When it comes to spending money abroad, ignorance can be bliss. Unfortunately, it can also be expensive. That’s why you should be up on how much your trip will actually cost you, when it comes to financial fees and exchange rates.
As you budget your overseas vacation, keep the following in mind:
The exchange rate: Of course – as per Foreign Travel 101 – you know that other countries have their own currencies. But will you remember to factor them in when you budget your vacation?
Start by going to an online currency converter and get the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the currency of the country you’re visiting. Then find out how much things cost at your destination (you can ask someone at your hotel or at the tourism bureau, or you can just do some research on the Web). If an average restaurant meal there costs 40 euros per person, you’re actually spending roughly $52 a head (based on the exchange rates when we went to press). In the United Kingdom, that same meal would translate to almost $65 based on an exchange rate of $1.62 dollars per British pound.
The transaction fee: Many credit cards will add a transaction fee (typically around 3 percent) to all your overseas purchases. So remember that the 100 euro sweater you want to buy will actually cost you 103 euros. Check to see if your credit card charges that fee. If it does, consider applying for a card that doesn’t.
The currency at which you’re billed: When paying by credit, always ask merchants to bill you at the local currency, advises Yahoo! Finance. If the merchant chooses to bill you in dollars instead, he could conceivably choose any exchange rate he wants. Your credit card issuer, on the other hand, will stick with the official exchange rate.
The cost of withdrawal: It’s smart to have local currency on hand when visiting other countries, since not all merchants accept credit cards or American dollars. Keep in mind, though, that when you withdraw cash from ATMs overseas, you’ll most likely have to pay withdrawal fees. According to MSNBC, you’ll typically have to pay an additional 3 to 8 percent when you withdraw overseas. Ally, though, only charges a fee of up to 1 percent of the transaction amount for the currency conversion and/or cross border transactions.
The wild cards: Depending on where you’re going, you may be faced with unexpected costs. For instance: In some countries, restaurants won’t serve you tap water, but will charge you a premium for bottled water. Again, contact your hotel or the tourism bureau and attempt to uncover such surprise costs.
Do foreign transaction fees influence you when you’re choosing vacation destinations? What’s your strategy for spending cash overseas?