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Money travel tips: Making sure you have enough and access to more

Any time I travel to a foreign country, one of the key things I do – aside from planning a great itinerary – is read up on the foreign currency. I check its value against the Canadian dollar and figure out the general cost of items that I might need to purchase.

As often happens, I purchase a memento, buy lunch and dinner with cash and then find myself with an almost empty wallet half-way through the trip. It’s very tempting to just use my credit card for most purchases, and such is the trend that’s emerging in travel these days. However, there are some key things to consider before swiping and charging that can save you quite a bit in terms of additional withdrawal and service charges.

Here are money travel tips from Dan Northam, VP of International Currency Exchange Canada (ICE) to consider before you travel to a foreign country:

  • Find out exactly what using your credit card abroad will cost you. A quick call or trip to the bank and you’ll know exactly how much your bank will charge for each cash withdrawal or purchase abroad. Visa and Mastercard typically take one per cent on top of any fees the local ATM or bank levies. Many banks charge a five-dollar flat fee for cash withdrawals on your debit card in a foreign country.
  • Take at least a nominal amount of currency with you. Chances are, you’re going to patronize several businesses that only accept cash, and you can’t tip the maid on credit. Taking a mix of both cash and plastic ensures that you’ll never be caught without money for tipping and small purchases from merchants who don’t accept cards.
  • Find out whether your cards are usable in your destination country. Many nations operate on a four-digit PIN system. Vancouver traveller Isabel DaCosta was travelling in Vietnam and found her six-digit PIN card unusable. She was able to take cash out on her non-chip-and-PIN credit card, but she came home to a $900 bill with $70 in fees alone.
  • Take the sting out of currency conversion. Picking up currency for your trip needn’t be painful. Inquire at your bank about whether preferable rates are given to certain accounts. ICE offers a no-fee pre-order service, Click & Collect, which allows travellers to order currency online and have it ready for pickup and purchase at the airport or a location close to them.
  • Inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans. Debit and credit card fraud are a booming business and as a result, banks are quick to freeze accounts that they believe have been compromised. Kill two birds with one stone by inquiring about fees and disclosing your travel plans at the same time.

What are your money travel tips? How do you prepare yourself  financially for a big trip?

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Teena in Toronto
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I take along some local currency or US dollars but tend to put as much as possible on my VISA card.

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