Service charges for ATM withdrawals and credit cards are one way that banks snag the traveling customer literally coming and going. It's the subject of a lot of discussion and analysis among travelers.
A lot of things are simpler since we first started to travel and Travelers Cheques were the way to go. That doesn't mean it's gotten cheaper though.
We've been using ATMs and paying cash while outside the country whenever possible. Our Wells Fargo checking account formerly allowed us to make unlimited withdrawals from foreign ATMs without incurring their nasty $5 fee. They've whittled that number down to two per monthly period. We thereafter pay $5 plus a 3% commission per withdrawal. In other words, it's going to cost you an annoying $20 to withdraw $500.
Since our current credit cards, like most, add 3% or so in charges for foreign transactions (and one can only trust that the actual exchange rate itself is fair), we decided to get ourselves a Capital One credit card, which touts the fact that it doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
We're looking forward to giving our new Capital One card a test drive, perhaps on our next trip to British Columbia, and checking the rate against our go-to currency exchange site,XE.