Planning ahead, doing some research can save money while traveling abroad

Posted Oct. 7, 2012


So now that you’re ready for your “in-search-for-love trip to Paris,” what happens next?

Do you start planning all your hangout spots? Places to see, things to do? Of course! But don’t forget, to do all those things you need money, and money issues can get complicated while traveling abroad.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind….

A lot of important factors go into preparing for a trip abroad. Choosing your destination is fun, planning your trip is also fun, but it can be stressful as well. Bottom line is, you want to make sure your time is spent wisely and you’re getting the most for your money.

Traveler’s checks, credits cards, debit cards, chip-and-pin cards, and cash are some of the things to consider when traveling out of the country.

One of the first things to do before leaving the country is to call your bank and let them know you will be traveling, where you’re going and for how long. This will notify your bank to approve charges while abroad and help with fraud preventions. While on the phone with your bank, also ask the customer service assistant to raise your ATM withdrawal limits, as well as your daily spending limits; this will come in handy during one of your shopping sprees.

Make sure to write down your bank’s contact information while traveling abroad; many banks have a toll-free number where travelers can call in case an issue arises while on vacation.

So now that you’ve called your bank and told your account rep about your upcoming trip, you’re ready to go. Wrong. There is still some brief research you should do about the current currency exchange rate for your location and issues you may face when purchasing things.

Now, deciding whether to use credit cards or debits cards can be a little tricky. You can do a simple research on your credit card companies, or banks, to see what type of fees and percentages they offer when using the cards abroad.

When people used to travel abroad a generation ago, they turned to traveler’s checks, however, that isn’t necessarily the case today. Traveler’s checks are still somewhat popular and are a safe alternative to cash because they can be replaced within 24 hours if lost. Still though, traveler’s checks don’t offer a very good exchange rate like credit cards do, and many places don’t accept them any longer.

A more common and convenient way to switch from traveler’s checks to cards is by using travel cards. They are prepaid and are safe like traveler’s checks, but work the same as a credit card or debit card.

There are a few things to consider with credit cards. Use credit cards for large purchases, such as, plane tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, restaurants, and of course, big shopping sprees.

“Using a Visa or MasterCard will cause you a three percent fee for every purchase. It is their cost to change the currency,” said Carlos Ayala, a personal banker and business specialist for Wells Fargo Bank in Maryland.

However, not all credit cards charge a purchase fee. It’s important to do your research before you go. Also credit card purchases are exchanged at the interbank exchange rate, which means you’re getting the best exchange rate.

There is a downfall with credit cards. Some places don’t accept credit cards, and in this case it is smart to have cash available at all times.

Another option you have is traveling with cash, but finding a place to exchange your money can become overwhelming. You have the option to exchange a small amount of money at your local bank in the U.S, and even though this can save you some stress during the first 48 hours of your trip, your bank may not always give you the best exchange rate when doing this. . Also, cash can be lost easily and once it’s lost, it’s lost for good.

Others decide to wait to get to their local airport and exchange there, however, they’re not aware that exchanging money at a U.S airport, or the exchange booth at your destination airport, but that can actually be a big rip-off. Others choose to wait until they arrived at their destination to head into the bank to exchange dollars into the local currency, but that can also have its downfall.

“When I first started traveling, I went to a local bank in the country I was in and did a money exchange. I found that, when I went to the banks, I had to wait awhile and, if I exchanged too little, I had to go back and exchange more,” said Jeff Lombardo, a frequent international traveler and owner of, an Internet marketing and design company in California.

“As time went on, I realized using an ATM with your American bank card worked better and it was faster than locating and waiting inside a bank,” added Lombardo.

Understanding the usage of debit cards abroad can get a little fuzzy. Use debit cards for cash withdrawals from local ATMs. A lot of U.S banks, have international partnerships with banks abroad. For example, Bank of America has a partnership with BNP Paribas in France, and this can work in your favor. It pays to check in advance.

Try to avoid using debit cards for purchases. Transactions purchased with a debit card are debited right away and this can become a problem.

“The benefit of credit over debit is that it’s easier to charge back if you feel you’ve been taken advantage of in another country. Once it leaves your bank on a debit card it becomes much harder to get back,” said Lombardo.

More recently, countries all across Europe started to use to the chip-and-pin credits cards and debit cards. These types of cards have a special chip inside them that make it nearly impossible for them to be duplicated. They also don’t have a black magnetic strip on the back of the cards. When making a purchase, instead of waiting for a signature, you need to enter a pin number to complete the purchase., the world’s foreign exchange specialist, has some great information about currency exchange, money and travel, and much more. They also offer the Cash Passport prepaid MasterCard; which is chip-and pin protected, easy to reload with money, and offers free ATM withdrawals.

Always do your homework before traveling outside the country. Keep up to date with currency rates and be smart about your money.

“You can also download the application Converter+ on your smartphone, which is great for travel. It converts currency (with real time exchange rates), distance, tips, weight, etc. I don’t leave the country without it,” said Lombardo.

“Only carry one to two cards when out and about, and a small amount of cash.  Leave the rest in your hotel room safe. Women should carry them in a place that is hard to get to by pickpockets and men should carry them inside their front pants pocket. Make sure you know the international phone numbers for your bank to call for emergencies,” added Ayala.


    XE is is a great website that offers information on foreign currency, and foreign exchange    tools and services. This company also offers phone applications for both I-Phones and Androids.
  2. and
    Both of these websites provide tools for currency exchange online.


  1. When abroad, organize your money in your hotel room. Plan for the day.
  2. Be creative. Distribute money into different items of clothing such as zippered coats, front pockets, etc.
  3. Never carry a wallet or a passport in your back pocket.
  4. Use a familiar tote or bag, one with which you are comfortable.
  5. Have a short list of all important telephone numbers such as your bank and local authority.
  6. Always have a back up plan.

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