When you are travelling you'll have to figure out how to pay for things. Depending on your choice you might end up paying high fees without you even knowing. We have compared the most common ways to get cash or to pay during your trip and listed their pros and cons. There isn't one solution that fits all since depends on different factors. If you know your options you can save a considerable amount of money.
Swipe your Credit Card (recommended)
Depending on the country you are visiting using your credit card tends to give you the best currency exchange rate but many credit card companies have added a foreign exchange fee (up to 3%). There are a couple of credit cards that don't charge you a foreign exchange fee which makes them one of the best options to pay while you are travelling. Before going on a trip make sure to inform your credit card company about the upcoming travel (call them or login to our account and look for something like "Travel Notifications". This will reduce the risk of your card being blocked because of the fraud prevention system because of your different spending pattern. If you lose your credit card you are usually also not liable for any purchases made by somebody. On top of this some of the credit cards below still give you some kind of cash or point/travel rewards. All this combined makes the credit card my favorite way of paying while travelling.Credit Cards that don't charge foreign exchange fees:
- CapitalOne (at this time NONE of their cards is charging foreign exchange fees)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
There is one exception to all this which is to use your credit cards to get cash. This is usually very expensive since it is technically a “cash advance” and you will be subject to an additional cash-advance fee and you'll be charged interest starting from the date of withdrawal.
Use your ATM/Debit Card to withdraw Cash (recommended)
Instead of using your credit card for cash advances it is usually cheaper to use your ATM (debit card). Your bank is usually only charging you a flat fee between $2 and $5. Before relying on your ATM card you should ensure which payment networks are supported (Plus, Cirrus…). It is also recommended to bring a second card as backup.
Cash Exchange at your Bank (ok)
Larger banks usually offer foreign currency exchange. Your bank usually charges you a delivery or exchange fee for this service. Nevertheless this is a good way to make sure you have some cash for your cab ride in case you are arriving late and other exchange options aren't available.
Order Foreign Currency online (ok)
If your local bank doesn't offer foreign currency exchange you can also order cash online. Because of the high delivery fees and the exchange rate it is not the best way to exchange your money.
- AAA (www.aaa.com/AAA_Travel/TravelMoney/foreign_currency.htm)
- Wells Fargo Foreign Exchange Services (www.foreignexchangeservices.com)
- International Currency Express (www.foreignmoney.com)
Foreign Currency Card (avoid)
This is a fairly new way of exchanging currency. A Foreign Currency Card works like a ATM/Credit Card. The reasons to avoid it are the different fees (card load, withdrawal, inactivity, close account...) as well as other restrictions (daily limits, excluded countries). Foreign Currency Cards are currently available Euros, British Pounds and US Dollars).
Traveler's Checks (avoid)
Traveler checks are a way to bring larger amounts of money with a lower risk of loss and theft (American Express traveler's checks can be replaced worldwide within 24 hours). The main disadvantages are the high fees and the cumbersome process of finding a place that will exchange it into local currency (not always well liked, long waiting lines if it needs to be exchanged in a bank, cumbersome use if the merchant isn’t convinced the signature matches to tiniest detail…)
- American Express Traveler Checks (https://www.americanexpress.com/us/content/prepaid/travelers-cheques.html)
Foreign Exchange Desk (avoid)
Using the exchange desk at the airport, hotel or city centre is usually comes with a extremely high fees of up to 20%. You should avoid this and only use for emergencies.