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Best Ways to Get Cash Abroad
Most people know that I always prefer to use a credit card when traveling abroad, especially one with no foreign transaction fees. However, there are places in the world where cash is the preferred or only way to pay for things. In these situations, it makes sense to get cash when entering the country. Here are our top tips and tricks for getting cash abroad:
Currency Exchange Booths
You’ve probably seen the currency exchange booths at airports. Seems like a simple way to convert your money to local currency. But there’s a catch! The exchange rates and fees at these booths are generally unfavorable, so I typically avoid the currency exchange stores.
Using an ATM
A better way to get cash is to use an ATM. Even if the ATM charges you a transaction fee, it is still a better option as the exchange rates are typically the standard set by the banks (and therefore better than the current exchange booths). I still recommend that you check with your bank to see what they charge for an international ATM withdrawal.
No-Fee ATM Card
If you’re savvy, I would suggest considering getting an ATM card that does not charge you a fee. One such product is the Charles Schwab High-Interest Checking account, which reimburses all your ATM fees (both domestic and abroad). I usually load the card with what I plan to withdraw during the entire trip (plus an extra buffer) and carry that card in my wallet. I’ll then keep my normal debit card with my passport in the hotel safe. That way, if my wallet is stolen or lost, I still have access to my primary checking account and cash.
Additional Tips and Tricks for Getting Cash Abroad
Here are some extra tips when getting money from an international ATM:
1. Research how much you plan to take out in the local currency
Otherwise, you’ll be surprised when it presents you with the local currency options. It’s much easier when you already have an idea of what you need.
2. Look for ATMs with official bank logos
I find that the larger banks have more reliable ATMs. I’ve occasionally attempted to withdraw money from a small ATM (like ones that you would find in a gas station or convenience store) only to have the transaction freeze or fail.
3. Use ATMs that are in high-traffic areas
For your own safety, use ones where there’s less risk of being mugged. This doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, as I’ve heard stories of people being threatened at even the airport. Just make sure that you are aware of your surroundings at all time.
4. Look for any tampering on the ATM
Make sure that the ATM does not look like it’s been altered. A common scam is for thieves to install a duplicate reader and camera to steal your card number and PIN. Keep an eye out for machines that seem tampered.
5. Notify bank of your travels
You can usually do this online or by calling your bank’s customer service. Otherwise, your transaction will likely be denied and your account locked, which is no fun!
As a side note, I usually carry some US dollars with me, even if I don’t plan to use it. It more just an emergency fund that I can quickly use. I think it came in handy a few times when I had to pay a departure or tourism fee and the credit card processing machine wasn’t working.
So those are some quick tips on getting cash abroad. If you have any other tips or experiences, please share them below in the comments section.