The best bang for your buck abroad

Trade your dollars for euros without the fees that can turn your bills into change.

By Carolyn Bigda, Money Magazine writer-reporter

(Money Magazine) -- With today's weak dollar, you need all the help you can get when traveling abroad. Here are a few tips on how to squeeze that last euro out of your greenback.

Put it on plastic

Your best best is to use a credit or debit card. A typical cost of €1 after fees is $1.35 to $1.39 You generally get the wholesale exchange rate, which is the best conversion available. (Recently one euro went for $1.35.) Fees tend to be 3 percent or less.

Star players are Capital One and Discover. Both are free of exchange fees.

Hit the ATM

Your next best bet is to get cash from the ATM. A typical cost of €1 after fees is $1.40. Again, you get the wholesale rate, with minimal fees - 1 percent to 3 percent, often in addition to a flat charge of $1 to $5 per withdrawal.

Check ahead to see whether your bank has affiliates at your destination; you'll pay less on those machines.

Star players are Citibank because it charges no fees at its ATMs abroad; Bank of America charges no fees at some affiliated ATMs.

Do leave home without them

Warning: Leave your traveler's checks and prepaid cards at home A typical cost of €1 after fees is $1.45 and up. The exchange rate on traveler's checks is 6 percent to 10 percent over wholesale; up-front fees can hit 1.5 percent. Most merchants no longer take them, so you may pay even more charges to cash them at a currency exchange.

Prepaid cards cost $5 to $15, and the exchange rate is wholesale plus 2 percent to 7 percent. They aren't always accepted, and you'll pay to use them at the ATM. Top of page