The best product for these types of transactions are those cards which do not have international transaction fees - it usually won't matter which bank or scheme it is covered by.
However, you should note that because you're not travelling to the USA, that some MasterCard cards first convert foreign transactions to USD then to the transaction currency. This is likely to work against you for large transaction amounts. While I was working at CBA, this was the case (less than 12 months ago).
And Debit cards (EFTPOS/Keycard) are still usually liable for these international transaction fees, unless the bank explicitly says otherwise.
Apart from the international transaction fee or currency conversion fee, the exchange rate, which is negotiated/set by MasterCard/Visa/Amex will be the same.
Currently, there are two cards that you can use that don't have international transaction fees:
These are subject to change - recall the NAB Gold Debit card - but they haven't for a few years.
With a fee-free card in hand, you can go to any ATM and just pull the cash out.
- You should beware of ATMs that offer dynamic currency conversion, which will convert your AUD to the local currency at a huge mark-up. Don't do it, always withdraw in the foreign currency. Same applies in-store.
- Also, these ATMs can charge their own fees, so if you have the time, look around. They might not warn you of the fee in advance, though.
- And, of course, it's possible that you'll run into trouble using your card overseas, which may not be accepted for any number of reasons. But c'est la vie.
You probably don't need to worry about converting cash before you leave Australia, since, if nothing else, the first airport you arrive at in Europe will almost certainly have ATMs. If you are that concerned, you only have a couple of options:
- Bite the bullet on foreign exchange rates with banks and/or other companies (say, OzForex).
You'll get a better rate with larger amounts, as always.
- See if you can find a foreign currency ATM. This might have fees attached to it, though.
- (From @OppositeFlat's answer) Ask around to see if anyone you know hss just returned from Europe and will let you buy their Euros off them.