How Do You Exchange U.S. Currency?

Travelers can exchange U.S. currency by using credit or debit cards to withdraw local currency from overseas ATM machines, order foreign currency from their banks before they leave, or buy cash online from foreign currency dealers. They can also exchange dollars at airports, hotels or city center currency exchange offices.

Although banks that issue U.S. credit cards and foreign ATM machines both typically charge transaction fees, exchanging U.S. dollars for foreign currency through overseas ATM machines affiliated with U.S. banks offers reasonable exchange rates and minimal fees. Travelers can minimize fees by occasionally withdrawing large amounts rather than frequently withdrawing petty amounts. An alternative to carrying normal credit or debit cards is to load currency onto prepaid gift cards or foreign currency cards. Ordering foreign currency cash through a local U.S. bank usually offers a better exchange rate than ordering foreign cash from a foreign exchange website, and some banks waive delivery and transaction fees for regular customers.

Most international airports and major hotels overseas have currency exchange desks, but these locations usually have poor exchange rates and high transaction fees. Foreign exchange offices in downtown areas of overseas cities typically have better exchange rates than airports or hotels, but travelers should be wary of hidden transaction fees and research current rates online before agreeing to the exchange.