While on vacation, you will need spending money for meals, beverages, activities, gratuities, shopping, and incidental expenses. Managing your money while abroad can be challenging, and if, for any reason, you do not have access to your funds, it can be downright scary at times. With a little forethought, you can avoid many of the pitfalls that can occur abroad, and it is well worth taking the time to do so.
BEFORE YOU GO
NOTIFY YOUR CREDIT CARDS
Contact your bank and credit card company’s fraud department and inform them of where you will be traveling to and on what dates. Make sure you also mention any countries you might be stopping over in; you might need to purchase something during your layover, especially if there’s a delay. More and more credit card companies are denying payment for overseas purchases unless they know you are traveling. A five-minute phone call in advance can save you that grief. You can usually find the number to call on the back of your credit card.
BRING CASH WITH YOU
I recommend you bring at least $150 cash with you from home in U.S. Dollars for emergency funds. You can exchange this money at the airport or hotel should you need local currency before accessing a bank or ATM. Transferring money this way incurs high change fees, and, usually, they don’t have competitive exchange rates, but it is a useful option in a pinch.
Consider purchasing the local currency of the countries you are visiting before you leave on your vacation also. Banks offer the best exchange rate; however, you will need to order the currency 3-4 days before departure from your local bank.
When obtaining foreign currency, Keep in mind that large bills are not usually accepted at some restaurants or stores or because of concerns about counterfeiting. Carry cash in smaller denominations to avoid this issue.
While it is good to obtain some local currency in advance, it’s never advisable to carry large sums of cash while on vacation, which means that at some point, you will have to access your money while overseas.
ATMs are the best and most cost-effective means of money withdrawal while traveling. Most airports have an ATM in the airport arrivals terminal.
Before you leave home, take a photo of the back of your credit/debit cards for the overseas contact number in case you require any assistance while traveling.
Major credit cards are generally accepted by restaurants, shops, and hotels worldwide; however, you may encounter some that require a minimum charge for using them. Make sure to take more than one type of credit card, as some places may not accept all cards. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted, while many places might not accept Discover and Diners Club International cards at all. Make sure that your credit cards are valid for at least 30 days after the end of your vacation. If your credit card has chip-and-PIN technology, make sure you activate the pin for use overseas before you go. With the chip and pin technology, you also have access to cash advancements on your credit card. There are fees associated with money withdrawals, and they can vary. Still, it is a useful feature to have available to you if your debit card is lost/stolen or unusable.
When using credit cards abroad, the merchant might ask if you want to charge your card in local currency or us dollars. You may be tempted to choose U.S. dollars as it will give you an idea of how much the item will actually cost you. But it is a better idea to select the local currency. Here’s why. If you choose to pay in U.S. dollars, the merchant gets to select the exchange rate to convert the purchase cost. It’s called dynamic currency conversion. DCC allows the merchant to charge a markup on the exchange rate used. The rate sometimes can be as high as 18%. If you choose to pay in the local currency, though, your credit card network will handle the conversion, and your card often gives you the best rate. Even better, pay with a credit card that has no foreign transaction fee in the local currency. Your card network will handle the conversion rate, and you’ll have your card’s liability protections for purchases.