Planning a trip overseas is a whole ton of fun but sometimes too much time is devoted to the exciting parts of the trip, and the tedious research goes by the wayside. Figuring out the deal with foreign transaction fees isn’t nearly as enticing as booking a tour at the Louvre. You don’t want to get to your destination only to find out that you should have spent some time researching these things; we’re here to help with our guide to avoiding extra fees abroad.
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1.) How should you exchange cash?
Not all exchange rates are created equal, and when it comes to cash, you want the best bang for your buck. Plan out your budget for your trip, and then head to your local bank or credit union to get the best exchange rates before your trip. If you’re taking an extended vacation, it may not be feasible or practical to withdraw all of your cash ahead of time. If that’s the case, see if your bank is part of the Global ATM Network where you won’t have any fees tacked on to your transaction if you use one of the banks in-network. Whatever you do, though, don’t exchange money at the airport or any random ATM you find in an offbeat location unless it’s an emergency, or you’ll end up paying for that convenience in hefty fees. Airports and little currency exchange offices are notorious for having bad exchange rates. You’ll want to reserve these as a last resort.
2.) Do you have the right credit card for international travel?
Foreign transaction fees are an easy money maker for credit card companies. It’s a charge that can cost you anywhere from 2 to (a whopping) 4 percent of your total bill. The conundrum is that credit cards also happen to offer some of the best exchange rates at any given moment, so it’s beneficial to use them over other methods while traveling. To avoid these fees depleting your vacation fund, you’ll want to verify that your card has no foreign transaction fees. If your credit card does have those fees, it might be time to apply for one that doesn’t charge you. A few of the best credit cards to use abroad with no fee are the American Express Gold Card, Capital One VentureOne Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred. As each card is different, you should choose the one that fits your specific needs best. Another common occurrence while traveling is merchants asking if you want your card charged in your home country’s currency. As comforting as it may be to see familiar money on the screen, don’t fall for it. Charge everything in the local currency and let your credit card do the exchange to get the best rate.
3.) Can you use a debit card?
If you thought you could avoid the credit card mess by using your debit card, we’re sorry to burst your bubble. These foreign transaction fees also carry over to bank debit cards, unless you have a Capital One 360 or Discover Bank account. If you don’t have either of those, your best bet is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Another option is to stop by a participating foreign ATM if your bank is a member of the Global ATM network.
When trying to maximize your dollar, the key is to plan ahead. It’s when you don’t plan ahead that you are most likely to get caught on the bad side of an exchange rate or slapped with a foreign transaction fee.