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Credit cards can be the most convenient way to spend money when overseas and can also give you the best exchange rates. However, do you know that many banks - including major US banks such as Wells Fargo, Citibank and bank of America charges a 3% commission on foreign exchange conversions. You might want to check beforehand before you go what charges your bank makes so that you don't end up with an unexpected bill for hundreds of dollars after you return. You might want to test the exchange rates of your card also. If you buy something overseas keep track of the date that you bought something and the spot exchange rate (www.bloomberg.com is a good site to get the exchange rate from). Of course the rate changes every minute but if you keep track of overseas purchases you will eventually get an idea of which card that you use have the best exchange rate. In many cases Americans get a poor deal on exchange rates with credit cards so it might pay to shop around. (And chop up those cards that charge a commission in addition to the normal spread of the spot exchange rate). Credit card companies make enough money from you as it is.

One cost saving strategy strategy is to overpay your credit card before you go so that even cash advances will not run up interest charges. Remember that when you take cash advances from bank machines that you are usually hit with a flat charge - often around $5. Take larger amounts out at a time to cut down on those charges. Its not normally a problem but especially in out of the way places you might have trouble with the bank machine eating your card. Using cash advances during business hours well help you get your card back faster (And might be safer as thieves often tend to operate at night, although that is not always the case - especially in places with heavy tourist traffic)

You want to bring more than one card with you and inform your card company that you are traveling overseas. And keep a list of phone numbers so you can call your card company when away (Some cards have international toll free numbers or can accept collect calls - consider giving those cards your business). Card companies all have computerized fraud systems in place and a overseas charge (Especially larger purchases) could well get your card frozen until you contact them.

Credit cards often have reward points. Everything imaginable from free airfares to various type of point system to affinity donations can be found on credit cards. These can be very valuable - especially if one makes a lot of credit card purchases. You have to be extremely careful though as the issues often have restrictive rules. There could be black out dates, points expire or get revalued, different points required for different seasons etc. If you only travel in august you might not want to use a card for travel. You also get weird restrictions. Airmiles in Canada for example will cancel a flight on you if you don't use one part or try and put two flights together. Many points cards have ongoing annual fees wither you use them or not. If you run a balance you might be better off paying for a low interest rate card rather than airline points. The variety is such that we cant describe them all. Just look over all that is available to you and decide what will work best for you.

And lastly, keep your receipts. They could come in handy if your get incorrect charges on your card that you only find out about a month after you return.


What was years ago the main way to carry money is not commonly used nowadays. ATM machines has pretty much replaced them and you generally get poor exchange rates. They might be useful in out of the way places and American Express has some benefits to holders and might replace the checks for you but usually a pre paid credit card will probably be more useful to you. You are hard pressed to find a place without bank machines nowadays but if you are going to out of the way places maybe bring a small amount.


Nothing beats cash but if you lose it its gone. And while you hear talk nowadays of the demise of the US dollar you are still best off carrying US dollars than any other currency. You get the best exchange rates using US dollars and they are accepted almost everywhere. Greenbacks are still the world currency.

You might want to get some currency of the country that you are going to in case you cant exchange money and need to pay taxi fares or other charges. But unless it is a major currency you will most likely get a bad exchange rate from home before you go. And it is a rare airport that don't have exchange booths or ATM machines after you arrive - although the ATM machines could be out of service and the exchange houses could be closed if you arrive at odd hours or on holidays. If you do decide to bring cash keep it to a minimun.


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If you have your own must see travel destination and would like to file a report to be listed here send along with photos to thestampnomad@gmail.com