrawing tons of money at a single time, but if you’re on the up-and-up, you’ll know that there’s a worldwide alliance of banks that waive fees for respective members.
And thankfully, they’re big banks, on –wait for it— all six major continents, unless you're keen to do some shopping on Antarctica. So if you’re on a big trip, prepare and open an account ahead of time with any members of the Global ATM Alliance. Just a word of warning – specific policies may vary, so check with your bank before you go all cash-happy.
- Bank of America (United States)
- Barclays (United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Ghana, Kenya, and other countries in Africa)
- BNP Paribas (France)
- Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal and Italy)
- Santander Serfin (Mexico)
- Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, Peru, Chile and Mexico)
- Westpac (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands)
- ABSA (South Africa)
- UkrSibbank (Ukraine)
- China Construction Bank (China, Hong Kong)
(Americans only: If you’ve got a Charles Schwab account, it refunds all ATM fees. You don’t need this list!)