Consumer Reports Money Adviser says plan ahead is so you don't face unnecessary fees or get gouged on the exchange rates. Here's how.
A European vacation - enjoying the sights, dining out, buying souvenirs. But your money will go a lot further if you know what to watch out for. "You can get blindsided by the foreign transaction fee that many credit-card companies charge on overseas purchases. It can add up to as much as three percent of everything you put on the card." But there are cards with no foreign transaction fee, including Capital One, HSBC's Premier World Master Card, the American Express Platinum Card, and Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Be aware that at places like gas stations, your credit card may be rejected, no matter which card you have.
Greg Daugherty, "Europe is switching to a new, more secure type of credit card. And American credit cards aren't always accepted. You'll be okay at restaurants and hotels, but you may need to pay cash at gas stations, train stations, and smaller shops." To get local currency, your best strategy is to go to a bank ATM and use your debit card. It's more secure than bringing lots of dollars and you may get a better rate than at a currency exchange service. Greg Daugherty, "Be prepared before you use a European ATM. Most of the keypads don't have letters on them. So be sure to memorize your debit-card PIN as a number before you go."
Finally, it's a good idea to tell your bank where you'll be before you head overseas, so the bank won't suspect your card's been stolen and put a freeze on it.
Another money-saving tip from Consumer Reports Money Adviser, when using a credit card for purchases, be sure the merchant charges you in local currency. If you're charged in dollars, you could end up paying a lot more.