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Food, lodging, transportation, activities, each require you to pay. With fees, limits, percentages and acres of fine print it’s extremely difficult to avoid being nickled and dimed.
Here’s your how-to for avoiding the dreaded fee fatigue: Remember the general guideline – use your credit card for purchases and your debit card for cash.
Think of it this way, Cash is king. Everyone accepts it, so you should have at least a little on you at all times no matter where you go. So, how do you access it without unnecessary expense?
- Exchange your cash before arriving in your next country. Exchange rates are most favorable outside of the country whose currency you’re looking for, and can be as much as a 5% difference.
- Avoid exchanging currency at airports or near tourist sites. The most convenient exchange outlets have the least favorable rates – walk a little and save yourself money.
- Use an ATM to get the best exchange rate. If you’re arriving without local cash, get it from an airport ATM or bank. Avoid the currency exchange.
- Cash is so easy to lose and steal. Carry a modest amount with you.
- ATMs exist everywhere that has electricity these days. Your debit card will be the most convenient way to access cash.
- There are fees to use ATMs – up to $5 per transaction on your home side and potentially more on the foreign side.
- Keep withdrawals to a minimum. Taking more out with each withdrawal gives you a smaller percentage of fees per overall use, think $200-$300 with each transaction.
- Expect functionality problems with ATM machines in developing nations, sometimes going down for days at a time with no apology or explanation. Try a different bank if this happens. The problem isn’t always system-wide.
The so-called chip-and-PIN card is being integrated into debit and credit card transactions in Europe and elsewhere, serving to complicate the simple use of ATMs for cash. Read this article for more info about what this technology means for your cash survival.
Job No. 1 is to find the best travel credit card for purchase transactions, then use it.
The biggest detriment, however, to using a credit card is the foreign transaction fee – a charge on all the purchases you make overseas. If you use it a lot, this will certainly add up. The recent U.S. government Credit CARD Act, while being generally beneficial, has only served to further complicate the travel card matter.
So which card do you want? USA Today has outlined some of the best ones, but in summary, they’ve determined that the Capitol One card with their 0% transaction fee is the best traveler’s credit card.
As an added bonus, it also has a “no-hassles” airline miles reward program. You can earn miles on each dollar spent.
Here is a list of foreign transaction fees from some of the largest U.S. credit card issuers:
|Bank of America||3%|
- Credit card companies have the freedom to charge whatever exchange rate they want for transactions.
- You may end up paying more without even knowing it.
- American Express often gives more favorable exchange rates that even with their 2.7% transaction fee you can save money overall.
- Make sure to notify your bank before you depart for a foreign country. They may freeze your account when transactions start appearing thousands of miles from your home address. A quick phone call will save you trouble.
Even though romance of using traveler’s checks wore off long ago, their practicality still lingers — they’ll still come in handy if you’re robbed.
- Unfortunately, they’re nearly impossible to change outside of a bank.
- Many hotels won’t even change them due to the traveler’s checks perceived decreasing value.
Best to avoid travelers’ checks if at all possible. There are better options.
The Cash Passport Card from Travelex
Basically a pre-paid credit card, it’s made for the international traveler.
- You don’t have to pay it off later; load it before you leave.
- The Cash Passport has a variable fee for transactions as well.
- There are maximum limits on withdrawals and purchases.
- Cash Passports offer purchase protection like a credit card
This may be a great solution for the chip-and-PIN dilemma, as they’re building this technology into the cards they issue.