Using Cash and Credit Cards overseas

How to Pay and how to get cash

As mentioned on a previous post, your first step should be to call all your bank credit cards. Some will charge you an international service fee up to 3% of your purchases, other credit cards will not charge anything. Also ask them their fees if you use an ATM machine overseas. If you have a debit card contact your bank and ask the same questions. In the event you must withdraw cash overseas at an ATM you may save on fees by using your debit card instead of your credit card.

I personally like to bring at least 2-3 credit cards when traveling. Keep in mind some establishments may not take American Express, only Visa and Master card. I find Discover card is usually not accepted outside the USA. I have also been in situations that only Visa is accepted.

I also like to travel with US dollars in good crisp condition. I will usually wait until I exchange cash until I arrive at the airport of my final destination.

ATM Machines
Almost all major airports and cities will have ATM machines or exchange facilities. Try to minimize the amount of transactions at an ATM since you pay a transaction fee every time you use the machine. For this reason I try to withdraw larger amounts. Most machines will dispense bills in large denominations. For this reason If I want to withdraw 500 euros I will withdraw 490 Euros instead so I know I will receive some smaller bills. Once at the hotel you should be able to change over your larger bills in the local currency to smaller amounts free of charge.

Depending on the country you are traveling to, some will accept credit cards for most purchases, shopping, restaurants etc. Other countries may be on a cash basis for most purchases other than hotels or upscale shopping and restaurants. My last trip to Myanmar and Laos over 90% of my purchases were in cash, I had no alternative.

Know your exchange rate
Be familiar with the exchange rate of the local currency in relation to the US Dollar. This will save you money, as not every merchant you encounter will give you an honest exchange rate. Be familiar with the visual aspects of the local currency. In some countries a $10 bill could look similar to their $100 bill. In most countries use their local cash as often as possible to avoid an unfavorable exchange rate. Some merchants may offer a cash discount instead of absorbing high credit card fees. It does not hurt to ask them.

Before returning home
I try to spend almost all my local currency before the end of the trip.
If you have any foreign cash left before flying home I would change it back into US Dollars at the airport or simply spend it at the airport. Its usually easier to do it this way, than trying to get it changed over from a local bank at home.

Call me at 781-471-2310 with any other travel hints or suggestions.

“Over 100 countries traveled and still counting”