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How to Exchange Foreign Currency When Travelling Abroad

How to Exchange Foreign Currency When Travelling Abroad

After living in a foreign country for almost three years, I’ve learned a few things about how to exchange foreign currency. Let’s take a look at the best ways to prepare for travelling abroad so that you get the most for your money.

When you are planning a trip abroad, it’s exciting to book hotel rooms, plan your flight, and look at which tourist destinations you’ll get to see. However, before you start all of your planning, it’s important to consider how you will acquire the foreign currency that’s used at your destination. Prior to the onset of technology, many people simply used traveller’s checks, but today there are numerous ways that you can get foreign currency to spend during your travels around the world.

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Exchange it At Your Local Bank

If you want to have foreign currency before you fly to your destination, you can always buy it at your local bank. If you use this method, it’s important to use a bank that you already have an account with. This will potentially help lower your fees, although you will likely get an exchange rate that’s in the bank’s favor, not yours. Anything is better than exchanging money at the kiosks located around the airport, however, as they have the absolute worst exchange rates. It’s far better to plan before you go!

Buy Foreign Currency Online

Did you know that you can actually get foreign currency shipped to your house before you fly? Websites like ezforex.com sell it, and they are becoming extremely popular for their low rates and their convenience. You can also purchase it online at Wells Fargo. All you have to do is enter in how much money you want to exchange, pay, and sit and wait for the package to be shipped to your house. One word of warning though: make sure you’re home to receive your mail if you are expecting a package full of currency. Bonus Tip: If you spend $1,000 US on foreign currency at Wells Fargo, they will ship for free. That means more savings for you!

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Use a Credit Card

Many credit cards automatically calculate exchange rates for you, and you can use them wherever major credit cards are accepted. The smartest way to utilize this tip is to get a credit card that waives all foreign transaction fees, otherwise, you could be paying more than 3% on every purchase! That can definitely be an unwanted surprise when you open your credit card bill after a nice, long vacation. So, to avoid that, here are some ideas for cards that you can get: Capital One regularly waives foreign transaction fees, and Bank of America, American Express, Citi, and Chase also offer cards with waived foreign fees. Just make sure to read the fine print when applying for one of these cards to be sure that it does in fact waive these fees, as many companies offer a variety of different cards.

Withdraw it From an ATM

Many banks, like Charles Schwab, allow you to withdraw cash from any ATM in the world without charging you a fee. This is a great way to get the cash you need immediately in a currency form that’s compatible to your destination, and is perhaps the most convenient way to get money when traveling so that you have cash on hand for quick snacks or taxi rides. You can also call your bank and have your daily withdrawal limit raised if you need to make a big purchase. Bank of America also allows you to withdraw cash without a fee as long as you are at an affiliated bank, whereas Charles Schwab allows you to use any ATM and still get their perks.

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Use Travelers Checks

As previously stated, travelers checks are mostly antiquated and might not be accepted everywhere you go. They are, however, a good, safe backup if anything happens to your other funding sources, and you can get them from any local bank.

Know Your Exchange Rates

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do when travelling abroad is to do your research and know your exchange rates. That way, if all else fails and you are unable to exchange your money before travelling abroad, you will be knowledgeable enough to bargain with foreign banks, taxi drivers, and currency exchange booths to get the rate your deserve.

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Have you ever travelled abroad? What type of currency did you use? How did you use it?

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Catherine Alford

Catherine is the go to personal finance expert for educated, aspirational moms who want to recapture their life passions.

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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