When it’s time to settle up your bill—whether it’s for hotel, food or other purchases you make while traveling, one key thing you’ll need to decide is how to pay: cash, check, debit or credit card?
During an overseas vacation, a credit card is your best option. It’s safer than carrying around a bunch of cash, has liability protections that debit cards don’t have, and more convenient too because your Visa, MasterCard or American Express will be far more widely accepted by merchants than your check.
But not just any credit card will do when you’re paying for a host of items and making purchases out of the country.
Stick to a card that doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, you’re liable to get a nasty surprise when you come back home and get your credit card statement. Those foreign transaction fees can add 2% to 3% to the cost of your international purchases.
Surprisingly, though, nearly 60% of consumers don’t even know whether they’ll be charged a foreign transaction fee, according to the latest quarterly Capital One Rewards Barometer Survey, which tracks how consumers earn and redeem credit card rewards.
CardRatings.com, which helps consumers comparison shop for the best credit card deals available, named the Capital One Venture card as a best pick for those venturing off to see the world. The Venture card has no foreign transaction fees. Plus, you get two other killer travel benefits that frequent flyers and occasional travelers alike will appreciate: The miles you earn on every purchase don’t expire, and your miles can be used on any airline with no blackout dates.
Get to the Visitor’s Bureau
Lastly, for any city you’re considering traveling to, reach out to the local tourism bureau ahead of your arrival and inquire about whether there’s a city visitor’s card.
These often offer widespread discounts of 10% or more off everything from popular local attractions to restaurants and hotel accommodations. I used a visitor’s card during a summer trip to Stockholm, Sweden in 2009 and I got discounts on local subway fares, museum entrance fees, and more.
Another reason to mosey on down to the Visitor’s Bureau is that it’s likely in town – that is, away from the airport – and may have currency exchange facilities. If you need to convert your U.S. dollars into another currency, exchange rates are usually better in the city rather than the currency exchange windows at the airport.
By implementing these money-saving strategies, and doing a bit of pre-planning, your summer vacation can be both fun and frugal.
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox of askthemoneycoach.com is a weekly Money columnist for Blackenterprise.com