Despite the excitement of heading off on your holidays, sometimes the preparation leading up to the trip can feel like a military operation. It’s practically a foregone conclusion that you’ll forget something – the key to a successful trip is to make sure it’s nothing too important. Amongst all the items you may well see as essential for your travels, a passport and money surely come right at the top of the list.
It is common practice to change a certain amount of money into foreign currency before heading off on your travels – there’s something comforting about knowing you are prepared from the minute you arrive in an unfamiliar country. However, carrying too much cash on your person can feel a bit unsafe; that’s why most people take a bank card or two along for the ride. Yet although a debit or credit card can offer convenience and a certain degree of security compared to carrying wads of cash around, there are a few rules you ought to adhere to in order to avoid the financial sting of sneaky, hidden fees…
Although your credit card is likely to be accepted in most countries around the world, be warned that the charges for using it can be steep. Firstly, using it to make a purchase in a shop will subject you to a non-sterling transaction fee – this could be up to 3% of the transaction. More importantly, however, withdrawing cash could mean you have not just one but three charges to pay – the non-sterling transaction fee, the ATM fee and the dreaded cash withdrawal interest. Of course, this depends on your card – check with your card issuer so you don’t get caught out.
Sometimes trying to withdraw money from a foreign ATM can feel like you’re trying to hack into the Pentagon. Questions in different languages and an array of options that you wouldn’t be offered at home can confuse travellers to the point that they’ll push any old button in order to get their hands on their precious cash. The golden rule when withdrawing money from a cash machine abroad is to ensure you are charged in the local currency. The reason for this is that many banks charge for the exchange. The same applies if you are paying with your card in a restaurant or shop, but you may need to overcome a language barrier in some destinations in order to get this across to the cashier or waiter.
Although you need to have your wits about you when withdrawing larger than average sums of cash, it does make financial sense to make less withdrawals on your trip and take out a little more money in each transaction. Debit cards have some of the steepest fees when it comes to spending abroad, particularly because many travellers don’t think to check and take it for granted that they will be able to access their cash as easily as at home. Plan the withdrawals and amounts you intend to take out to avoid clocking up fees on a number of smaller transactions.
Pre-paid travel cards are becoming increasingly popular amongst travellers that have become downright fed up with hefty and unexpected bank charges. The way they work is that you load the card with money before you travel and then use it like a debit or credit card, without the fees. You can’t run into debt on a pre-paid travel card and you can avoid the bank fees. Sounds like a winner to us.
Of course, no matter what steps you take to save money whilst abroad, accidents can and do happen. Whether that involves losing your luggage, your cash or simply falling ill and needing to pay for medical attention, buying the right travel insurance for your trip will ensure you are covered should any unfortunate incidents occur. Medical Travel Compared can help you find the best travel insurance policy, no matter what your medical history – try our free online comparison tool today.