Updated: Jul 12, 2021
Are you excited to plan your next adventure abroad, but are a bit nervous about using different currency? Follow these travel tips to make sure you have a smooth trip and get the most out of your money!
1. Before you go, call your bank!
This is super important – and it’s something that people often forget to do. In world full of scammers and fraud, it’s important to let your bank know that you will be traveling, and that no one has taken your card information as you charge a delicious cappuccino to your card while you are enjoying a morning abroad. There’s nothing more inconvenient when you travel than when you use your credit or debit card once, and then it doesn’t work after that. So, give the banks a call – I call the banks to the cards that I plan on bringing at least two weeks ahead of time and let them know the dates and the countries I will be visiting. Most banks have automated processes to do this now, but I also call them and speak to a person, just to be sure I won’t be stranded financially.
2. Don’t bring a lot of cash – go to an ATM!
You may be tempted as soon as you get through airport security to take your stash of cash to the currency exchange at your gate – don’t do it. Repeat after me : don’t do it! Currency exchanges are rip-offs and ATMs work with your debit card abroad. By using ATMs in the country you are going to, you eliminate two things: the need to carry around a wad of cash and the need to be ripped off by horrific exchange rates at the currency exchange. You don’t want to carry a large amount of cash around, it’s just not a good idea. Just from personal experience, I would recommend you do a bit of research on the national banks of the country you are visiting. While in Ireland, for example, it’s best to use Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland, or AIB. It’s best to use an ATM associated with a bank, rather than one in a random corner of a dark pub. Your bank will be less likely to flag it as suspicious activity (especially if you gave them a call and let them know you were traveling!). Be sure to look into whether your debit card will charge you a fee for using an ATM abroad - there are debit cards out there that reimburse you for any ATM transaction fee, so be on the lookout for those!
3. Get or use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Nowadays there’s no reason you should be charged a foreign transaction fee, so be sure to have a card that doesn’t have one. Also, credit cards are great because most places in Europe take cards easily. You can even load your card details into Google or Apple Pay and pay with your phone abroad. When you use your card, you often have an option to pay in the currency of the country you’re in or to pay in your local currency back home – always choose to pay in the currency of the country you’re visiting. Additionally, using a credit card abroad is a good idea in case your card was to be picked up by a scammer – you can easily dispute those charges and get your money back versus using a debit card.
4. Get a card with reward points.
If you plan on a taking a big trip, look out for a credit card with travel points. I did this when planning my honeymoon – we got a travel credit card and booked our flights and hotels on it within the first three months and got 100,000 bonus points – just for using the card! Even now, we get points on each travel purchase and dining out – so we rack up those points and use them towards flights, hotels, or rental cars on for our next trip. If you love to travel, or are looking to go on a big trip, this is the way to go. Disclaimer: be sure you have enough funds to pay the card off – I am not an advocate of carrying a credit card balance! After the introductory period of no interest, these cards come with a hefty interest rate, so be sure to read the fine print.
Bonus Tip: Always have your credit card charged in the local currency (you'll be asked when your card is processed).
It avoids multiple conversions, and gets you the best rate.
Feeling better about making purchases and being financially vigilant while abroad?
As long as you follow the tips above, you should have a stress-free trip in the realm of all money matters!