Travel Money Comparison

Compare travel money options in the US and get the best rate for your next holidays abroad

Jan 20, 2020

The Complete Guide to Travel Money in the US, Your Questions, Answered

If you live in the United States and you’re planning a trip abroad, you have several options for getting travel money. The fees and exchange rates you’ll pay for foreign currency can vary significantly, so getting your money ahead of time can lead to significant savings.

We’ll answer your questions on buying currency in the US, spending abroad on a credit, debit or travel card and the other options you have for getting travel money. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, we’ll help you find the best ways to make your money go further, find the best exchange rates and tick one more item off your “to-do” list. With our tips, you can avoid the traps and hidden fees.

What are the different ways that I can order travel money in the US?

You have several options for exchanging dollars into foreign currency and spending overseas.

1. Using your bank or credit union

One of the most convenient ways to get foreign currency in the US will be through using your bank. Most of the bigger banks, and some local or regional banks will exchange travel money for you, although you may need to provide some notice. 

Be aware that even though they’re local and easy to use, banks and credit unions may have fairly high fees and poor exchange rates for travel money. It’s also important to contact your bank ahead of time to confirm that they offer currency exchange services to save you a wasted journey.

Some banks may even allow you to order foreign currency online through your banking portal and have it ready for pickup a few days later.

Here are some of our reviews of US banks which detail their services:

  • Wells Fargo currency exchange service
  • Bank of America currency exchange service
  • Citibank currency exchange service

2. Having money sent to your home

Some banks and exchange services will allow you to order your travel money online and then have it delivered to your home or to a local branch. Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America provide online ordering services.

3. Using a local currency exchange service

You can also exchange money at airport kiosks and other travel hubs. Larger US cities will also have dedicated currency exchange businesses where you can buy travel money. In common with banks, local currency exchange services like MoneyGram or Travelex do have higher fees, so you may end up paying more. In some areas, the AAA also offers currency exchange. Here are some of our reviews of these types of services:

  • Our independent review of MoneyGram
  • Our independent review of Western Union
  • Our independent review of Travelex

We’ve also covered where you can get your currency exchange in New York City.

4. Getting a prepaid travel money card

Some companies allow you to get a travel debit card that you preload with currency before you go abroad—these cards are safer than cash, convenient and accepted almost everywhere. For example, you can get a “Multi-currency cash passport” that you can add US dollars to. Then, when you’re abroad, you spend in that country’s currency and the card issuer makes a currency conversion and debits that from your US dollar balance. This is often a fast and convenient way to spend abroad and saves you needing to carry cash, although many of these cards have poor exchange rates and high fixed fees. Visa offers a TravelMoney card and Travelex also offers a prepaid travel card.

5. Spending on your US debit or credit card abroad

You might choose not to exchange money before you travel, but simply make payments on your existing debit or credit card when you’re overseas. If you decide to do this, you’ll likely get less-than-ideal exchange rates, and you’ll probably also be charged a foreign transaction fee of up to three per cent of the transaction amount. 

6. Cash withdrawals on your US debit or credit card abroad

You can also withdraw cash from an ATM in another country using your debit or credit card. There will be additional fees associated with this, and a credit card issuer may treat this as a “cash advance” and start charging interest immediately. 

7. Getting Travelers Cheques

Travelers Cheques are available from American Express and some banks, although many people choose more modern ways to spend abroad.

8. Use one of these innovative travel money card

One of your best options might be a service like TransferWise, N26 or Revolut. You can get a debit Mastercard or VISA that lets you exchange money between US dollars and other currencies quickly and easily when you spend abroad. The fees are low and transparent. Compare them below.

3 best travel money cards in 2020 compared - N26 vs Revolut vs Transferwise

Revolut

TransferWise

N26

Foreign currency exchange

0%-2%

on the first $6,500, up to 2.5% thereafter

0.35%-3%

depending on the currency

0%

Foreign ATMs fees

0%

on the first $300 per month, 2% thereafter

0%

on the first $250 per month, 2% thereafter

Free at Allpoint ATMs

$2 + 2% otherwise

Card Delivery Fee

$4.99

$0

$0

Trustpilot score

8.9/10

20,000 reviews

9.2/10

67,000 reviews

7.7/10

5,300 reviews

Go to RevolutGo to TransferWiseGo to N26

Special Deals

With Revolut, Monito's users get the standard card shipped for FREE using our link.

Important Tips

  • You can also open an account with multiple providers in order to have backup cards and multiple limits (with 1x Monese card and 1x Revolut, you can withdraw 2x €200 for free at an ATM abroad for example). If you're not travelling alone, you can open multiple accounts with the same provider, so both you and your partner can have your own card for example.
  • Order your card in advance (at least two weeks) to make sure you receive it before your holidays. If you’re too late, some services offer a paid express delivery option (£19.99 for a Standard Revolut card for example).

Travel Money FAQs

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