An international holiday or business trip is an expensive proposition. One way to save a little cash on an international trip is to be a savvy shopper and get the best exchange rates for your hard-earned dollars.

The first place to search for the best rate is in your wallet. Your ATM card will allow you to bypass some service charges, depending on your bank and where you withdraw the money. Automated Teller Machines and banks in the airport usually have their rates set lower than commercial exchange counters. Travel agents recommend scoring some cash as soon as possible after touching down at your destination.

The only thing wrong with using a debit card to withdraw cash is that you won’t know exactly how much the fees are until the transaction is completed. Some local banks have service charges, but you’ll be alerted to them before you follow through on your withdrawal. In some cases, your home bank may also have a fee. Larger banks, like Citibank or Bank of America, have reciprocal agreements with foreign counterparts to skip service charges for their customers. While you won’t be charged a service fee for using your card, you will be charged a one percent exchange fee.

Be sure to withdraw from your checking account. Don’t take an advance on a credit card. Cash advances incur larger transaction and exchange fees, in addition to their interest charges. The worst place to exchange your cash is at a hotel. The transaction fees and exchange rates are very high.

If you plan to pay for purchases with a credit card, check your cards ahead of time for the one with the lowest fee for international use. It might be worth your while to get a new card with a low rate just for your trip. The key is to comparison shop for the best fees and rates, no matter where you visit. If you save ten dollars each time you exchange currency, you might save enough for an extra night at a hotel.

Some banks will allow you to exchange larger amounts of cash for a lower fee. If you don’t use all the cash during your trip, you can return the balance to the same bank where you originally converted your currency.

Reloadable prepaid traveler’s check cards and traveler’s checks offer security from loss and a low fee when withdrawing your cash from an ATM. These are viable options for travel within cosmopolitan areas, but they may not be optimal for travel into destinations off the beaten path. Remote locations may not recognize or cash your traveler’s checks. Some countries do not honor standard NZ credit cards.

The best solution is to travel with a blend of currency in various denominations, an ATM card linked to a checking account and traveler’s checks. And remember often you won’t get the best deal even if a merchant is prepared to accept NZ dollars. It’s easier to barter with local currency.

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