You have a number of options regarding when and where to change your money into US dollars. Although the vast majority of places accept credit and debit cards, it’s a good idea to arrive in the US with US dollars.
The main consideration is getting the best possible exchange rate. You want to receive the maximum amount of US dollars in exchange for your own currency. The best thing to do is to shop around as exchange rates can vary greatly.
If you are traveling to the US it’s also important to make sure you’ve completed your ESTA registration, otherwise you could be refused entry into the country. It is a visa waiver program, meaning that the application is completed online without going to an embassy or consulate. You don’t need to register if you have a green card.
Also, make sure you inform your bank that you’re traveling to US. If not, they might not let you use your cards out of suspicion.
Your bank is often the best place to exchange foreign currency though this depends on their exchange rate. They will explain how to exchange dollars for euros (or whichever currency you need to exchange) and the commission they charge. It’s often possible to request US dollars online (and even choose which bills you want), which means you only have to go to the bank to pick up the money.
Sometimes you can find better exchange rates at currency exchanges. If you live in a city or a place where tourists visit, there are normally numerous currency exchanges. Sometimes they don’t have less typical currencies, but thankfully the US dollar is such a common currency that they all have them.
Ideally, you want to arrive in the US with some dollars. This is why it’s recommended to exchange some money before traveling. This way you’ll avoid the situation of needing to buy something when you get to the US but are unable to do so.
Where to change euros in dollars if you can’t before you arrive? If for whatever reason, you’re unable to change your money before you leave, you can change your euros for dollars at the airport (though there are usually queues and high commission rates). You can also change your money at hotels and currency exchanges in the US.
You can do some research online to find the best deal. However, the problem is, in the US, the commission rates are higher but you’ll have no choice but to accept them. You’re also normally in the position where you need dollars quickly.
After your trip, you’ll want to exchange your leftover dollars for euros. Your options will be the same again. You can either exchange them at the airport, your hotel or at currency exchanges.
You can do it either in the US or in your country of origin. Often if you buy dollars from a bank or a currency exchange they offer a deal where they exchange your leftover money for zero commission, take advantage if this is the case.
Be aware you’re not allowed to travel with more than €10,000 in cash without declaring it at customs. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re traveling using a US tourist visa, an ESTA visa, or any other type of visa, you have to explain why you’re carrying so much money and you may need to pay taxes. Failure to declare large amounts of money is a crime.