If you are a AAA motor club member I found (of course a month after my trip) that you can order foreign currency, travelers checks and prepaid visa cards for a good rate. They have this available on their website www.aaa.com but you have to be a member or have an office near you. Thought I'd just pass that along.
The rate is good for AAA not for you.A 7% markup over interbank rates is not a good deal.
Frank's right. U.S deals are all bad. Find a bank with no ATM fees and refunds those of the other banks and which doesn't charge huge rates. They are out there. Open an account and fund it with enough to cover your expenses so someone can't tap into your real bank. Check it out here by withdrawing $20 to make sure it works. Keep your real bank's card safe but bring it as a backup. Pick up your euros over there at a bank ATM (not one associated with a money exchanger). For example, a few weeks ago, I used an ATM to get 200€ and it cost me $285.26 which was $1.4263 to the euro. The exchange rate on that day was 1.4092 so I paid 1.01% above the exchange rate ($0.171). No ATM fee; no extra charges.
Worried about going over there and not being able to find an ATM immediately? Bring $100 and if you can't, then exchange it at a place that has no fee but gives a slightly lower rate. You will find you will come back with the $100 as ATMs are everywhere.
Rick doesn't believe in being wasteful!
Just returned from my trip, and I ordered Euros and Amex Travelers Cheques in Euros from Wells Fargo online, which had offered the best rate I could find online and no extra service charge and $8.00 for Next day Fedex delivery. It was cheaper and better exchange rate than getting it directly from Amex, even if you are a card holder.
All of these posting about what a great deal these alternate methods of obtaining of money would carry more creditably IF you include the exchange rate you paid and the date. Saying that there are no fees or small fees doesn't mean much if the exchange rate is marked up five to ten percent. Read the fine print on the AAA card. It is terrible. A $15 fee to get your left over money back from the card. In my opinion the gold standard is the debit card with min bank fees. But even at 3% fees it is not too bad when compared to the all of the other methods.
Unless you need to go right now and cant wait for the bank or better 2 day servie - a quick 100Euros from AAA is fine (but will cost you a few extra dollars). The Debit cards are too costly - so ignore. Travler Checks are out too. As others say here - ATM is the way to go. Just remember to get a 4-digit numeric pin (not a word) as most ATMs there use 4 pins linked to checking only (not savings)... and many dont have letters on the buttons! Also make sure you call them to tell them youre using it in the other country (I call twice before i leave to make sure!)
We just got back from Italy and fell into this trap from American Express. I thought travelers cheques in Euros were a genius Idea - I was so wrong. It took me 5 tries before I found a bank that would even cash them and then it cost me 16 euros commission and 1 hour of my day to get it all done. Just take your ATM and pull out cash when you arrive.