Which should you use when traveling abroad?
Cash or credit?
Getting the Best Exchange Rate
The best and most current exchange rates can be had when you use your credit card for purchases or hotel bills. But beware. Credit cards generally charge a foreign transaction fee. Check with your credit card company to see if they do, and if the answer is yes, find another card.
The Easiest Way to Get Cash
Skip the currency exchange desk at the airport. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, use a local ATM to get cash at the most current exchange rate. But don’t forget you will probably be charged with ATM fees. Again, check with your bank to see what types of fees they will charge you for using a foreign ATM and if they might actually reimburse you for these fees.
Alert Your Bank When Traveling
Before you travel abroad (or anywhere out-of-town), remember to contact your bank or credit card company to alert them of your travels. Make sure to let them know when and where you are travelling. I do this quite easily on my credit union’s website. This will prevent any misunderstanding with the banks who may suspect fraudulent use of your card which leads to denying purchases or freezing your account.
Protect Yourself from Fraud
Most credit cards these days are equipped with a chip. These chips are encoded with sensitive personal information. Unfortunately, these RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) chips can be scanned by criminals without you ever knowing. To prevent this, a number of cards come with their own RFID-blocking sleeve. If yours didn’t, then I suggest purchasing an RFID-blocking wallet or purse as a precaution. Do your research, though, as every RFID-blocking protector is not equal; some are more effective than others. And don’t forget to replace them when you notice some wear and tear is beginning to show.
Don’t Want to Take That Cash Home as a Souvenier?
Finally, if you find yourself with a bunch of local currency on your hands at the end of your trip, use that cash to help settle your hotel bill. Most will accept partial payment in cash and the remainder on your credit card.
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