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How to get the best exchange rate

When traveling abroad, many people are guilty of mentally converting the cost of everything they see into U.S. dollars and cringing at the thought of paying so much more than what they would have in the States. The exchange rate alone can be enough to make you worry you’ve blown your budget, not even taking into account poor conversions and extra fees.

In order to avoid poor conversion rates and fees, consider signing up for a Bank of America or CitiBank debit card before your trip. By withdrawing at certain ATMs around the globe, you’ll get the best exchange rate and you’ll avoid fees. With a Bank of America debit card, you can make unlimited withdrawals without being charged a single fee at ATMs operated by Barclays (U.K.), Deutsche Bank (Germany), BNP Paribas (France), Scotiabank (Canada), and Westpac (Australia and New Zealand).

If you opt for Citibank, you can make unlimited withdrawals from Citibank ATMs in various foreign countries. However, Citibank has very few, if any, ATMs in such popular destinations as France, Mexico, and New Zealand. Check the CitiBank website for locations. Also keep in mind that some small banks absorb the usual fees for foreign withdrawals, but they do usually limit the number of no-fee uses. Ask your bank about its policies and be careful to only go to the ATMs it designates.

If you do not have a bank that provides this service and do not want to sign up for a new account, you’ll get nearly as good an exchange rate using a credit card that doesn’t assess a large foreign surcharge. According to columnist Ed Perkins, you only get charged about one percent in exchange fees with a Visa card from Capital One or USAA bank, or a MasterCard or Visa from some smaller banks and credit unions. And never use that credit card to withdraw from the ATM.

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