Eight Ways to Access Money Overseas

I get a lot of questions about the best way to access cash abroad.  As much as I love using credit cards and raking in the miles, the local Thai man with the street food cart will probably not accept my Visa. Traveler’s checks are a thing of the past, but there are other ways to access your money abroad. I find these methods to be the cheapest, easiest, and safest options for keeping my hard-earned cash close to me. Here are our tips for the best ways to access money overseas.

The Best Ways to Access Money Overseas

fDon’t exchange currency before you leave.

Cameron On The Beach In Jaco

You are going to get the best bang for your buck in the destination country, so don’t exchange your money before you arrive. Wait until you get to your destination before picking up local currency.

Don’t exchange currency at airports.

Natasha Looks Out Window In Airport

Airports provide the worst rates, and most companies like Travelex will tack on a “service charge” or another fee to exchange your money. Don’t ever exchange at the airport unless you have to. But wait, you just said not to exchange money before I leave, and then don’t do it at the destination airport. How do I get cash?

My parents always told me to carry cash on me, just in case. They were right, it is a good idea to have cash on you.  If you can find an ATM (not Travelex) at the airport use that.  The ATM should give you the best and current exchange rate.  If this is not an option, I recommend exchanging as little as possible at the exchange counters – just enough to keep you going until you can reach an ATM outside of the airport and into the city.

Get a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account

Cameron On A Bridge In Vail Colorado

This is one of my musts and definitely one of the best ways to access money overseas (for US Citizens). It takes some legwork before your trip to set up, but this card has saved me from paying any ATM fees domestically and internationally for years.

It’s quite simple. Use your debit card just like you would at any ATM, agree to the fees that the bank charges to withdraw money, and Charles Schwab will reimburse you those fees at the end of each month.

Get your cash from ATMs

This is how I get all my cash while abroad. ATMs give you a great interbank exchange rate, so you get the best and most up-to-date currency conversion. I also hate carrying around chunks of cash and potentially losing it or becoming a victim of theft. With the ease of ATM cash withdrawals, I never worry about having more cash on me than I need.

Throughout my travels, the only time I have been unable to access an ATM was in Koh Rong, Cambodia. I knew beforehand that there would be no way to access an ATM on a remote Cambodian island. ATMs are prevalent almost everywhere, and you should not have a problem finding one in urban cities.

Stay up to date with currency rates

Navagio Beach On Zakynthos

Always know what rate you should be getting.  I use the XE App to keep updated with currency changes daily. More than anything it’s just a good idea to understand the purchases you are making abroad, sometimes items can be surprisingly expensive.

Don’t pay Foreign Transaction Fees

Credit cards are constantly competing, and it amazes me that some still charge a 3% Foreign Transaction Fee per charge. Most travel cards do not have one, and it will save you enormous amounts to get one.  If you are just starting to gain credit, try Capital One, none of their cards charge foreign transaction fees. We have a post on why we recommend you carry a credit card and an article on our favorite credit cards for travel.

Always pay in the local currency

Natasha At The Taj Mahal At Sunrise

Many times when you use your credit card abroad you will be asked if you would like to be charged in your home currency or local.  ALWAYS choose the local currency. The rate that they are giving you is always bad and inflated and converting to your own currency will cost you.

Use your foreign currency before returning home or traveling onwards.

Every time you exchange, you are going to be biting the bullet and losing at least a little money.  Get rid of that Japanese Yen before you leave Japan!  As your trip starts dwindling down, start resorting to your cash only so you don’t come back home with unusable currency.

About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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