Here are a few tips that make using a foreign currency easier and less expensive the key is to avoid unnecessary bank fees and transaction fees.
- Always contact the banks who hold your ATM cards and credit cards to inform them you will be traveling out of the country.
- Why not call your credit card companies to ask them to lower your interest rate or see if they have any current promotions that will save you money if you use your card on vacation? I tried it and got a promotional rate of 3% on any purchases for the next six months!
- Never change foreign currency at a bank or a change bureau. The exchange rate is much higher and the added fees are a rip off, use the ATM.
- Check xe.com before you leave. This way you’ll know the approximate exchange rate and can have some idea of what to plan for.
- Call your credit card companies to get informed on their Foreign Transaction Fees and exchange rates. Try to use the card with the best rate for most of your transactions. Fees can vary widely.
- Sign up at a local credit union for an ATM and credit card. They offer the best rates hands down. If you use a participating ATM location to withdraw cash you will not be charged a fee for using the machine. They will convert to the current exchange rate and only tack on a 1% Foreign Transaction Fee.
- Do not withdraw large amounts of cash and walk around with your life savings to last the whole trip. Instead, withdraw the cash you’ll need for a day or two, and return every few days to withdraw more. This way, if your cash is stolen you still have some money in the bank in an emergency.
- Wait until you get to the airport to withdraw some cash with your ATM card to use in your foreign destination. But if you are just not that adventurous, you can visit a major bank branch in the US and change out a small amount of foreign currency, but just enough to get you a train ticket or taxi fare, as you’ll pay a bit more at the bank. Whatever you do, don’t exchange money at the airport. Again, the fees will get you!
- Make copies of all of your credit cards, front and back. Either keep them in a secure location or back home with a loved one. This way if your card is lost or stolen, you will have access to the important phone and card numbers to report your card(s) stolen.