Author Topic: Credit card or cash for travel?  (Read 6217 times)

onehappypanda

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Credit card or cash for travel?
« on: March 24, 2012, 09:35:38 PM »
Hey all, just wanted to get some cheap travel advice from folks who travel a little more than I do.

I have a trip planned for a conference in Vancouver in mid-April, which I'm stretching into a 7-day vacation. I'm from Ohio and haven't travelled outside the US in quite some time. I need to figure out how to pay for things in Vancouver without getting hit with massive fees for the currency change while I'm there. I've asked around and so far I've figured out my options:
- Use my credit card, which has no international fees. However, it's a Discovercard, which I've been told most Canadian companies won't take. So that won't really work.
- Use my bank card, which is a Visa. Unfortunately, it DOES have international fees :( One for every transaction, I believe.
- Use my bank card to withdraw cash from an ATM once I get there, which means I'll get hit with a fee but only once. But then I'd be walking around in Vancouver with enough cash to last 7 days and could theoretically end up with cash left over at the end that I can't use in the U.S.
- Get another credit card that actually works internationally.

I was also told that some companies will take US dollars but it's hit-or-miss and many will charge some ridiculous currency change fee?

So basically the only two options that make sense are to go to an ATM or get another credit card. Which of these would you lean toward?

PS: Bonus points if anyone has suggestions for cheap/Mustachian eating and entertainment in Vancouver.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 09:37:25 PM by onehappypanda »

smedleyb

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2012, 09:40:27 PM »
Are people so afraid of carrying cash around?  I routinely travel with thousands of dollars in my pocket, never lost a dime. 

Bring cash, or...

Apply for the Chase Sapphire card, and get 50K Chase points after spending 3k in 3 months on it, worth $500 in cash, or $625 worth of air travel if booked through Chase travel services.  No international fee, $95 yearly fee waived first year.  Do it soon because that 50K bonus is being whittled down to 40K very soon.

menorman

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2012, 10:40:43 PM »
Hey all, just wanted to get some cheap travel advice from folks who travel a little more than I do.

I have a trip planned for a conference in Vancouver in mid-April, which I'm stretching into a 7-day vacation. I'm from Ohio and haven't travelled outside the US in quite some time. I need to figure out how to pay for things in Vancouver without getting hit with massive fees for the currency change while I'm there. I've asked around and so far I've figured out my options:
- Use my credit card, which has no international fees. However, it's a Discovercard, which I've been told most Canadian companies won't take. So that won't really work.
- Use my bank card, which is a Visa. Unfortunately, it DOES have international fees :( One for every transaction, I believe.
- Use my bank card to withdraw cash from an ATM once I get there, which means I'll get hit with a fee but only once. But then I'd be walking around in Vancouver with enough cash to last 7 days and could theoretically end up with cash left over at the end that I can't use in the U.S.
- Get another credit card that actually works internationally.

I was also told that some companies will take US dollars but it's hit-or-miss and many will charge some ridiculous currency change fee?

So basically the only two options that make sense are to go to an ATM or get another credit card. Which of these would you lean toward?

PS: Bonus points if anyone has suggestions for cheap/Mustachian eating and entertainment in Vancouver.

If you have cash left over, you can always get it exchanged back for American dollars...

zoltani

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2012, 05:56:55 PM »
Check with your bank, they may have agreements with canadian banks so you can withdraw money without the fee.  When I moved to france i found out that bank of america has an agreement with BNP, so I could take cash out without fees, was very helpful.

bananabread

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2012, 08:17:11 PM »
I just recently went on a 6 month trip abroad, so I did a lot of research on cards and the like.

The Capital One Venture cards have no foreign transaction fees, and they even refund you the 1% fee Visa automatically charges when you buy things not in your currency. It's not a bad card either, generic miles @ 1.25%. I think there are a couple other cards that do this, but they're perhaps not as accessible (or they have annual fees).

There are also bank cards that don't charge fees. The best one I found for that was a Schwab Checking acct. It's a no fee no minimum deal if you sign up for a brokerage account alongside it (no need to use the brokerage account either - called and confirmed). They refund you all ATM fees at the end of each month, and they again have 0% foreign transaction.

Opening both of these took less than 2 weeks from start to finish for me, didn't pay a single cent for any of it minus the $3 Bank of America charged me to transfer funds out (sigh). But YMMV, if you don't travel much and don't want to open new accounts, probably best to eat the debit fee and withdraw a bunch of cash, keeping it on a leg wallet or something if you're worried about crime.

(Edited to add: during my research, I found out that the ATM and credit card exchange rates are far better than you'll pay at the bank (or at the airport, but a Mustachian wouldn't do that....))

onehappypanda

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2012, 08:52:22 PM »
Hey all, just wanted to get some cheap travel advice from folks who travel a little more than I do.

I have a trip planned for a conference in Vancouver in mid-April, which I'm stretching into a 7-day vacation. I'm from Ohio and haven't travelled outside the US in quite some time. I need to figure out how to pay for things in Vancouver without getting hit with massive fees for the currency change while I'm there. I've asked around and so far I've figured out my options:
- Use my credit card, which has no international fees. However, it's a Discovercard, which I've been told most Canadian companies won't take. So that won't really work.
- Use my bank card, which is a Visa. Unfortunately, it DOES have international fees :( One for every transaction, I believe.
- Use my bank card to withdraw cash from an ATM once I get there, which means I'll get hit with a fee but only once. But then I'd be walking around in Vancouver with enough cash to last 7 days and could theoretically end up with cash left over at the end that I can't use in the U.S.
- Get another credit card that actually works internationally.

I was also told that some companies will take US dollars but it's hit-or-miss and many will charge some ridiculous currency change fee?

So basically the only two options that make sense are to go to an ATM or get another credit card. Which of these would you lean toward?

PS: Bonus points if anyone has suggestions for cheap/Mustachian eating and entertainment in Vancouver.

If you have cash left over, you can always get it exchanged back for American dollars...

Right, but then there's a fee to change it into Canadian dollars and another fee to change it back, which I'm trying to avoid. Or at least figure out where the fees will be smallest.

Thanks for the advice folks, looks like there's no clear answer but I'll ask my bank and go from there.

Sunflower

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2012, 01:04:57 PM »
I found out that the ATM and credit card exchange rates are far better than you'll pay at the bank (or at the airport, but a Mustachian wouldn't do that....)

Where is the best place to change cash? I have a small (cash) stipend in Euros for the month and I'm defintiely not going to spend it all so I'd like to convert it to USD next week when I leave. Is the difference in exchange rates at the airport vs. a bank worth a trip into the city to change it before I go to the airport? Will any bank exchange it?

James

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2012, 02:00:35 PM »
I travel quite a bit, and my advice depends a lot on the options you have.  But for the most part I suggest both cash and credit cards.

Having been stuck in a country during a major earthquake and needing to pay cash for a flight out, my first recommendation is to bring a decent amount of cash.  I always have an extra thousand in $100 bills that I don't expect to use. (research how to carry money, it's not a problem if you are prepared)  I exchange some cash for local money in order to have some local currency to use as needed.  I then use my credit card as much as possible if there are no fees associated with it until I am close to the end of the trip.  Then I use up the last of my local currency, giving the few bucks I have left to my kids.  I've never exchanged money going back, but I it certainly can be done.  The fees are just part of travel, but if you know the proper rates you can take steps to minimize the expense of exchanging currency each way.

It's a bit of a dance, always complicated to some extent no matter which method you chose.  Make sure you understand your options, fees, exchange rates, etc up front before you leave, and have a general plan in place.  You can then alter it as needed along the way.  What I have seen from fellow travelers that get in trouble is mostly lack of knowledge.  They didn't know about fees for their card, they didn't know the exchange rate so they got ripped off, or they ran out of cash and didn't have a backup plan.  With lots of good info and research you can go and have fun, but it will always be complicated, just a fact of life with international travel.

At least you are starting someplace simple and close by.  :)

bananabread

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2012, 08:47:23 PM »
I found out that the ATM and credit card exchange rates are far better than you'll pay at the bank (or at the airport, but a Mustachian wouldn't do that....)

Where is the best place to change cash? I have a small (cash) stipend in Euros for the month and I'm defintiely not going to spend it all so I'd like to convert it to USD next week when I leave. Is the difference in exchange rates at the airport vs. a bank worth a trip into the city to change it before I go to the airport? Will any bank exchange it?

Airport exchange rates tend to be a blatant rip-off, but if your trip into the city is gonna cost you over ~~3% of the cash you're exchanging, then it may not be worth it. Banks are going to give you the best exchange rate for cash, followed by 3rd party moneychangers.

Arbor33

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2012, 05:01:48 AM »
When I go to Canada (which isn't too frequently) I make sure to physically go to my bank first. I ask to take out a what I think I'll need in Canadian currency and I get it with a minimal fee.

You should try the same but use your Discover card whenever possible and then cash when you can't. If you run out of cash, take more out as you need it. When you return home, bring your money back to the bank and deposit it.

Have fun!

shdrdr

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2012, 11:54:26 AM »
Consider opening an account at a Credit Union, you can avoid paying fees when using ATMs abroad. I was in Italy last year, and paid no fees when taking Euros out at a bank in Florence and a credit union in Florence and Rome.

Sunflower

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2012, 11:36:53 AM »
When you return home, bring your money back to the bank and deposit it.


Hmmm I never even considered this option. So if I bing home ~200 Euro in cash, I can just drop it off at my local BofA and they'll deposit it into my account (which I can then transfer to ING)? That sounds easiest if its an option! Will there be any service charge to do that?

shdrdr

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2012, 12:04:30 PM »
Most likely there will be a service charge, the bank wants its cut for any service they provide. Ask before giving them the money.

Another option is to put the money in your mattress, then you don't have to worry about changing money again next time you go to Europe.

Revelry

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2017, 06:41:27 AM »
I just recently went on a 6 month trip abroad, so I did a lot of research on cards and the like.

The Capital One Venture cards have no foreign transaction fees, and they even refund you the 1% fee Visa automatically charges when you buy things not in your currency. It's not a bad card either, generic miles @ 1.25%. I think there are a couple other cards that do this, but they're perhaps not as accessible (or they have annual fees).

There are also bank cards that don't charge fees. The best one I found for that was a Schwab Checking acct. It's a no fee no minimum deal if you sign up for a brokerage account alongside it (no need to use the brokerage account either - called and confirmed). They refund you all ATM fees at the end of each month, and they again have 0% foreign transaction.

Opening both of these took less than 2 weeks from start to finish for me, didn't pay a single cent for any of it minus the $3 Bank of America charged me to transfer funds out (sigh). But YMMV, if you don't travel much and don't want to open new accounts, probably best to eat the debit fee and withdraw a bunch of cash, keeping it on a leg wallet or something if you're worried about crime.

(Edited to add: during my research, I found out that the ATM and credit card exchange rates are far better than you'll pay at the bank (or at the airport, but a Mustachian wouldn't do that....))
This is good advice.

There are plenty of credit cards that offer cash back and have no FTF: PenFed, Alliant CU, Capital One Venture or Venture One, Barclay Arrival+, Fidelity Visa (actually 1% fee but you still net 1% rewards), BofA Travel Rewards (only 1.5% rewards but increases if you're in their Preferred program), and more.

Also plenty of checking accounts that reimburse ATM fees if you withdraw cash in Canada, and will have a better exchange rate than you get at a money exchange place or business.  Schwab, Fidelity cash management account, Consumers Credit Union, Alliant CU, Northpointe, etc.

cchrissyy

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2017, 11:01:22 AM »
lots of options with the trip so far off

either

1) get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and just use it as normal while in Canada. get one with a great sign-up bonus.

2) get a schwab checking account. the visa debit crd that comes with it has no foreign fees as well as no ATM fees, a benefit I have enjoyed at home and in many other countries, no problems.

JoJo

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2017, 12:02:20 PM »
OP is from 2012 so pretty sure they're not looking for info.  That being said, I do want to put in another plug for Charles Schwab Bank.  I used it in Indonesia and got pretty much the rate that was posted on xe.com for each day, and no ATM fees.

So, if trading cash, most people were getting 12,900 per $1 but I got over 13,300, so avoiding ATM costs + 3% penalty.  I also heard many of the exchangers had good slight of hand and would short change.  Not a risk everywhere, but yet another reason exchanging cash isn't great.


I travel by mix of credit card & ATM withdrawals + emergency stash in US dollars (got stuck in Romania without hardly any money for 3 days and learned my lesson).  Safety of use of CC dictates if I use it or not - it's my primary source in US, Canada, some of Europe, Israel.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2017, 01:04:59 PM »
We always pull out Canadian or Mexican cash from an ATM when we get there (maybe the plan would be different in other countries, but we have always gone to other destinations that take dollars).  We get our ATM fees reimbursed and the exchange rate is way better than the bank. To the point where the guy at the bank told me NOT to exchange money before the trip.

We keep a "travel" account that has less than $10k in it, so if our information was compromised we wouldn't have to deal with too much hassle (the bank offers protections for that; but we wouldn't miss out on anything else while waiting to recover it.)


But, whenever someone will take it, we always use a credit card.  I want my points. And I have multiple cards with no international fees.
(It was interesting in Quebec when we would be speaking in French to someone in a shop, often for awhile, and they'd switch to English as soon as the receipt printed to be signed. A dead give away of an America. Only Americans use chip and sign!)

If I was going somewhere remote, I'd probably want more cash than when I go to major cities in Canada or Mexico.

meghan88

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2017, 02:33:07 PM »
Another option - advertise on Craigslist to see if anyone has any currency that they'd like to exchange at mid-market rates.  That way, both buyer and seller can get a fair deal.  Works for selling the excess when you get home, too.

Drifterrider

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2017, 11:39:32 AM »
Are people so afraid of carrying cash around?  I routinely travel with thousands of dollars in my pocket, never lost a dime. 

Bring cash, or...

Apply for the Chase Sapphire card, and get 50K Chase points after spending 3k in 3 months on it, worth $500 in cash, or $625 worth of air travel if booked through Chase travel services.  No international fee, $95 yearly fee waived first year.  Do it soon because that 50K bonus is being whittled down to 40K very soon.

Be very aware of the increasing instances of the police taking your cash under the "civil forfeiture" plan. 

I use a credit card.  It works in Canada too (tell your issuer you will be traveling there).  I got very good exchange rates at point of sale, paid little to no "exchange fees" and I get cash back on my purchases.

I also have some cash just because.

Saving in Austin

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Re: Credit card or cash for travel?
« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2017, 09:55:36 PM »
I just came back from Vancouver and had a great time. I used credit cards and, yes, Discover is not accepted at many places.

The best Mustachian advice I have is to take public transit. Parking can be a hassle and the train from the airport is cheap and awesome. Also, you can bike many places weather permitting.