I went on my first overseas trip in 2009 and was very nervous about how much money to take and whether to purchase a travelex type card. I went to UK for 2 weeks and Europe (incl Switzerland) for 4 weeks, so I pre-bought 300 pounds and 600 Euros in cash before leaving Australia. Some of it was bought from one of those kiosks (which was a mistake because of their commissions charged) but most of it was bought from the Post Office (a cheaper option for exchanging cash if you want to take cash with you). For example, at the kiosk I bought Euros where the Aus $ was worth 56.13 Euro cents. After taking into a/c the commission, the Aus $ was worth 52.89 Euro cents. I then bought at the Post Office for 56.605 Euro cents and no commission.
My credit union ATM card also acts as a Visa Debit card, so I didn’t buy any other travel cards. The only problem with just one card is I became quite paranoid with keeping it protected as I would have nothing to fall back on if I lost it, so I would tend to keep withdrawing cash just in case.
I used it to withdraw at any ATM which accepted VISA. Before going to Switzerland I withdrew Euros in another country so did not withdraw any Swiss francs. I recall a lot of things in Switzerland were priced in both Swiss francs and Euros although I was only there for 2 nights.
As far as being charged fees. My bank only charged me fees for making additional number of withdrawals above the monthly maximum. They seemed to allocate the relevant exchange rate to each withdrawal so was not ripped off by paying any commission. With the recent changes to bank fees in Australia, I wouldn’t be surprised if my bank has changed things around as well.
I am going to Croatia in 2010, so will probably look to purchase some Kuna before leaving Australia as I am flying into Croatia and prefer to have the local currency for the taxi or transport into the city and possibly the hotel and restaurant for that first night. The only thing is, I’m not sure the post office sells Kuna. It looks like ANZ bank does though.
Hope this post is of some assistance.