How To Get The Best Exchange Rate Before Traveling Abroad

Guides2 years ago
Picture of Euros and a spreadsheet

One of the most important things to do when planning your travel is to give yourself enough time to get the best exchange rate in USD before you leave. Planning ahead of time and doing your research can result in more spending money in your pocket once you arrive at your destination and no unpleasant shocks the first time you draw money out from an ATM while abroad.

The best way to save money on your travel is by planning ahead and working out the best exchange rate USD to your destination currency is not a task you should ignore. So, schedule some time today to get to work, and your future self will enjoy more Piña Coladas while enjoying the sunshine!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Editor's Choice

Intro offer

75,000 Miles

Annual Fee


Recommended Credit


75,000 Miles

Capital One Venture.png

How Do You Find the Best Exchange Rate for USD against Other Currencies?

A currency exchange rate is a rate at which you can buy one type of currency with another, and always fluctuates. So, for example, the dollar's value against the Euro, Pound, and Yen will be moving up and down daily as the global markets progress and investors buy and sell stocks.

So, there is no set flat fee at which you can always exchange your money, although the differences do not tend to be all that extreme. You can get more foreign currency for your money when the USD is stronger.

Exchanging your dollars for foreign currency when the dollar is riding high will mean you get more foreign currency to spend. You should also be looking for an organization that will give you the best exchange rate for USD while limiting additional fees.


You May Find The Best Currency Exchange Rates for Your Travel at your Local Bank!

When converting your dollars, you may find that your own local organization is the best travel bank option. Whether a national chain, a local bank or a credit union, you will likely find their next exchange rate for USD reasonable.

You can avoid any international transaction fees by sorting out your exchange at home ahead of time. You may need to go to the bank, or some banks can arrange to have the foreign currency delivered to your home! The amount of time the process takes can vary from a same-day completion to a couple of days, depending on the bank or credit union you are using.

  • Wells Fargo will exchange your currency and not charge you any fees (but their exchange rates are slightly less favorable than others)
  • Bank of America will not charge you on your foreign currency exchange as long as it is over $1,000 (if you exchange less than this, they will charge $7.50 as a late fee)
  • Citibank does not apply a fee to their currency exchange services
  • TD Bank will charge $7.50 on currency exchange between $250-$1,500


Do Not Leave It Last Minute or Use the Currency Exchange Kiosk at the Airport!

To ensure you get the most for your money and enjoy the best exchange rate for USD, you should avoid the currency exchange kiosk at the airport if you can. In terms of convenience and speed, they are tempting propositions, but you are likely to receive less favorable rates than you would with your normal bank.

If you regularly use a foreign exchange kiosk, the next time you are in an airport, look at the rates they are currently offering and then get on your phone to use an online currency conversion site. This should give you a good idea of how much value you will get for the service.

Airport foreign exchange kiosks will typically charge high fees for their service, which they may disguise in the lower exchange rates you receive when exchanging USD for other currencies. This will result in less spending money when you arrive at your destination than if you had planned ahead.

You may decide it is worth paying the fees and costs involved for convenience, but if you have the time, you should try to make a trip to your local bank.


Should You Pay By Card When Abroad?

If you did not give yourself enough time to head to the bank and have avoided costly airport kiosk services, you also have the option to pay by card while abroad - although this means paying foreign transaction fees.

Depending upon which Credit card you use, you may find that your bank charges you up to 3% of your purchase amount as a transactional fee for every purchase. This can build up to a fair amount during a one or two-week vacation.

So, if you are planning on using your card while abroad, read all the terms and conditions on your bank's website to know what charges you need to factor in. If you find getting this information confusing or time-consuming, call the bank and ask for confirmation about the transaction fees to your account.

Some of the best travel bank credit cards do not charge any foreign transaction fees at all and will allow you to collect rewards points for further travel with your purchases. So, if you are planning your travel well in advance, you might consider applying for one of these.


Picture Dollars and Euros


Do Not Forget to Research ATM Fees and Daily Withdrawal Limits

If you are planning to use ATMs while abroad, you should know the fees your bank will charge for each withdrawal and whether there are any limits on how much money you can withdraw daily.

Before you leave, you will need to contact your bank to check on this and whether they can raise your daily withdrawal limit so you will always have the money you need while abroad. (Although you should also be aware that some foreign cash machines will have their own withdrawal limits.)

You should also ask about ATM usage fees on foreign machines not in their network.

Checking on fees and withdrawal limits ahead of time will help you to decide if paying by credit card is the best option for your travel spending or whether you should try to get the best exchange rate for USD before you leave.


If You Are A Frequent Traveler, You Can Use International Baking Apps to Hold Different Currencies

If you travel to various parts of the world frequently, you may find it helpful to use an International Banking App, which allows you to hold funds in different currencies, saving time and inconvenience each time you go to a new location.

You Can Pay in Dollars in Some Foreign Locations - But Try To Avoid It

If you are heading to an immensely popular destination with American travelers, you may find that some merchants in the most touristy areas will let you pay in dollars. But there is a catch! You will probably pay more due to a poor exchange rate, so you should always try to pay in the local currency whenever you can.


Takeaway - How to Get the Best Exchange Rate Before Traveling Abroad

The best way to get the best exchange rate USD for foreign currency is to plan ahead. Leaving your currency exchange to the last minute and relying on airport kiosks or credit card spending abroad could leave you open to unfavorable exchange rates and additional fees.

If you have enough time before traveling, you should consider applying for one of the best travel bank credit cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee and allows you to collect points towards your next trip**.**

Get started by checking the exchange rates available at your local bank and whether they charge any fees for currency exchange. You may often find that this is the best place to get the best exchange rate in USD for your vacation or business trip spending. 

Person looking through a bag on an airplane