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3 travel money tips for your vacation

3 travel money tips for your vacation

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Get your travel money in order before you take your trip abroad.

Planning an adventure in Australia or a Vacation in Vancouver? Make sure you know how to access your money once you arrive. Don’t waste time hunting down exchange offices or banks to make hasty currency exchanges. Or worse — don’t lose vacation money to exchange fees. Read our top three travel money tips to ensure you’ve got your money situation under control. Compare travel insurance quotes online

1. Know the currencies you’ll be dealing with

You might think you’ll be OK using American dollars anywhere you travel — but USD isn’t accepted everywhere. Even in countries that do, you’ll pay more in fees and the exchange rates. It’s always a good idea to exchange a bit of money before you leave the country — enough to get you a taxi or pay for immigration fees. If the country you’re traveling to uses rare or exotic currency, it may be harder to get at your local bank. Check ahead of time.

Once you arrive, hit up an ATM or exchange office to get the local currency. Though you don’t want to exchange all of your money — wads of cash can make you a target of theft. It’s best to rely on credit, debit and travel money cards to pay for bus or train tickets, hotels and big meals.

Check the exchange rate between the local currency and the American dollar before you leave for your trip. Consider a money transfer services like Travelex or World First. You’ll get a good rate, and you can have your money waiting for you at your destination.

What’s the deal with Europe?

Much of Europe uses the euro, however not all countries have jumped on board. Countries that are part of the European Union, but have their own currency are:

Travel money card comparison

Updated October 22nd, 2018
Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
$550
None (Charge Card)
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & Fees
$250
See Rates & Fees
25,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months Rates & Fees
None
$0
13.99% variable
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
None
$95
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Rates & Fees
$0
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Rates & Fees
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Enjoy a $0 annual fee on the first year and earn up to 2 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases. Rates & Fees
None
$195
16.99% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
None
$495
16.99% variable
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
None
$995
16.99% variable
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
None
$0
16.99% to 24.99% variable
An intro offer rewards cardholders with a $250 value (25,000 online bonus points) after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
None
$450
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn 50,000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Compare up to 4 providers

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Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
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  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    2. Plan for back up

    When you make your vacation budget, chances are you didn’t tack on extra money for an emergency. Tourists are the target of theft in most any country you’ll travel to. Always be aware of where you store your money, cards and travel documents, and avoid carrying too much cash on you at once.

    In the case you do run into financial problems, have someone from back home on alert to send money quickly. Money transfer companies like Western Union and Travelex can wire you money fast, either directly to your bank account, or to a pick-up location.

    3. Accessing money while overseas

    While South Korea is moving towards a society that only accepts plastic, places in rural Vietnam and Thailand hardly accept credit cards at all. No matter where you travel, find out the best way to pay your way. How do you decide the best way to pay while abroad? Check out our country travel guide to see the travel money options for your destination.

    • Cash. Though carrying cash is convenient and accepted in most places you visit, it could leave you vulnerable to thieves and pickpockets. Many countries won’t accept money that is torn, stained or crumpled, so keep your money protected in a wallet. Get cash from ATMs, licensed exchange offices or banks. Don’t rely on your credit card for cash advances unless you have to. Credit card companies charge high fees and you’ll pay interest immediately.
    • Debit Cards. The biggest advantage of debit cards is that you’ll have access to your bank account each time you come across an ATM. Find a card that waives the international ATM fees to save money. You’ll also be able to make over the counter purchases with your debit card wherever Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
    • Credit cards. You’ll have the most purchasing power on expensive items like hotels and flights. Find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees. Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance, rewards and discounts, depending on your provider. Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.
    • Travel cards. The benefit of travel cards is that you can lock in a favorable exchange rate before you leave for your trip. The Travelex travel money card can hold seven major currencies — good for traveling to more than one destination. You’re issued two cards, so you’ll have a back up if your card is lost or stolen. And because it’s not linked to your bank account, you’ll have extra protection.
    • Traveler’s checks. Security is the main advantage of using traveler’s checks. Each check has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. Fees are the main disadvantage. Banks charge you to get check and to cash them. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals. Traveler’s checks are good for locking in a good exchange rate. So if you watch the forex market, get them while the getting’s good.

    Always notify your bank of where and when you’re traveling. Credit card companies and banks will suspend your card if they detect any activity they think is fraudulent.

    Leah Fallon

    Leah Fallon is a writer and editor for finder.com. She's here to fix annoying apostrophes, elusive infinitives and the muddled em and en dash. When she's not helping people with their finances, you can find her wrangling her two sprightly girls in Leesburg, Virginia.

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