When you’re traveling overseas, it’s easy to get hit with extra fees and expensive exchange rates in switching currencies.
Some currency-exchange kiosks in airports and tourist areas offer bad rates, taking more of your money. And some credit cards and banks can add fees when you buy something with your credit card.
Your best bet is to bring a credit card that doesn’t charge currency-exchange fees, and some cash for backup.
Don’t carry wads of cash. Your credit card offers protection against fraudulent charges and can be replaced if lost or stolen (unlike cash).
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Here are five ways tips to maximize your money:
1. Get an app
Before boarding the plane, download a currency-converting app on a smartphone you plan to use on vacation. You can open up the app to see if you’re getting a good deal when exchanging money. With the apps, you type in the amount you want to exchange and it will calculate a figure in the new currency. There are several free ones, including XE Currency and GlobeConvert.
2. Ask before you exchange
Be wary of currency-exchange places that say they don’t charge fees. “Don’t trust it,” says Stan McGahey, an international-tourism professor at Saint Leo University in Florida. Often such exchange places will offer you a worse exchange rate to make up for the low fees.
And always do currency exchanges in the country you’re visiting. You’re likely to get a better rate than if you do the exchange at home.
3. Find the right card
Get a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign-exchange fee. Some will charge a 2 percent to 3 percent fee for every purchase made with a foreign currency, says Matt Schulz, a senior analyst at credit-card-comparison site CreditCards.com. There are many that don’t. You can find a list of them on websites such as CreditCardInsider.com, CreditCards.com or Bankrate.com.
Not sure if your card charges a fee? Call and ask. Also call and tell your credit-card company that you’re traveling; otherwise charges in foreign countries could be considered fraudulent and your card will be blocked.
4. Say no to currency conversion
If a hotel or another business asks if you want the credit-card charge converted into American dollars for you, decline. The exchange rate can be bad, Instead, let the hotel bill you in the country’s currency and let your credit card do the exchange.
5. Check on your debit card
As with credit cards, make sure your bank doesn’t charge foreign-exchange fees if you plan to use a debit card. Some may charge a flat fee for using a foreign ATM on top of a percentage for currency exchanges.
Checking accounts at online banks, such as Capital One 360 and Charles Schwab Bank, don’t charge foreign-transaction fees. Call your bank and check. Personal-finance website NerdWallet.com publishes a list of banks that don’t charge fees.