Today, we look at 4 different methods for getting access to your cash overseas - from worst to best.
The worst: Exchange at an airport
Avoid exchanging cash at the airport altogether. Generally the exchange rates you receive are particularly bad. They can do this because they have a stranglehold on a captive market - once you're at an airport and you want money changed, you don't really have another option!
Another downside to exchanging all your cash in advance is that you're then carrying around a lot of currency, and you're putting yourself at risk of losing it or getting it stolen.
The bad: Using your ATM Card
A.K.A. the I-forgot-to-do-anything-about-my-money method.
So, you chuck your ATM card into a foreign bank and pull out some money? You'll generally cop a ~$5 fee from your Ausralian bank, plus a 3-4% currency conversion fee with each withdrawal. You may also pay a small fee to the foreign bank for using their ATM.
If this is your only option, you're best bet is to take out as much money as possible with each transaction to minimise the fees. If you're in a group, considering taking out a large amount in turns and splitting it between the group. Make sure you store any excess cash you've withdrawn somewhere safe - like back at your hostel or hotel.
The good: Use a preloaded cash card
Many of the banks now offer a preloaded travel cards. Before you leave, go to your bank to get a card, and transfer in some of your balance. You can transfer in your spending money and convert it to the necessary currency you'll need for your trip (meaning you 'lock in' an exchange rate when you load the card). The card itself can hold a bunch of different currencies at the same time.
You'll (generally) still get charged a fee for ATM withdrawals by your Australian bank, but you will avoid a large currency conversion fee with each transaction.
Note that there is sometimes a setup fee for the card, depending on the bank. If you're a student, you may be able to get this fee waived.
The best: Use a zero international transaction fee credit card
I suggest you 'pre-load' the card with money - transfer some of your holiday spending money to the card so that your credit card is in the black. That means that when you withdraw cash from a foreign ATM, you won't be 'borrowing' on the card and you won't pay any interest.