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How to avoid travel money fees and charges traveling overseas

Save money on your vacation by sidestepping the fees.

To understand the hidden costs that come hand in hand with travel money, you have to read the fine print, understand your options and make the right choices. You can start saving for your next trip by being careful about what spend on and how you pay.

This guide breaks down and gives some tips on how to avoid the hidden costs and charges you’ll run into when taking travel money on vacation.

The major travel money costs and how you can avoid them

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Fees using prepaid travel money cards

  • Account inactivity fees

If you’re not using your card, the provider might charge a monthly fee for maintaining your account following a period of inactivity, usually 12 months.

  • How to avoid them:

If you want to keep your account active, make a small transfer or purchase before 12 months on inactivity. The last thing you want is for your remaining funds to be slowly devoured by the monthly inactivity fee. Read our guide on how to claim your remaining travel card funds.

  • Account closure fees

When you close your travel money card, you may find that you’re charged an account closure fee.

  • How to avoid them:

There’s really no way to avoid this cost, unless you exhaust all of your funds on the card. Then you won’t have to worry about the fee for closing your card to get your remaining balance back.

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Fees for using travel credit cards

  • Annual fees

Cards designed for overseas use can also come at a price, so make sure that the annual fee doesn’t outweigh any potential benefits.

  • How to avoid them:

To get by this, just look for a credit card with zero annual fees or a promotional period that allows you to use the card at no charge.

  • Interest fees

When you use your credit card, not only will you have to repay the purchase amount, you may also have to pay interest. Be sure to make on time payments or you could roll yourself into a ball of a debt.

  • How to avoid them:

You could get a travel-friendly 0% interest credit card or you could take advantage of the interest-free days when you pay your balance on time.

  • Merchant fees

Sometimes you might find that the overseas merchant adds a surcharge to your transaction just because you’re using a foreign credit card.

Also, if you agree to pay in dollars while overseas, you’re agreeing to the currency conversion rate which incorporates a fee to the merchant, a poor exchange rate and the currency conversion fee which your card company may also charge.

  • How to avoid them:

Always stay alert at the counter and be vigilant about checking your bill before paying. Ask when in doubt about any item, and always say “no” when offered to pay in your home currency.

Name Product Foreign transaction fee Welcome offer Rewards Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
None
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on up to $1,000 on groceries until April 30, 2021, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
Earn a signup bonus worth $1,000 plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries with this popular travel card.
American Express® Gold Card
None
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
4x at restaurants including delivery and Uber Eats; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points), 3x points on directly-booked flights and 1x points on all other purchases

Rose Gold is back

Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 based on our valuation with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Platinum Card® from American Express
None
75,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other purchases
One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500 based on Finder's valuation, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
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