Stay away from big banks... they always charge an additional foreign conversion fee. Capital One is pretty good for travelers but you have to have excellent credit. The best option would be a good credit union in your area, decent rates and they keep fees to a minimum. Hope that helps
Capitol One credit card (mileage award points plus no foreign exchange fees)
Schwab online high yield interest earning checking account (will reimburse any atm fees from anywhere in the world and no foreign exchange fees)
Neither have annual fees.
I should blog about this...this is like the 10th question I have answered in the last week about overseas banking without opening a bank account (mostly emailed ?s from expats). :)
Hi, I'm in Paris right now writing for 30 DAYS IN PARIS my new media travel project on Facebook. I came to France with: 400e cash I got from my bank in the US, a Travelex CASH PASSPORT card loaded with 400 Euros, my Bank Of America ATM card, and several credit cards. The only problem I've had is that my Chase CC is refused sometimes. But then the next day it worked OK at Office Depot. Then later that same day refused again at a restaurant.
It appears that when the merchant is using a handheld credit card processing device, it fails to clear. "Abandon Debit" is what prints out of the little machine. I give them my pre-charged CASH PASSPORT debit card and it always works. Note: I have notified all my CC providers of the dates I would be traveling and locations. This is very important.
Also locate a bank in your area that has an ATM relationship with your bank at home. In Paris that is BNP Paribas, they don't charge transaction fees on my Bank Of American ATM euro withdrawls.
American Express just held a dinner for bloggers in Toronto, with special guest Julia Dimon, the Travel Junkie, to announce their new rewards and redemption travel card. I think it's available very soon, and it's worth looking at. It will be free for the first while (six months? I can't remember) and it is supposed to be a whole new type of card that makes it really easy to accumulate and use points. We all agreed that AMEX was doing a good job at using social media and reaching out to bloggers -- they were a sponsor at TBEX in NYC in June, too.