Exchange Rate When Withdrawing Money Abroad

exchange rate when withdrawing money abroad

Exchange rate when withdrawing money abroad: A Comprehensive Guide

There exist plenty of reasons why one might need to withdraw money abroad. Perhaps you're traveling for business, pleasure, or visiting family. Or, maybe you're studying or just working long-term in another country. Regardless, understanding the nuances of the exchange rate can help you save money. This article is a comprehensive guide to demystify how exchange rate works when withdrawing money abroad.

What is Exchange Rate?

The exchange rate represents the price of one country's currency in relation to another - a rate which fluctuates over time due to various economic and geopolitical factors. An appreciation or depreciation of a currency can dramatically affect the cost of your foreign transactions, hence the importance of understanding its dynamics.

Ways to Withdraw Money Abroad

There are several ways you can withdraw money while abroad.


ATMs are the simplest and quickest choice to access cash while traveling. You simply use your home bank debit card, similar to how you would at home. However, many banks charge international withdrawal fees and foreign exchange fees.

Exchange Bureaus

Currency exchange bureaus are also popular, but their exchange rates may not always be the best. It’s wise to compare rates to ensure you're getting a fair deal.

Prepaid Travel Cards

These are a secure and convenient alternative to cash. They can be pre-loaded with multiple currencies, allowing for relatively easy spending globally. Keep an eye out for fees, including those for loading or reloading the card.

Understanding the Impact of Exchange Rates on your Withdrawals

A poor exchange rate can make a significant difference in how much money you receive when withdrawing abroad. Banks often add a markup to the exchange rate, which is why the rate you see online doesn't always match the rate you get. Knowing the real-time exchange rate (also known as the mid-market rate) can help you spot and avoid locales that offer poor rates.

Best Practices for Withdrawing Money Abroad

Following a few wise practices can make a world of difference when it comes to saving money on your foreign withdrawals.

Notify Your Bank Beforehand

Let your bank know you'll be traveling to avoid any automated anti-fraud measures that could freeze your card just as you need it most.

Choose Local Currency

Some ATMs abroad may offer a “dynamic currency conversion”—which means converting your withdrawal into your home currency for you. This conversion is typically at an unfavorable rate, so it's usually better to opt to be charged in the local currency.

Large but Few Withdrawals

To minimize ATM fees, consider withdrawing larger amounts less frequently. This is because each withdrawal usually attracts a flat fee, regardless of the amount.

Compare exchange rates

Use online tools to compare exchange rates, keeping in mind that the most favorable rates may not be accessible at your destination or even feasible to obtain.


Understanding the exchange rate when withdrawing money abroad can go a long way in protecting your pocket. Remember, the convenience of using your debit card abroad may come at a cost, but with a little knowledge and preparation, there are ways to limit these additional expenses. Keeping tabs on the exchange rate and fee structures can help ensure more of your money stays in your pocket, no matter where in the world you happen to be.