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I'm considering taking a trip abroad in a few months, and would like to exchange a moderate amount of money (say less than $2,500) into a couple of currencies (probably 60% Euro, 30% GBP, 10% something else).

I want actual physical cash. My preference would be to exchange the currency before I leave, but I'm open to any suggestions.

Where is the best place to do this without getting completely ripped off? I live in Upstate NY, but travel to Boston, MA and New York City regularly if that matters.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The last time I checked (more than a year ago), Wells Fargo had the best rates and they provide next day delivery. They also have international ATMs in New York City.

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Typically, withdrawing cash from an ATM once abroad gives you the best exchange rate, but check if your bank imposes ATM withdrawal fees.

This works well for all major currencies, such as GBP, Euro, Yen, AUD. I've also withdrawn Croatian kunas, Brazilian reais and Moroccan dirhams without any trouble.

In Southeast Asia, it may be a different story. Thai ATMs, for example, reportedly impose a surcharge of about $5.

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Capital One 360 and Charles Schwab Bank both have no foreign ATM transaction fees. The rates for all ATM transactions will be significantly better than at banks/exchanges for major currencies at least. – rhaskett Dec 9 '14 at 21:29
Be aware that many foreign ATMs now offer to do a conversion for you at a significantly worse rate than your bank would provide. You can opt out, but it is usually worded in a way to trick you into opting in. – Eric Dec 11 '14 at 15:30

Many years ago you used to be able to purchase "currency packs" that were combined bundles of currencies from western Europe based on the number of days you would be spending in each country. The exchange rates on these were very favorable and they had minimal surcharges.

With the rise of the euro I doubt these bundles are still available as I haven't seen them myself in about 10 years.

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