Author Topic: Foreign currency for travel  (Read 1213 times)

monarda

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Foreign currency for travel
« on: December 23, 2021, 09:11:02 AM »
So here's an old-school question.

I live in the US. I haven't traveled internationally in over a decade. It used to be that I would get some Euros (or whatever) in cash before leaving.

Now, I hardly ever use cash here in the US. Does it still make sense to get Euros out, or is everything done with plastic in most places in the world I might go? (would be most likely the EU or Canada or the UK)

I am asking for a couple of reasons.

First, there's a local bank here that doesn't charge any fees for getting out foreign currency if you have an account. So I'd opened an account in 2005, took a couple of trips, and not used it since 2011. If there's no longer a need, I can close that savings account, which has cost me quite a bit since I opened it, since the balance sitting in there isn't earning any interest. (Face punch, I know)

Second, if you don't use cash and do everything in plastic or some app, which are the best apps or cards that have minimal foreign transaction fees? Any to avoid? Google isn't being very helpful, so I thought I'd ask if there's a favorite here.

I don't plan on going anywhere too soon because of Covid, but if I can close that savings account, it might be a good thing.



Sugaree

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2021, 09:18:34 AM »
If you are going somewhere where cards are readily accepted and you have a card that doesn't charge exchange fees, then I wouldn't bother with too much cash.  That being said, I do like having a small assortment of bills. 

jamaicaspanish

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2021, 09:21:56 AM »
Charles Schwab checking account is my overseas go-to for cash.
They refund all ATM fees worldwide.
I have seamlessly used it on five continents.
I move travel funds to my Schwab account and then withdraw funds as needed.
But mostly, I have been able to use no-foreign-transaction-fees credit cards in almost every place I have visited.
I am old enough to remember travelers´ checks, so this brave new world of easy access to my accounts still amazes me.


Adventine

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2021, 09:42:32 AM »
I think you'll be just fine with using a credit card if you're going to the EU/Canada/UK.


I personally would still bring a small amount of cash for those rare occasions when the credit card reader doesn't work or the merchant doesn't take cards (ex. local flea markets or farmer's markets).


But if you were going somewhere without a developed credit card system (say, a remote region of Southeast Asia), then yes, absolutely, take some cash with you. Depending on the region, you may not even be able to find ATMs at your destination.


I went to Costa Rica recently and used the Capital One Quicksilver card. No foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, and 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases. There's also a $200 cash bonus once you hit $500 of spend. Here's my referral link if you're interested. Full disclosure: I get a referral bonus if you choose to sign up with the link. :)

Catbert

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2021, 10:54:36 AM »
Charles Schwab checking account is my overseas go-to for cash.
They refund all ATM fees worldwide.
I have seamlessly used it on five continents.
I move travel funds to my Schwab account and then withdraw funds as needed.


Fidelity has a similar atm card that is attached directly to my money market account.    No fees  (not sure if Fidelity requires a certain balance for it to be free).

For small amounts of euros try asking on Nextdoor or similar social media.  Often people will keep whatever  euros leftover if they plan to visit again.  Less likely, of course, for country specific currency.

It's been two years since I've travel internationally but at the time some unmanned purchase stations (e.g., train tickets) wouldn't take the typical American credit card since it has a signature rather than a PIN.  Not sure if tapping has solved this problem. 

Rdy2Fire

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2021, 11:41:29 AM »
I typically use CC wherever I go BUT normally take a small amount of cash out of an ATM or do an exchange (never at the airport) in the destination country

reeshau

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2021, 11:41:38 AM »
Shopping, hotels, etc. in cities are all card.  Make sure you can tap to pay, though.  Some places won't have a setup for chip and sign, or will be befuddled by it.  (i.e. won't have a pen handy)  some quick-serve places are card only.  A tourist place will be ready for chip and sign, but of course they will have tourist prices.

Cabbies still prefer cash; be careful to ask if they will take a card before you start with them.  Transit systems will have, and give best rates to, pass cards that you can get from a machine.

The smaller town / more local you go, the better it is to have some cash.

Just get it from an ATM over there, but not at the airport.  If you have an easy way to get it here, then so much the better.  Watch their exchange rates, though.  "Free" isn't always free, of course.  ATM's use the bank's wholesale rate, so aren't marking you up.

DaTrill

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2021, 03:04:20 PM »
Charles Schwab checking account is my overseas go-to for cash.
They refund all ATM fees worldwide.
I have seamlessly used it on five continents.
I move travel funds to my Schwab account and then withdraw funds as needed.
But mostly, I have been able to use no-foreign-transaction-fees credit cards in almost every place I have visited.
I am old enough to remember travelers´ checks, so this brave new world of easy access to my accounts still amazes me.

+1

Used Schwab several times in several countries.  No issues.  I even forgot my card in an ATM and was issued a new card in 2 days, sent to the hotel no charge.  Schwab was one of, if not the first, to have worldwide no fee ATM, but assume others also offer this now.  Exchange rates were usually better than any credit card and better than any multinational bank (Citi, HSBC). 

Dave1442397

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2021, 04:46:34 PM »
I have a Chase Amazon card and a Bank of America card that have no foreign transaction fees, so I use those when going abroad.

I do like to have some cash on me, and I went to a Bank of Ireland branch and changed $500 to Euros last time I was back. Good thing I did, because we were souvenir shopping in the store at the top of Healey Pass, and the owner doesn't have access to credit card processing up there, so it was cash only.

When I have cash left over, I just keep it for next time...there's probably close to 50 Euros sitting upstairs, but it will get used next year.

Villanelle

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2021, 05:39:49 PM »
I found that banks usually give an appallingly bad rate.  "No fees" doesn't mean much if you are losing x% on the transaction. 

When I lived overseas, I found that I got the best rate from local ATMs at the destination.  (I have a card that reimburses ATM fees.)  When the ATM asks if you want them to convert to USD, say no. 

I pay with a CC when I can but always have local cash, just in case.  And if/when my supply is dwindling, I pull out more, aiming to have as little as possible when I leave.

PDXTabs

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2021, 06:00:50 PM »
It depends where you are going, but Visa/Mastercard has almost universal coverage in Europe. I just get cash out at a local ATM when I get there if I need some.

secondcor521

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2021, 06:09:29 PM »
Many cards have no FTFs.  It'll be mentioned in the card features.  I haven't been particularly trying to have one and I just checked and have four.

I usually take two of my no FTF cards and a bank debit card.  I use the bank debit card to get a couple hundred dollars' worth of foreign currency out of an ATM at the airport from a major bank (like Deutche Bank or HSBC Bank).  If I'm feeling particularly frugal I'll look up what the going conversion rate is to make sure I'm not being ripped off too badly, but most of the time I'm on vacation and it's not worth it to me to spend an hour or two ATM shopping to save $10 or $20.

If you use a credit card at an ATM to get cash, typically it'll be treated as a cash advance and start accruing interest, possibly at a relatively high cash advance interest rate.

When purchasing with my credit card, I always charge it in the local currency to get the better exchange rate offered by the card.

I then try to manage my cash supply so I leave with zero.  It's usually not that hard.

monarda

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2021, 05:51:11 PM »
Ok thanks folks!
I think I'll close that savings acct and rely on ATM. Might open a Schwab acct. I have an IRA there.

Hadilly

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Re: Foreign currency for travel
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2021, 09:12:09 PM »
Another Schwab fan here. Also, you can Venmo money in instantly rather than waiting for a long bank transfer.. We use ours only for travel and the farmer’s market.