So you have booked the perfect vacation with us, and now you are ready for your trip! We’ve put together some Spending Money Tips for Travelers while you are at your destination to help you save as well as not go through unwanted hassles during your vacation.
1) Call ahead! – Make sure that your bank and credit card companies know that you are travelling and where you are travelling to so your cards will not be blocked. This is very important if you do not travel frequently overseas. If you ARE a frequent traveler, it also won’t hurt to do this if you are travelling during the holidays when banks and credit card companies are especially vigilant due to fraud concerns. Some credit card companies and banks now have features where you can even report where you are travelling right on the bank websites so log in and see!
2) Don’t bother exchanging money – Contrary to popular belief, exchanging money will likely give you the worst possibly rate of exchange! (There are few exceptions to this rule such as currently in Argentina, where dollars are in high demand and will give you a better rate), but for our main destinations in Europe as well as Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, exchanging money at a local bank or at the airport will give you the worst rate possible. Not to mention that it can also be a pain to find a bank that is open during weekends or holidays or there can be long lines at banks. Who wants to spend their vacation waiting in lines? For the BEST possible exchange rate, withdraw local currency from the ATM in your destination.
3) Pay with Credit NOT Debit – These days it is very rare to find restaurants, clubs, hotels or basically any merchant other than a street vendor that doesn’t take credit cards. Since most banks charge you 3% to withdraw money from the ATM, paying with a credit card will basically cost you the same so why bother with cash? It is a good idea to always have SOME local currency (couple hundred dollars worth for emergencies or for such things as taxis , street food, etc.) Another thing to note , VISA and Mastercard are more widely accepted than AMEX so have one of these cards available. We also always recommend paying with CREDIT instead of debit because if your card is compromised it is much better to have a credit card compromised instead of a debit card which can have funds from your checking account frozen or removed and take weeks to get back!
4) Have the right Credit Card – Nothing is more annoying that getting your credit card statement after a vacation and seeing those 3% “foreign transaction fees”. These days, you don’t have to bother paying them as many card issuers have credit cards that do NOT charge overseas transaction fees. (Most major banks offer these types of cards. We will address the best cards to have in another post )Another great feature every Jet Setter has to have on his/her credit card is a “ smart chip”. Smart Chip is a credit card technology where cards are embedded with chips and a cardholder must put in their pin or sign for each transaction to be approved regardless of the card being debit or credit. These are prevalent in Europe and Latin America but not the USA. In the USA the majority of credit cards are just “swipe and sign” cards where merchant basically swipe the magnetic strip on the card, you sign and the transaction is approved. Some banks in the US are now issuing “chip and signature” cards for their clients who travel overseas a lot. Although you won’t have a pin to enter in the mobile card machines, the fact that your card will have a chip, will make it easier to avoid any problems with credit cards. (example of a “chip” of a “chip and pin” card) and a mobile card reader where the cards are commonly inserted.