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Money and avoiding fees while traveling abroad

So you’ve booked your ticket to your next destination…you’re stoked… excited… anxious, you’re ready to go. Then you ask yourself, what should I do about money? Should I bring cash? Should I exchange money? Maybe I should just use credit cards, will I be charged a foreign transaction fee? Can I withdraw money from an ATM abroad?

What should I do about money?

I can’t answer those questions for you, but this is what I do. Personally, I don’t like carrying cash. It’s harder to replace cash than a debit card if it gets lost or stolen. If I need some cash, I’ll withdraw it from an ATM. However, there are some instances where you won’t be able to use your debit or credit card, so you’ll need to bring cash and exchange it for the local currency. Be wary of withdrawing money from an ATM abroad as you may be charged a foreign transaction fee and additional fees for using ATMs outside of your bank’s network. Foreign transaction fees typically run 3% which may not seem like much, but it adds up; and it’ll add up quickly.

For debit card usage, it’s best to call your bank before you depart for your trip and ask them which banks and ATMs you can go to free of charge. Let them know which countries you’ll be traveling to and they’ll provide you with banks that you can use (if they’re available). If you bank with Bank of America, you’ll be able to use Barclay’s Bank in the United Kingdom, any bank associated with BNP Paribas on mainland Europe, Banco Santander in Mexico, and Scotiabank if you happen to be in Canada. The same goes for credit card usage, you’ll be charged a 3% foreign transaction fee unless you have a card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.

Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card

Schwab Visa Platinum Debit Card

When I travel abroad, the only debit card I carry is my Visa Platinum Debit Card from my High Yield Investor Checking Account from Charles Schwab Bank. Here’s what I like about it:

  • No ATM fees. You will not be charged a fee for using your debit card at an ATM
  • ATM Rebates. If the ATM you use charges you a separate fee, Schwab will refund you this amount at the end of the month. If at the end of the month, you find that you were charged an ATM fee and Schwab hasn’t refunded you, just call them up and let them know.
  • This account is interest earning. The interest rate isn’t much, but any little bit helps, right?
  • No account minimum. Enough said.
  • No monthly maintenance fee.
  • Free checks and deposit slips.
  • Great customer service. If your card is ever lost or stolen while at home or abroad, Schwab will promptly send you a new debit card free of charge. They’ll also accept charges for collect calls if you’re calling from abroad.

I love this card. Sometimes I think it’s the only debit card I’ll ever need.┬áChuck has your back, you’ll never pay any fees with Chuck. The debit card also a world map on it, it’s perfect for travelers. If you don’t have the High Yield Investor Checking Account from Schwab, you can go here to apply.

I carry three credit cards with me when I travel, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, AAdvantage Aviator Red Card from Barclay’s, and my BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card from Bank of America. These cards all have their added benefits but the most important thing is that they have no foreign transaction fees! Foreign transaction fees add up and can get pricey.┬áThere are plenty of credit cards out there that offer no foreign transaction fees but these are my favorite. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and AAdvantage Aviator Red Cards both have annual fees, but there are ways to get around this, you just need to be creative!