You have spent the last few months (or years) saving for your trip. You have eaten at home instead of going out, you skipped that conference in Las Vegas and you stopped buying your morning latte (for a couple of days, anyway). Now your trip is finally here and it is time to spend all of that hard-saved money. How do you access the money you saved? Some people go to their banks and get traveller’s cheques and others convert dollars to foreign currency at a cambio. Though both of these options work, they are not the most convenient nor economical ways to access your money. Traveller’s cheques are not always accepted and often involve lines at banks. Cambios make their money by charging a commission, and although First Citywide Bank does not charge a commission, they will not be able to convert your currency.
Using your ATM card is the easiest and cheapest way to convert your earnings to local currency. When you notify your credit union (you use a credit union, right?) of your travel plans, check on the fees for foreign transactions. Usually it is nominal and much less than the alternatives. Before you leave, research ATM locations near your hotel, especially if you are not staying in a major city center. If you did not do that, airport ATMs will do just fine. In America, we would never dream of using an airport ATM (the surcharges!), but this appears to be an American convention. Withdraw just a few days’ worth of money at a time if you will always have access to an ATM. If not, take out what you will need, but so not store it all in the same place (wallet, purse). Put some in your wallet and keep the rest in the hotel safe. If the hotel does not have a safe, bury it someplace in your luggage.
It also is not a bad idea to have some of your home currency on you. When you get back, you may need to use cash before you would otherwise have an opportunity to get it (like paying the parking fees or tolls).
Know Before You Go:
Use ATMs to convert your currency and research their locations before you leave to save time when you arrive.
ATMs are the cheapest and most convenient way to convert your currency.