We love to travel. Visiting new countries helps you discover awesome things, like bomb food. Before you go jet setting, plan how you will pay for all of the sick things that you’re going to do. Be aware of the fees associated with your foreign transactions because the last thing you want is to pay more than you should.
Credit Card? Cash? Debit Card? The answer depends on what services your financial institution offers. And with just a little planning you can avoid paying extra fees so you have more money for the good things like dessert :)
Many credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees. This is great. You can gallivant around Italy or Costa Rica, swiping your credit card without worrying about getting hit with the ominous foreign transaction fee. And if your card offers a rewards program, you can rack up points along the way. Be on the lookout though for cities and areas that take advantage of tourists’ euphoria and charge an extra 3% fee for credit card transactions. If that is the case, put your credit card back in your wallet. Best to read up on the local customs with a guidebook like Lonely Planet or the Rough Guides.
A lot of places do not accept credit cards. Annoying, right? So you need cash. But no one wants to PAY money to access YOUR money. Depending on your situation, you might have to deal with an ATM fee as well a foreign transaction fee. If that is the case, avoid at all costs! But if you have free ATM withdrawals and no foreign transaction fee, withdrawing cash abroad is a great (and probably the best) option.
Bring Cash. It's never a bad idea to have US Dollars. In a jam you can always exchange your dollars for the local currency but only use this as a last resort. Currency exchange vendors make their money by charging a fee – they aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. A better tactic to avoid currency exchange fees is approaching your bank well in advance of your departure date. Many banks will gladly exchange your dollars for euros, pesos, or yen at no charge. You just need to give your bank enough notice.
Don't overpay. In the United States we do things our way. However, not everyone abides by our customs. Many countries do not have tipping. The tip instead is built into the price of the service (like the food or tour). Read up on customs beforehand and get comfortable with the conversion rate.
Assess your situation and figure out what tools you have between your cash, credit card, and debit card to minimize or eliminate the amount you’ll pay to access your hard earned money. Getting to your dream destination can be expensive, no reason to throw away money once you’re there. With a little planning you can avoid paying those annoying fees and spend money on more important things like mojitos and sunrise yoga classes.