When planning your next trip abroad, there's a lot to consider in terms of money. Most travelers are likely to use debit or other cards for their convenience, and because they offer good rates for overseas purchases and the like. There are other forms of money, and we'll take you through a list of some of the most popular, as well as the benefits and possible pitfalls of each. We'll discuss how to get the best currency deals for each medium, as well as rates of exchange.
Forms of Travel Money and When to Use Them
A credit card will be most useful to you when making large purchases; consider this option when you buy airline tickets, book hotels or car rentals, and the like. The upside to using credit cards in these cases is the rate of exchange. You'll typically receive the best exchange rates possible via an interbank exchange.
In addition, when you are using your credit card overseas for larger purchases, you will pay a small percentage fee, but these costs are almost always lower than the rates you would be charged to convert your native currency to the foreign one at a money exchange kiosk.
On the flip side, you do need to make certain to carry some amount of the necessary foreign currency with you at all times, because there are still are a variety of businesses everywhere that are unwilling to accept credit cards. And while you can use them for cash advances via the ATMs, you'll be hit with fees here as well. Still, they often can't be beaten for bigger things. We recommend checking beforehand what charges will apply to your credit card purchases, in dollars, and in foreign currencies.
Debit or ATM Cards
These have separate advantages and disadvantages from credit cards. Most notably, they are best used for getting cash in whatever local currency you may need. You'll receive the best exchange rates, and it's the most convenient way to get local currency on the go. Nearly all key cities will have some ATMs scattered throughout main thoroughfares and shops.
Conversely, you will be subject to some percentage fees for the rate of exchange with each withdrawal that you make. And while you can sometimes use them for larger purchases or expensive services, many businesses won't accept them as a form of payment if the service or item is too high, such as a car rental for example.
For optimal results, we only recommend using debit cards at the beginning of your trip, until you find the nearest ATM.
Cash is still the most versatile medium in most places, and we find that it is the best medium to use during the first few hours of your trip; you'll have something until you can find an ATM to get the best exchange rates. It's always a good idea to go ahead and convert some of your dollars to the foreign currency before your trip begins.
The disadvantage here is, you won't usually get optimal rates of exchange from your domestic bank when you do this. Having said that, if you're traveling to a major hub, this step is more of a precaution than an outright necessity; hubs have conversion kiosks and ATMs for your convenience.
Other Currency Deals
We've talked a lot about various forms of money when it comes to the banks. However, your local post office is a great place to find the best travel currency deals out there. Yes, you may pay a bit more, but they more than make up for this with their practicality and convenience.
If you know you wish to travel somewhere, but you are concerned about all of the possible fees, or if you don't yet have any cards, it's worth considering this list of cards that offer foreign transactions without the burden of fees.
Alternatively, if you're just looking for some rest anywhere abroad that will stretch your dollar, consider these countries as they currently have the best exchange rates overall for American travelers.