Some currency exchange tables in airports and tourist areas offer bad rates, taking more of your money. And some credit cards and banks can add fees when you buy something with your card.
Your best bet is to bring a credit card that doesn't charge currency exchange fees and some cash for backup. Most purchases should be done on the credit card, says
"Walking around with a money belt and a large amount of cash is not relevant anymore," he says.
Here are five tips to maximize your dollars:
Before boarding the plane, download a currency converting app on a smartphone you plan to use on vacation. You can open up the app to see if you're getting a good deal when exchanging money. With the apps, you type in the amount you want to exchange and it will calculate a figure in the new currency. There are several free ones to choose from, including XE Currency and GlobeConvert.
2. ASK BEFORE YOU EXCHANGE
Be wary of currency exchange places that say they don't charge fees or advertise really good exchange rates. "Don't trust it," says
And always do currency exchanges in the country you're visiting. You're likely to get a better rate than if you do the exchange at home, McGahey says.
3. FIND THE RIGHT CARD
Get a credit card that doesn't charge a foreign exchange fee. Some will charge a 2 percent to 3 percent fee for every purchase made with a foreign currency, says
Not sure if your card charges a fee? Call and ask.
If you don't have a fee-free card, it may be worth applying for one, says
Another benefit: credit cards often will offer exchange rates that are an average over the past month. That could be helpful if you are traveling to place where the currency is volatile, including some South American countries, Gambaccini says.
(Incidentally, you should call your credit card company before traveling to let it know where you are going. If the credit card company doesn't know you're traveling, it could think it is being used fraudulently and temporarily block your card from making charges.)
4. SAY NO TO HOTEL EXCHANGES
If a hotel or another business asks if you want them to convert the bill into American dollars for you, decline. The exchange rate can be bad, Gambaccini says. Instead, let the hotel bill you in the country's currency and let your credit card do the exchange.
5. CHECK OUT CHECKING ACCOUNTS
As with credit cards, make sure your bank doesn't charge foreign exchange fees if you plan to use a debit card. Some may charge a flat fee for using a foreign ATM on top of a percentage for currency exchanges. Checking accounts at online banks, such as Capital One 360 and
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