Nothing causes more stress than money considerations when I travel.
I’m not talking about the cost of the trip – airfares, hotels, meals, etc. The Good Doctor and I have, for the most part worked that out, and I know that we will undoubtedly run over whatever he has budgeted – I plan ahead for that routine occurrence! heehee
I am concerned with exchange rates, my debit card, credit card acceptance, and credit card surcharges. Cash, of course is always king (or Queen)!
Exchange rates will, to a great extent, determine the cost of your trip. Back in the day (I’ve given that “age” thing away again, right?) rates did not fluctuate very much and the US Dollar was strong against all most all other currencies. I remember traveling in Europe when they first converted to the Euro and it was 5 Euro for every Dollar, now it is 0.86 Euro per dollar. At one point I received around 200 Japanese Yen for a Dollar, now it is 110 Yen. We do check rates before we leave – The Wall Street Journal publishes Currency Exchange rates on a daily basis – so we know about what costs should be. Traveler beware, this is NOT the rate that you will get but it is a guide. You will definitely not get any where near the published rate at Exchange counters or booths that are ubiquitous in airports and in large cities. Here are some quick tips for your next trip:
Tip #1 – If you have to exchange money before you leave the Country, do it at your bank and only do a $100 or so.
Tip #2 – Never ever exchange money at airport or city Exchange Counters, kiosks or shops unless it is an absolute emergency. Your hotel would be a safer bet but even there, you will not get a great rate.
This brings me to the Bank debit card – in my humble opinion, the best way to obtain local currency when traveling in foreign countries. You need to be aware that not all Debit cards are created equal. Most cards issued by large banks have an affinity with multiple consortiums so you can almost always find an ATM machine where you will not be charged a fee. Cards from smaller banks tend to have less affiliations and it is sometimes difficult to find a machine that will accept them or to avoid a fee. Notify your bank prior to leaving that you will be using your card in foreign countries and know exactly what the daily limit is on your particular account. Your PIN should be only 4 numbers – most foreign machines will accept only 4 number PINs!
Tip #3 – Use your debit card to acquire the necessary cash in local currency. We always do this immediately upon landing – I have never been in a major International airport that does not have Bank Machines.
Credit cards can be a life saver or a problem. Visa and MasterCard are pretty much universally accepted in large foreign cities. However, in more rural areas or in small “Mom and Pop” establishments this may not be the case. You may also encounter problems using American Express and Discover cards. Be aware that
many cards charge a “foreign transaction fee”. This “service” fee fluctuates with the amount charged. There are many Cards that do not charge any fees – shop around and you will find them. Credit card surcharges are charged by the Vendor to compensate for the money they will be charged by accepting your card. Extremely rare in the States, you may often find them in small shops and particularly in Australia and NewZealand. To be fair, we were always notified in advance that there would be a surcharge for using a credit card – usually 3%.
Tip #4 – Never use a credit card that charges a foreign transaction fee.
Tip #5 – Be aware of credit card surcharges.
Tip #6 – Always ask if your particular card is accepted
Travel Safely. I hope this helps you on your journey. As always, let us know if we can help with questions.