Let's talk money. I just reviewed my bills from the Switzerland trip. I was curious to see which method provided the most favorable currency exchange rate: credit card, ATM withdrawal, home bank currency purchase or foreign exchange booth?
Definitely not the currency exchange booth. Found at airports, train stations, and sometimes on the street in larger European cities, these locations charge a commission, of course. I exchanged cash at the booth inside the Zurich train station on December 26, 2011, and paid a net $1.14 per Swiss franc. That was also the same rate I paid for the francs I bought at home before I left from my local bank.
My ATM card was not only a convenient way to pick up cash, since ATM machines can be found in even the tiniest European villages nowadays, but also gave a competitive rate. Even with the $5.00 per transaction fee, the net rate I paid for my ATM withdrawals in December and January was $1.07 per one Swiss franc. And I had no problems regarding the previously posted concern about chip-and-PIN v.s. magnetic strip technology.
I love my Capital One Visa credit card. Unlike some of my other credit cards, Capital One Visa charges no overseas transaction fees. This is major, since, for example, my American Express card charges 2.7% of each foreign transaction after conversion to US dollars. The average exchange rate for my Capital One Visa purchases was about $1.08 per franc and I had no trouble using it.