You want a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, and ideally an ATM card that offers that too. Otherwise you’re going to pay a surcharge on all of your transactions, usually 3%.
Personally I want to carry more than one in case a bank shuts me down thinking that my foreign travel is fraud (they should know my patterns better by now).
The basic lessons are:
- Use a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees. This saves you 3% on all of your foreign purchases.
The one I like best is the Chase Sapphire Preferred since you not only save the foreign currency conversion fees but also still earn double points on all of your travel (including hotel) and restaurant spending. The Chase Ink Plus small business card has no foreign currency fees and offers double points on hotels as well.
- Do not let merchants convert bills into your home currency. Always pay bills in the local currency. You do not want anyone to convert your bill to your own currency because they will charge you an unfavorable exchange rate to do so. You’re far better off with your bank’s rate. Even igf you don’t have a no foreign transaction fee credit card, you don’t want the bill converted — your card will still charge those fees because charge is incurred outside the US, even if the bill is in dollars.
- The best way to get cash is from an ATM. That’s true even if your bank doesn’t rebate ‘out of network’ ATM fees, and even if your bank doesn’t waive foreign currency conversion fees. I’ve been fortunate that my Bankdirect ATM card hasn’t hit me with those fees, even though I think they’re supposed to on non-US transactions. The classic card for waiving these fees comes from Charles Schwab.
- Some people still notify their card issuers when traveling abroad. Many say this is no longer necessary, and notifying them isn’t a guarantee they won’t see foreign charges as suspicious, so I don’t bother doing it and don’t really have problems (but then foreign charges aren’t really outside my spending patterns so may not raise flags). I like the suggestion to just have more cards from more banks in case any give you a problem, and also to keep at least one card back at the hotel in your room safe.
(Note that cards in this post offer credit to me if you’re approved using my links. The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine. The content is not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.)
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