Should you get currency for your destination before you leave your home country? What about using credit cards in other countries? Deciding whether to get foreign currency before leaving for a trip depends on various factors. Here are some things to consider.

Exchange Rates

Compare the exchange rates offered in your home country with those available in the destination country. Sometimes, you can get better rates at your destination, especially if you’re traveling to a country with a weaker currency.


Having at least some local currency on hand when you arrive can be convenient for small expenses like transportation from the airport or tipping. Depending on your destination, you might not have access to ATMs or exchange offices upon arrival.

Personal Safety

Carrying large amounts of cash can be risky. One option is to consider a combination of cash, credit/debit cards or mobile payment options. Keep in mind that in some countries, certain businesses may have older card payment machines that do not accept mobile payments.


Be aware of any fees associated with currency exchange. Sometimes, your bank or credit card company might offer competitive rates and lower fees.

Credit/Debit Cards

You may want to inform your credit and/or debit card issuer about your travel plans to avoid any fraud alerts or blocks on your card.  You may also want to put a limit or lower your existing ATM withdrawal limit before leaving.  That way in case your card is lost, stolen or compromised, you can limit any potential temporary or permanent loss.

It’s also a good idea to take any cards out of your wallet that you won’t be using during your trip and leave them at home.  You may also want to take photos of the front and back of your card, in case they are lost or stolen.  Downloading the app from your card issuer may also help you “shut off” the card quickly if it is lost or stolen.

Also beware of credit cards that claim “no foreign transaction fees”.  While this may be technically true, they usually charge a higher exchange rate to make up for the lack of a fee.  It also allows them to make even more money since the the more you spend, they more money they make vs a flat fee.


In many destinations, withdrawing money from ATMs can be a convenient and cost-effective option. However, be aware of any fees charged by the ATM provider or your bank.  When you arrive, estimate your cash needs for the time you’ll be there.  To reduce exchange fees, plan withdrawals accordingly to minimize the number of transactions, while still being mindful of safety in carrying large amounts of cash.

We have found we’re better off using ATMs that are at well known banks.  Fees tend to be lower and the chance of having our card “skimmed” are reduced.  The exchange rates also tend to be more reasonable and fair.  We highly recommend avoiding Euronet ATMs in Europe as they’re exchange rates can be extremely high.

Ultimately, it’s a balance of convenience, cost, and safety. It’s often advisable to have a mix of cash and electronic payment options to cover different scenarios during your travels.


Over the past few years we’ve used Wise. Formerly known as TransferWise, it is a popular international money transfer service known for its advantages

Wise typically offers lower fees compared to traditional banks and some other money transfer services. They use the real exchange rate (mid-market rate) and transparent fees, which can result in significant savings, especially on larger transfers.  It also keeps you from having to exchange money multiple times.

You can also maintain a balance in various currencies.  If the exchange rate for a currency in a country you’re traveling to in the future is currently low, you can add money in that currency now to your account.  We’ve done this several times with the Euro and GBP.  When the rate is advantageous, we’ll add funds in that currency to our account now for a trip in the future, anticipating that the rate will either be the same or increase.

Any fees and exchange rates are displayed upfront. There are no hidden charges, which is a significant advantage for users who want to know exactly how much their transfer will cost.  With credit or ATM cards, you won’t know until AFTER the transaction occurs and is posted to your account.

Transfers with Wise can be very fast, sometimes occurring within seconds or minutes, You can send or add money to your account online or through their app, making it accessible from anywhere.  Wise offers multi-currency accounts which allows you to hold and manage money in multiple currencies.

Wise is regulated by financial authorities in the countries where it operates, providing a level of security and peace of mind for its users. It supports transfers to many countries and in various currencies, making it a versatile option for international transfers.

Like any service, Wise may not be the best option for every situation, and it’s always a good idea to compare services for specific needs and scenarios.