Subject: Getting Foreign Currency (was: Euro vs Dollar)
Ziners, It's been mentioned here many times before, but perhaps it bears repeating:

Almost without exception the best exchange rate you can get will be by withdrawing cash from ATMs abroad, in the country's local currency.

The worst exchange rate is probably when you ask your local bank in the States to sell you foreign currency before your trip. This may not be true for travellers coming to the U.S. from other countries. U.S. banks seem to be the most rapacious in charging high commissions for foreign currency exchange transactions.

Using credit cards gives you a rate slightly worse than the ATMs, because in addition to the standard 1% commission, most credit card companies will tack on an additional 1% to 3% in administrative fees.

The costs of using travellers checks can be highly variable. You might get them for free initially , but depending upon where you cash them, the fees and or commissions can range from 1% to as high as 6% at the ubiquitous currency exchanges found in heavily trafficked tourist areas.

If you don't already have one, get an ATM card from your bank. Ask them for the network they use (Cirrus, Plus, etc), so that it will be easier to determine if a foreign ATM can access your bank account. Be sure to get a 4-digit all numerical PIN, since many foreign keypads only have numbers on the buttons. Also be aware that a foreign ATM will only be able to access your PRIMARY bank account, usually your checking account.

It is surprising how prevalent ATMs are throughout the world and how easy it is to get money out of your local account, in even the most remote, backwater locations.

Joel, in Chicago