Travel: How to Avoid ATM and Foreign Exchange Fees as You Travel

I'm not very good with this myself, but here are some things I know work...

Yes, it does cost money to get money when you travel. There can be hefty charges to exchange cash for the local currency, take money out of ATMs and use credit cards. Here are some tips on keeping those costs down...

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  • Save on foreign exchange fees. Credit cards automatically calculate the exchange rate on foreign currency on your credit card bill.  The fee for doing so is usually 2.5% of the amount of the charge. This fee is determined by the financial institution that issues the credit card not the credit card company. Choose a card for travel that has a lower or no foreign exchange fee.
  • Consider a premium bank account with no foreign ATM fees. Get a bank account that does not charge you to withdraw cash from a foreign ATM. You can look for one with your current bank (I have a premium bank account that, with a minimum balance, waives the foreign ATM fee) or choose a bank that is part of the Global ATM AllianceEither way, you can save $5 per ATM withdrawal.
  • Don’t go to foreign exchange kiosks. The foreign exchange kiosks you see in airports and on the street typically offer a worse exchange rate than banks. Their fee (which is usually advertised as no fee) is hidden in this exchange rate. Avoid using them whenever possible.
  • Balance the cost of money with peace of mind. Despite the cost of using an ATM, you may feel safer taking out smaller amounts of cash more frequently – by having less cash on you as you travel. Sometimes it’s worth paying the price to feel safe.

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