You plan to travel overseas because it’s off season and exchange rates for the U.S. dollar are favorable, but you haven’t dealt with foreign currency for a while.
Don’t worry. Here are six tips, based on my travel experience, to help stretch your dollars.
1. Ditch foreign transaction fees: Before your departure, check if your credit card charges you a foreign transaction fee on any purchase overseas. If it does, consider switching to one that doesn’t charge such a fee or applying for one to take instead. Several credit cards, including Citi Premier Card and Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card, don’t charge a foreign transaction fee. The Points Guy website just wrote about this last month. Give yourself enough time for a card to arrive by mail.
2. Chip it: Make sure your bank card has a chip (most cards should by now) and and you have a four-digit PIN number, which is what is used in Europe.
3. Be safe: To avoid theft or unauthorized use of your debit or credit card number, make sure to keep your cards safe and protect your PIN number from being seen by other people — even at U.S. airports.
4. Wait to get foreign currency: Given the prevalence of ATM machines at airports and the broad acceptance of credit cards, you don’t need to exchange dollars into the foreign currency of the country you’re traveling to before you get there. You can wait until you arrive at your destination and use a bank ATM at the airport or other location, not a money change center. If you feel more comfortable with some some foreign cash in hand, just exchange a small amount before your departure.
5. Convert money in bulk: Try to estimate how much money you’ll need and change it all once to avoid multiple bank fees and fluctuations in the exchange rate that may not be in your favor.
6. Pay in local currency: When using a credit or debit card in another country, if you’re given the option of paying in US. dollars or the foreign currency, choose the currency of the country where you are to avoid paying extra fees.
In Europe, for example, the dollar is enjoying one of the best exchange rates to the Euro in two years. On Tuesday, you would have received 0.88 euros for $1. For more information on the strong dollar, read my blog post from December.