One of the most crucial preparations of any trip abroad has always been the process of currency exchange. There have been numerous options for exchange that range from low risk to complete rip-off.

The growing trend, and most accurate exchange option, has been the credit card. Typically, card issuers match the current exchange rate while charging currency-conversion fees and an additional 2 to 3 percent for international transactions. While it sounds like a lot, using your credit card, especially for large purchases, is the safest and cheapest option where you’ll receive the best possible rate of exchange.

Today, most countries outside the U.S. use chip cards. These cards use an embedded security chip and pin number for authorization, similar to a debit card. The chip-and-PIN cards offer more protection from fraud and hacking than the magnetic-stripe technology used by most U.S. cardholders. Transactions can be completed with an online connection and in some areas even with offline stations where the card is validated securely without a real-time connection to the bank.

Currently, the majority of U.S. cardholders need to request a card embedded with the chip technology. Calling your bank or card issuer for more details and information about any additional fees is recommended for all travelers before traveling abroad from the U.S.

In circumstances that call for cash, ATMs are still the best option. As with any exchange option, doing research to avoid expensive fees is essential to finding the best deals. Some banks have international ATMs or partner with banks abroad and can provide inexpensive exchanges, some even charging nothing for a foreign withdrawal.

Knowing bad currency exchanges are  as important as knowing good ones.

Cash advances on credit cards should be avoided at all costs. Additional percentages, on top of typical foreign transaction fees, are added onto these advances. Interest rates, sometimes double your usual rate, begin accumulating the moment you receive your cash.

Avoid dynamic currency conversion. Never complete a card transaction abroad in U.S. dollars. Awful exchange rates, accompanied by the typical foreign transaction fees and additional hidden fees, are a blow to your bank account and completely wasteful of your funds. You should always insist on being charged in local currency.

When traveling abroad, options for foreign exchange have continually evolved. One aspect remains:  currency exchange is typically accompanied by a headache. Understand processes and find your best options. You’ll find comfort and security knowing the ins and outs of all your transactions.