What Is the Cheapest Way To Get Cash Abroad?

Byron Mühlberg, writer at Monito.com

A writer at Monito, Byron possesses a keen interest in the intersection of personal finance and technology. A former journalist, he strives to bring complex information to life in a way that can be widely understood and appreciated.

A writer and editor at Monito, Jarrod is passionate about helping people apply today’s powerful finance technologies to their lives. He brings his background in international affairs and his experiences living in Japan to provide readers with comprehensive information that also acknowledges the local context.

Links on this page may earn us an affiliate commission. This does not affect the opinions and recommendations of our editors.

For most people, travelling abroad is an exciting and leisurely way to spent time off, characterised by new experiences, sights, tastes, and smells. However, while most people try to keep a check on the main costs of their trip abroad — e.g. hotels, transport, eating out, etc. — not everybody remembers to keep such a close eye on a less obvious expense — paying for foreign cash .

While cashless payments are on the rise, cash is still king in many parts of the world, including Europe and Asia. In this guide, we explore the two main ways to get cash abroad: buying foreign banknotes directly and withdrawing it from ATMs overseas.

Then, we break down the costs of each and delve into which method makes the most sense for you. Finally, we end things off with general tips for finding the cheapest way to get cash abroad.

Withdraw Cash From ATMs Abroad

US cardholders: Open a Juno account for no foreign transaction fees and 1 ATM fee reimbursement per month (even applies to foreign ATM withdrawals!).

European cardholders: Open an N26 account for 3 free ATM withdrawals and no foreign transaction fee in the EU.

UK cardholders: Open a Monzo account for no foreign transaction fees ever and no ATM fees on first £5,500 per month.

Check out our YouTube video about the best ways to get cash abroad:

Cheapest Ways To Get Cash Abroad

Option 1 — Buying Foreign Banknotes

Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

A popular (but expensive) way to get cash abroad is to directly buy a stack of foreign currency banknotes. This can be done either before you travel or during your trip at a bank or bureau de change — both commonly found in airports and foreign cities. You can often also order foreign currency banknotes through your own bank before you leave.

Picking up a wad of foreign cash before a trip abroad is often the exciting first step of an overseas adventure and gives you spending money from the get-go. However, it is NOT the cheapest way to get cash abroad . This is because of the following three fees that are usually associated with buying foreign currency:

  • Transaction fee: Banks and bureaux de change often (although not always) charge a fixed fee or variable commission onto every currency conversion you make.
  • Delivery fee: If you’d like to have the foreign cash you ordered delivered directly to your home before your trip, this will, in all likelihood, come with an additional delivery surcharge.
  • Exchange rate margin: In all cases, you’ll be charged a margin that forms the difference between the bid price of the foreign currency as obtained by the currency exchange provider and the ask price you’ll be paying. This tends to form the highest cost of exchanging currency.

According to Monito’s research, the total cost of ordering foreign banknotes combined tends to range from 2.15% to a whopping 16.60% of the total amount converted , depending on where you exchange cash and how much you exchange in the first place.

Because of the cost of ordering foreign banknotes in general, we recommend against this method if you’re able to withdraw directly from an overseas ATM, which will likely be cheaper.

If you do want to purchase foreign currency, we recommend comparing currency specialists on Monito by finding the best travel card:

Option 2 — Withdrawing at Foreign ATMs

Withdraw money from ATM without card

Nick Pampoukidis on Unsplash

Depending on exactly how you get the job done, withdrawing cash from a foreign ATM can either be a pricey endeavour or a remarkably cheap way to access foreign cash . Before we explore why, let’s take a look at the costs associated with withdrawing money outside of your home country —

According to Condé Nast, for example, withdrawal fees typically range from US$2.00 to US$5.00 per withdrawal, in addition to the fees that banks themselves already usually charge for these services.

Typical Fees For Withdrawing Cash Abroad

Taken together, paying at foreign ATMs typically includes any combination of the following types of fees:

  • Foreign transaction fee: Banks or ATM networks charge a fee for withdrawals involving currency conversion. These fees range usually range between US$2.00 and US$5.00 per withdrawal but can sometimes be higher or include a commission charge of up to 3.00% of the transfer amount in addition to the fixed amount.
  • Dynamic currency conversion: A sneaky fee charged for converting a foreign currency payment into an ATM’s local currency. These fees can be higher than 10.00% of the transaction value at the extreme (see more on avoiding this fee below).
  • Exchange rate margin: In all cases, you’ll be charged a margin that forms the difference between the bid price of the foreign currency from your card issuer and the ask price you’ll be paying. This sometimes forms the highest cost to get cash abroad.
  • Bank charges: If the foreign ATM network you use is outside of your own bank’s network or a partner network (which is often the case), you will likely be charged a fee by your bank.
  • ATM network fees: If you’re withdrawing money from an ATM operator (i.e. a non-bank ATM network such as Euronet), you may be charged an additional fee still, usually ranging between US$1.50 and US$3.50 or more per transfer. For example, a US traveller withdrawing Euros in Italy from a Euronet ATM will be charged up to €4.99 for each withdrawal.
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Always Pay In the Local Currency

Merchants or ATMs often charge dynamic currency conversions (or DCCs) on card payments to convert foreign currency into local currency. Because these fees can go as high as 10.00% per withdrawal, we recommend against paying in your home currency when given a choice, as you’ll be able to avoid this fee by doing so.

For the best way to get cash in Europe, always click the EUR button to opt to pay in Euros. In the UK, that’s GBP. In the US, that’ll be USD, and in Japan, it’s JPY.

While these costs may seem like a lot (and they can indeed add up quickly) if you’re planning to withdraw cash at ATMs while abroad, you’ll be saving money in almost all cases compared to buying the foreign currency directly at a bureau de change.

Best Cards With Zero Foreign Transaction Fees

Homem com capuz e jaqueta segura o smartphone numa mão e o cartão de crédito na outra

Fortunately, many of the costs associated with the banks — and sometimes even the ATMs themselves — can be avoided when withdrawing cash from abroad by choosing the right card. Look for cards that specifically waive foreign card transaction fees.

High Street Banks

For example, some banks offer debit card and prepaid card offerings that charge low or no fees for overseas cash withdrawals. These include Charles Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking Account in the US, which comes with a Visa Platinum debit card offering free foreign ATM withdrawals (including reimbursing those charged by foreign ATM networks), and Virgin Money’s M Plus Account in the UK, which charges no fees on overseas spending.

If you plan to frequently withdraw money while overseas, we recommend exploring the card options available to you that charge low or no fees on overseas withdrawals, as you could save a lot over the long run by doing so. Take a look at Monito’s guide to the best banks for international travel to find out more.

Neobanks

Similarly, another savvy option is opening an account with a neobank or ordering a specialist service travel card. These cards typically work well alongside a primary bank account and offer extremely competitive pricing for foreign ATM withdrawals. These include Wise, Revolut, N26, Monese, and others.

Best Way To Get Cash Abroad? Find a Card That Gets Cash Without Fees

We recommend withdrawing cash from ATMs as the cheapest way to get cash abroad if you’re using a debit or credit card that’s specifically geared toward international use or a travel card. Look for cards that offer the following:

  • Waive foreign transaction fees;
  • Charge zero ATM withdrawal fees;
  • Have high ATM withdrawal limits;
  • Reimburse ATM service charges;
  • Link to multi-currency accounts.

Below we list a few of the best travel cards offered by online banks around the world. It’s important to note that some neobanks, like N26, only offer their services to EU and EEA citizens. Others, such as Revolut, are global companies that open accounts for eligible nationalities around the world.

If you’d like a worldwide list of neobanks, read our ultimate neobank guide here. Have a look at a few of the many options at your disposal:

What Is the Cheapest Way To Get Cash Abroad?

Byron Mühlberg, writer at Monito.com

A writer at Monito, Byron possesses a keen interest in the intersection of personal finance and technology. A former journalist, he strives to bring complex information to life in a way that can be widely understood and appreciated.

A writer and editor at Monito, Jarrod is passionate about helping people apply today’s powerful finance technologies to their lives. He brings his background in international affairs and his experiences living in Japan to provide readers with comprehensive information that also acknowledges the local context.

Links on this page may earn us an affiliate commission. This does not affect the opinions and recommendations of our editors.

For most people, travelling abroad is an exciting and leisurely way to spent time off, characterised by new experiences, sights, tastes, and smells. However, while most people try to keep a check on the main costs of their trip abroad — e.g. hotels, transport, eating out, etc. — not everybody remembers to keep such a close eye on a less obvious expense — paying for foreign cash .

While cashless payments are on the rise, cash is still king in many parts of the world, including Europe and Asia. In this guide, we explore the two main ways to get cash abroad: buying foreign banknotes directly and withdrawing it from ATMs overseas.

Then, we break down the costs of each and delve into which method makes the most sense for you. Finally, we end things off with general tips for finding the cheapest way to get cash abroad.

Withdraw Cash From ATMs Abroad

US cardholders: Open a Juno account for no foreign transaction fees and 1 ATM fee reimbursement per month (even applies to foreign ATM withdrawals!).

European cardholders: Open an N26 account for 3 free ATM withdrawals and no foreign transaction fee in the EU.

UK cardholders: Open a Monzo account for no foreign transaction fees ever and no ATM fees on first £5,500 per month.

Check out our YouTube video about the best ways to get cash abroad:

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Cheapest Ways To Get Cash Abroad

Option 1 — Buying Foreign Banknotes

Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

A popular (but expensive) way to get cash abroad is to directly buy a stack of foreign currency banknotes. This can be done either before you travel or during your trip at a bank or bureau de change — both commonly found in airports and foreign cities. You can often also order foreign currency banknotes through your own bank before you leave.

Picking up a wad of foreign cash before a trip abroad is often the exciting first step of an overseas adventure and gives you spending money from the get-go. However, it is NOT the cheapest way to get cash abroad . This is because of the following three fees that are usually associated with buying foreign currency:

  • Transaction fee: Banks and bureaux de change often (although not always) charge a fixed fee or variable commission onto every currency conversion you make.
  • Delivery fee: If you’d like to have the foreign cash you ordered delivered directly to your home before your trip, this will, in all likelihood, come with an additional delivery surcharge.
  • Exchange rate margin: In all cases, you’ll be charged a margin that forms the difference between the bid price of the foreign currency as obtained by the currency exchange provider and the ask price you’ll be paying. This tends to form the highest cost of exchanging currency.

According to Monito’s research, the total cost of ordering foreign banknotes combined tends to range from 2.15% to a whopping 16.60% of the total amount converted , depending on where you exchange cash and how much you exchange in the first place.

Because of the cost of ordering foreign banknotes in general, we recommend against this method if you’re able to withdraw directly from an overseas ATM, which will likely be cheaper.

If you do want to purchase foreign currency, we recommend comparing currency specialists on Monito by finding the best travel card:

Option 2 — Withdrawing at Foreign ATMs

Withdraw money from ATM without card

Nick Pampoukidis on Unsplash

Depending on exactly how you get the job done, withdrawing cash from a foreign ATM can either be a pricey endeavour or a remarkably cheap way to access foreign cash . Before we explore why, let’s take a look at the costs associated with withdrawing money outside of your home country —

According to Condé Nast, for example, withdrawal fees typically range from US$2.00 to US$5.00 per withdrawal, in addition to the fees that banks themselves already usually charge for these services.

Typical Fees For Withdrawing Cash Abroad

Taken together, paying at foreign ATMs typically includes any combination of the following types of fees:

  • Foreign transaction fee: Banks or ATM networks charge a fee for withdrawals involving currency conversion. These fees range usually range between US$2.00 and US$5.00 per withdrawal but can sometimes be higher or include a commission charge of up to 3.00% of the transfer amount in addition to the fixed amount.
  • Dynamic currency conversion: A sneaky fee charged for converting a foreign currency payment into an ATM’s local currency. These fees can be higher than 10.00% of the transaction value at the extreme (see more on avoiding this fee below).
  • Exchange rate margin: In all cases, you’ll be charged a margin that forms the difference between the bid price of the foreign currency from your card issuer and the ask price you’ll be paying. This sometimes forms the highest cost to get cash abroad.
  • Bank charges: If the foreign ATM network you use is outside of your own bank’s network or a partner network (which is often the case), you will likely be charged a fee by your bank.
  • ATM network fees: If you’re withdrawing money from an ATM operator (i.e. a non-bank ATM network such as Euronet), you may be charged an additional fee still, usually ranging between US$1.50 and US$3.50 or more per transfer. For example, a US traveller withdrawing Euros in Italy from a Euronet ATM will be charged up to €4.99 for each withdrawal.

Always Pay In the Local Currency

Merchants or ATMs often charge dynamic currency conversions (or DCCs) on card payments to convert foreign currency into local currency. Because these fees can go as high as 10.00% per withdrawal, we recommend against paying in your home currency when given a choice, as you’ll be able to avoid this fee by doing so.

For the best way to get cash in Europe, always click the EUR button to opt to pay in Euros. In the UK, that’s GBP. In the US, that’ll be USD, and in Japan, it’s JPY.

While these costs may seem like a lot (and they can indeed add up quickly) if you’re planning to withdraw cash at ATMs while abroad, you’ll be saving money in almost all cases compared to buying the foreign currency directly at a bureau de change.

Best Cards With Zero Foreign Transaction Fees

Homem com capuz e jaqueta segura o smartphone numa mão e o cartão de crédito na outra

Fortunately, many of the costs associated with the banks — and sometimes even the ATMs themselves — can be avoided when withdrawing cash from abroad by choosing the right card. Look for cards that specifically waive foreign card transaction fees.

High Street Banks

For example, some banks offer debit card and prepaid card offerings that charge low or no fees for overseas cash withdrawals. These include Charles Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking Account in the US, which comes with a Visa Platinum debit card offering free foreign ATM withdrawals (including reimbursing those charged by foreign ATM networks), and Virgin Money’s M Plus Account in the UK, which charges no fees on overseas spending.

If you plan to frequently withdraw money while overseas, we recommend exploring the card options available to you that charge low or no fees on overseas withdrawals, as you could save a lot over the long run by doing so. Take a look at Monito’s guide to the best banks for international travel to find out more.

Neobanks

Similarly, another savvy option is opening an account with a neobank or ordering a specialist service travel card. These cards typically work well alongside a primary bank account and offer extremely competitive pricing for foreign ATM withdrawals. These include Wise, Revolut, N26, Monese, and others.

Read Post  What you need to know about traveling to Europe this summer

Best Way To Get Cash Abroad? Find a Card That Gets Cash Without Fees

We recommend withdrawing cash from ATMs as the cheapest way to get cash abroad if you’re using a debit or credit card that’s specifically geared toward international use or a travel card. Look for cards that offer the following:

  • Waive foreign transaction fees;
  • Charge zero ATM withdrawal fees;
  • Have high ATM withdrawal limits;
  • Reimburse ATM service charges;
  • Link to multi-currency accounts.

Below we list a few of the best travel cards offered by online banks around the world. It’s important to note that some neobanks, like N26, only offer their services to EU and EEA citizens. Others, such as Revolut, are global companies that open accounts for eligible nationalities around the world.

If you’d like a worldwide list of neobanks, read our ultimate neobank guide here. Have a look at a few of the many options at your disposal:

8 Simple Rules for Using Your Debit Card in Europe

LaToya Irby is a credit expert who has been covering credit and debt management for The Balance for more than a dozen years. She’s been quoted in USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press, and her work has been cited in several books.

Michael Boyle is an experienced financial professional with more than 10 years working with financial planning, derivatives, equities, fixed income, project management, and analytics.

Image shows a debit card surrounded by various icons, a hand, a keypad, a price tag, a stack of money, a phone handle, and a globe, illustrating a headline that reads,

The Balance / Maritsa Patrinos

If you’re a U.S. citizen planning a trip to Europe one day, it’s essential to know the rules for using your debit card in abroad. You want to be sure you can continue to access your funds while you’re on the trip and avoid having your account flagged for fraudulent activity.

Check the Network Before You Travel

If you have a debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo, you should have a pretty easy time using your debit card in Europe. Your debit card will also have the symbol of a debit card network like PLUS, Cirrus, or Maestro.     When you’re using your debit card at an ATM—which is often the most convenient and cheapest way to get cash when you’re traveling in Europe—check for these symbols to be sure your card is compatible.

Let Your Bank Know You’re Traveling

Before you head out, give your bank a quick call to let them know you’ll be traveling out of the country. Give them the date of your departure and your return so your bank won’t put a hold on your debit card. Otherwise, your bank may automatically flag your international transactions as fraudulent, and that could be a hassle.   Keep in mind that there can be a time difference of up to 10 hours between countries in Eastern Europe and the Western United States, which can make it difficult to contact your bank during business hours.

Confirm the International Transaction Fees You’ll Pay

While you have your bank on the phone, it’s helpful to find out the fees you’ll be charged for using your debit card in Europe both for purchases and for withdrawing cash from the ATM. Many banks charge a fee for converting your transaction to another currency.   The Euro is widely used throughout Europe, but some countries, like the UK and Switzerland, use their own currencies (the British Pound and the Swiss Franc). You may pay a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. You’ll need to factor these foreign transaction fees into your budget so you won’t run out of funds. Using a debit card that’s great for international travel can help you save on fees.

Check Your Daily Cash Withdrawal Limit

You’ll want to carry a certain amount of local currency with you just in case you’re traveling to places that don’t accept debit cards, or you want to avoid paying currency exchange fees on each transaction. Check your current daily cash withdrawal limit to confirm it’s high enough for the amount you may withdraw each day. If not, ask your bank to raise your withdrawal limit while you’re on the trip. You can lower the limit again once you’re back home.

Make Sure You Have a 4-Digit PIN

ATMs in Europe won’t accept a PIN longer or shorter than four digits, so make sure you have your PIN set correctly before you depart on your trip. While you can withdraw cash from an ATM using a credit card, it’s better to use your debit card since a credit card cash advance is more expensive.  

Pay for Purchases in Local Currency

Some merchants may ask if you want to pay for your purchase in U.S. dollars. While it might be easier for you to do the math this way, it’s typically more expensive.   The merchants essentially charge their exchange rate, which may be much higher than what your bank charges you. You can download an exchange rate calculator app to your phone, so you can quickly make currency conversions.

Bring a Backup Credit or Debit Card

You don’t want to be stuck in Europe without a second source of funding. Bring another credit or debit card with you. Make sure you call that bank before traveling as well and check the fees and daily withdrawal limits. Don’t carry the two cards with you at the same time. Leave one where you’re staying so that if your primary debit card is lost or stolen, you won’t be without a card. If you’re uncomfortable leaving your second card at your hotel or Airbnb, carry it on your person, but separately from your main credit card. For example, you might carry one card in your wallet and another in your shoe.

Be Aware of Debit Card Fraud Protection Laws

While using your debit card means you’re not creating a credit card balance, it may be riskier. If your debit card is lost or stolen, you have two business days to report it to the bank. This quick response limits your liability for any fraudulent charges to just $50. After that, you could be liable for $500 or the entire amount stolen from your account if it takes you 60 days or more to report your missing card. A missing debit card puts your entire balance at risk—the money you’ve earned and deposited into your checking account.

With a credit card, you’re only liable for a maximum of $50 in fraudulent charges once your card goes missing. And it’s your credit limit that’s at risk, not your bank account balance. That doesn’t mean you can’t use your debit card, but be extra protective since your money is at risk if you lose your card.  

Fortunately, the banking system in Europe is not dramatically different from that of the U.S. Practicing these simple rules for using your debit card while traveling abroad will keep your debit card usable and protect the funds in your bank account. For even more security, consider using a money belt, keeping pockets zipped, and practicing other smart money management habits while traveling.

Source https://www.monito.com/en/wiki/cheapest-way-to-get-cash-abroad

Source https://www.monito.com/en/wiki/cheapest-way-to-get-cash-abroad

Source https://www.thebalancemoney.com/8-simple-rules-for-using-your-debit-card-in-europe-4167622

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