Basic ways to get foreign currency while still at home:
-Check banks (ie. Wells Fargo, Bank of America)
-Local alliance (AAA)
-Ask a friend ( my mom is my AAA hook up)
In this day and age, the majority of monetary transactions are via a debit or credit card. They are easy to use, accepted globally, and offer increased security. An added bonus for travelers abroad are institutions, like CapitalOne360, that do not charge exchange or transaction fees on withdrawals from foreign ATMs.
When travelling, it is now encouraged to almost solely rely on debit or credit cards for all your money needs. There are several instances, however, where cash is the best option, especially in market areas where digital theft of bank information can be common.
Before I went to Brazil, I looked into a way to consistently and cheaply have access to my money. A foreign bank account was out of the question for me, so I looked into banking with an international bank that has locations in the U.S. and Sao Paulo and found Citi bank and HSBC. I’ll use Citibank as an example.
Citibank: Institutes a 3% transaction fee for foreign withdrawals even if I have an account.
I anticipate paying in cash for some large reoccurring expenses, like a couple of hundred for rent, and a 3% transaction fee would be an additional $30 a month from my budget. My alternative is to utilize my CapitalOne360 account that does not charge a transaction fee for ATM withdrawals. I found that I could use Bradesco and have $0 in fees a month unlike some other Brazilian banks, like Santander, which charges $4 for using a foreign debit card.
When withdrawing money from an ATM abroad, it is important to make sure that the ATM is in a secure location and that you are safe withdrawing from there. It is also important to be aware of maximum withdrawal caps on ATMs. For example, the ones I visited in Sao Paulo maxed withdrawals at R$1000 ($~318) per day. So plan ahead and be safe!