What to do about foreign currency


No matter how frugal we are while cruising it ourselves, we’re inevitably going to end up needing a little bit of money.   We’ve got tips.

While going to the bank before hand and getting some euros, pounds, or pesos up front isn’t a bad idea, carrying a lot of cash has its own problems (theft, loss), and the bank typically doesn’t offer a very favorable exchange rate.

We never carry much cash.   Thankfully technology has made it easy for us, and we can pretty much use our credit and debit cards all around the world with no hassle.

There are a few things to keep in mind though…..


Debit Card Transaction Fees

First of all, though many worldwide cash machines don’t charge anything to withdraw funds,  it’s important that your card itselt doesn’t charge a fee.   Use a debit card that allows you to withdraw from foreign cash machines with the smallest possible fees.  My previous bank WellsFargo charged the typical 3% fee.   Switch to a credit union or an online bank like Ally and you will likely see that drop to 1% or less.


Cash Machine Exchange Rate Tricks

If there’s one thing you take out of this article, let it be this.  Always get charged in the local currency.



Often cash machines will warn you that if you take your cash in local currency, you will probably be charged huge fees.  They offer to charge you in USD instead to save you heaps of money.  Unfortunately, this is a terrible deal every single time.   In the picture I am being offered a 1.71 exchange rate, when the real rate is currently 1.60.  This markup will cost me 20 USD by the time it hits my bank account.  The 1% my bank charges me is only 2 USD.

Always get charged in the local currency and not your home currency.


Credit Cards

Just like using a debit card with a favorable fee system, you can also do the same with credit cards.  The two most popular cards for travelers are

Capital One cards such as world and venture have no foreign transaction fees.   You pull out Euros and you will be charged the direct currency exchange without extra fees.

Chase Sapphire is another popular choice.

You can read more about these and other cards at nerdwallet.com


Don’t leave home without a solid low fee debit and credit card.  You’ll save a lot of money, while gaining some consumer protections.


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