Research the currency before leaving since rates can change daily.
Plan your cash withdrawals wisely. Avoid having a lot of unused currency left over when you leave the country. You don't want to take out to much money you can't convert back to into your own money. Coins cannot be converted when you leave a currency zone, so spend your coins before leaving. Buy knickknacks, snacks, change them into bills, or give them away before you head back home.
Foreign transaction fees are a fixed percentage — between 1% and 3% — added to the total of any transaction.
Using a debit card at cash machines (ATMs)
One of the cheapest ways to take out foreign money is to withdraw local cash out of an ATM. You won't have to deal with a bank percentage to convert your money but your bank with charge you a foreign transaction fee. Just remember every time you take out money you will be charged a fee so try and make sure to take all the money you need out at once. To avoid making multiple trips to the ATM and paying multiple fees ask your bank to temporarily increase your withdrawal limit. Foreign ATM fees are a fixed dollar amount between $2-5USD on every withdrawal.
Normally, I use this method if I want to avoid commission rates at the airports and have less of a hassle trying to figure out how to convert my money.
Get a no foreign fee debit card from a bank with global ATM networks to avoid fees.Some checking accounts waive foreign transaction fees and reimburse foreign ATM fees. However, such accounts usually require a high initial deposit and minimum daily balance.
TIP:Notify your debit card company's fraud department to inform them which countries you are traveling to with your expected traveling dates to advise your bank that your card hasn't been stolen!
Use a credit card and you won't have to deal with conversation rates.
I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. By using my Chase Preferred credit card, I can use it overseas where I won't be charged foreign transactions fee on every purchase or worry about a conversion rate. Having a credit card that you can use overseas is one of the best options and a cheap ways to avoid conversion rates.
TIP:Notify your credit card company's fraud department to inform them which countries you are traveling to with your expected traveling dates to advise your bank that your card hasn't been stolen!
Airport kiosks or stores.
Airport kiosks or stores may be convenient but hardly ever give you a good deal! These should be a last resort for emergencies. Exchange rates are poor, and fees are numerous and high.
Change your money at a local bank.
Many banks and credit unions sell foreign currency. Some financial institutions order currency and ship it to their customers’ homes. Going in person is probably one of the cheapest way to convert your money because you can lose a lot of money paying shipping fees. Banks also often offer the best exchange rates.
Just remember not all banks have the foreign currency you're looking for or the amount in stock at the bank.
The only time I ever go into a bank to exchange my money is, if I need a large sum of money, changing my cash dollars back to USD, or if I'm in a rush jumping off the plane and won't be able to stop at an ATM or change it at the airport.
Changing money at the airport. (Travelex Currency Services)
When changing money at the airport you'll charged a commission(service fee) and the exchange rate. Travelex charges a $9.95 fee, if you convert less than $500 into a foreign currency. There is no service fee for converting more than $500, but you still pay a very high currency exchange rate.
I change my money at the airport if I can't get to my local bank to change my money or if its a foreign currency my bank doesn't have in stock such as Sri Lankan Rupees. Sometimes its worth paying the airport fees rather than the shipping fees to receive your money at home.