Money does matter and traveling abroad with credit cards and cash has become more complicated over the last decade. Well, maybe not more complicated, but there are more considerations. Gone are the days when one might arrive in a foreign country with a few AMEX traveler’s checks tucked in their wallet. Anyone under the age of thirty might ask, “What’s a traveler’s check?” The same Gen Y’ers who wonder how it’s possible to navigate the highways and byways without a GPS. In some ways we move forward- accessing cold hard cash 24/7 from an ATM anywhere in the world- yet in other ways, the old-fashioned paper map is still the best way to get around. But, I digress.
Here are a few tips to make your international vacation operate a bit more smoothly:
- Call your credit/debit card company prior to departure to advise that you’ll be traveling outside the US.
- Many credit card companies/banks charge an international transaction fee of 1-4%. Be prepared and check before you leave. Capital One and AMEX Platinum are the most widely known cards that don’t charge these fees.
- If possible, purchase a bit of “walking around money” in the local currency before departure (your local bank is the best place to start). This makes it easy to pay for a taxi from the airport, purchase a snack, have cash on hand for a tip, etc. The next best option is to find an ATM once you’ve arrived. Stay away from currency exchange booths as their rates are often quite high. Some larger US banks have reciprocity with foreign banks and may charge lower ATM withdrawal fees, it’s worth checking.
- Traveler’s checks are nearly obsolete.
- In Europe, have cash available just in case your credit card doesn’t work at automated machines (i.e. ticket kiosks, parking meters, highway tolls, etc.). Most European credit cards are embedded with a chip whereas US cards are not.
- On the outside chance that your debit/credit cards are lost (or stolen) be sure you have easy access to the bank customer service phone number if you should need to cancel the card or order a replacement.
- An RFID wallet can keep your credit cards and passport secure. Also, think about how you’ll carry your cash and cards: in a money belt, in your front pocket or in a small wallet tucked into a shoulder bag or backpack. Most important is to always keep cash/cards close at hand and be aware of your surroundings while out and about.
By the way, this stack of Argentinian Pesos is equivalent to $400US (Nov ’10), the average monthly salary of a primary school teacher, at the time, in Buenos Aires.