Seventeen percent of US consumers plan to take an international vacation this summer, according to
a recent survey from the Royal Bank of Canada, and if you’re one of them, you’ll need to know more
than simply how to adjust to a strange culture (though that’s important as well). More
specifically, traveling abroad is expensive, and there are some surefire ways to make things easier on
your bank account.
1. Save on Currency Conversion
You’ll need a way to turn US Dollars into the currency used in your vacation destination, and card
networks (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express) automatically provide some of the
lowest currency conversion rates. According to Card Hub’s currency conversion study, consumers who
use Visa and MasterCard cards to make purchases abroad save 15% compared to those who trade in
cash at an airport kiosk and save 8% relative to those who do so at a local bank prior to departure.
To score such dramatic savings, you’ll need a no foreign transaction fee credit card on either the Visa or MasterCard network.
After all, more than 90% of credit cards assess surcharges of 2-3% for transactions processed outside of
the United States (which means foreign fees could come into play even before you leave), and Visa and
MasterCard are the most widely accepted networks internationally.
You won’t be able to use a credit card for every purchase made abroad, however. The cheapest and
most convenient method of procuring cash while abroad is to bring a debit card with low foreign ATM
withdrawal fees. This will enable you to take advantage of the low Visa/MasterCard exchange rates
as well as take out cash as you need it, which will help decrease the threat of pickpockets and mitigate
hassle if you will be visiting multiple countries.
2. Take Advantage of an Initial Bonus
Have you noticed that credit card companies are getting in the habit of offering people with excellent
credit a whole bunch of points, miles or cash back basically just for opening a new credit card? Well, this
is a growing trend both in terms of the number of issuers doing it and the value of these initial bonuses.
Cash-based rewards bonuses are 90% more valuable than last year, according to a Card Hub study.
Two of the best travel credit cards
for international vacationers are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the British Airways Credit Card.
Both are no foreign transaction fee Visa credit cards, and the Sapphire Preferred offers $500 in travel or
$400 cash if you spend $3,000 within the first three months, while the BA Card offers 1 free roundtrip
transatlantic flight after your first purchase as well as the chance to earn another one, depending on
how much you charge during the first year.
3. Avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion
If a foreign merchant asks if you’d like a purchase to be converted into US dollars, don’t do it. This isn’t
a favor; it’s a play for more of your money. International merchants are known to take advantage of the
naiveté of US travelers in order to gauge them with high exchange rates and pocket some extra dough.
So just say no, and if you feel more comfortable seeing how much something costs in dollars before
buying it, bring either your cell phone or a little pocket calculator.
4. Say Goodbye to Your Bank
The last thing you have to do before leaving is tell your bank where you plan to travel. This will prevent
your credit and debit cards from being suspended due to suspicious use.
5. Have an Amazing Time!
This one is self-explanatory. You’ve now know how to most effectively spend your money while on an
international adventure. Now it’s time to explore, learn and have fun. Enjoy!