June 19, 2024

Currency Tips for the Solo Traveler

I get a little confused when it comes to money that is used in other countries with exchange rates, fees, and such. I have a few helpful tips to help you avoid some of the financial issues that come into play when you leave your local currency. Let me give you a few Foreign Currency Tips | Don’t Overpay.

Your budget is usually a top priority so let’s talk about a few things to help you stay within that budget and have a nice trip. Plan and plan a little more and then find the right products for your trip. You don’t want to worry about the money component while on vacation.

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Good Travel Credit Card

If you’re spending quite a bit on travel, it might be best to get a credit card that rewards travel purchases. You can earn points and miles for future vacations or redeem your rewards for more immediate needs. Some premium travel credit cards even offer perks like free airport lounge access and priority status with hotel chains that can make your trip a little more luxurious, while others offer travel rewards for no annual fee.

Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees

Most major credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee, usually 3%, for purchases made abroad. These fees can quickly add up by the end of a trip. It’s not hard to spend hundreds on bank or credit union fees if you are not careful. If you want to avoid unnecessary transaction fees, use one of the best travel rewards credit cards with no foreign transaction fee.

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Avoid Currency Exchange Center

The exchange centers in and near airports and train stations are not going to be the best way to manage your foreign cash. Their exchange rates AND fees are not a good deal but use them if it is the only way you must exchange your money. But only a little.

Know The Exchange Rate

The exchange rate is the key to knowing how much you are spending. You need to be aware of the exchange rate where you are going. Learn the formula to convert to your currency. This will tell you how much your money will get you. It never hurts to have an application on your phone to help. Your best way of getting local cash is to use the ATM and your bank will calculate the exchange rate. You can also exchange money at many local banks, and they’ll typically have fair exchange rates and no fees.

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The Importance of Having a Backup ATM Card

When you’re traveling abroad, having a backup ATM card can prove to be invaluable. Here’s why having an extra card is essential for a smooth travel experience:

1. Avoiding Potential Issues

Traveling to a foreign country means encountering unfamiliar systems and technologies. Sometimes, stores or ATMs may not accept your primary ATM card due to unknown technical issues. This unexpected situation can leave you stranded without access to cash when you need it the most. You can prevent such potential issues from disrupting your trip by carrying a backup ATM card.

2. Order Early or Visit Your Local Bank

To ensure you have a backup ATM card before your departure, it’s wise to plan ahead and order it early. Alternatively, you can visit your local bank and inquire if they can provide you with an additional card on-site. Banks are often accommodating, and having a backup card in hand will give you peace of mind during your travels.

3. Banks with ATM Fee Reimbursements and No Foreign Transaction Fees

Before deciding on a backup ATM card, research different banks to find those offering ATM fee reimbursements and not charging foreign transaction fees. ATM fees can quickly add up during your trip, eating into your travel budget. With a card that offers fee reimbursements, you won’t have to worry about these additional costs.

4. Multiple Forms of Payment and Reduced Fees

By having two ATM cards from different banks, you ensure you have multiple forms of payment readily available. If one card doesn’t work or gets lost or stolen, you can rely on the backup card to cover your expenses. Additionally, having options for fee-free ATM withdrawals reduces the financial burden of frequent cash withdrawals.

5. Choosing the WISE Card for Added Convenience

One popular choice for a backup ATM card is the WISE card (formerly TransferWise). The WISE card allows you to load it with your home currency, such as dollars, and then convert the funds into the foreign currency of your destination. The advantage of this approach is that you can pick the conversion rate on a day when it’s favorable, effectively locking in the rate you prefer. This feature can protect you from sudden currency fluctuations during your trip.

Get a Debit Card That Reimburses International ATM Fees

You never want to go to an ATM and take out loads of cash. That just opens you up to more issues. Get small amounts as you need. But that comes with fees at the ATM unless you have a card that reimburses those fees. I have Charles Schwab and I get all fees reimbursed.

Need a Travel Coach?


1. Why should I use a travel credit card for my expenses abroad?

A good travel credit card that rewards travel purchases can be beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, you can earn points or miles redeemed for future vacations or immediate needs. Some premium travel credit cards offer perks like free airport lounge access and priority status with hotel chains, enhancing your travel experience without extra costs.

2. How can I avoid foreign transaction fees on credit card purchases abroad?

To avoid foreign transaction fees, you should use a travel rewards credit card that specifically states it has no foreign transaction fees. Most major credit cards typically charge around 3% as a foreign transaction fee, so choosing a card without this fee can save you money during your trip.

3. Is it wise to exchange currency at airports or train stations?

While exchange centers in airports and train stations may be convenient, they usually offer poor exchange rates and charge additional currency conversion fees. It’s best to avoid exchanging large sums of money at these locations. Instead, opt for ATMs or local banks for fairer exchange rates and fewer fees.

4. How can I stay updated on the current exchange rate while traveling?

Consider using a currency conversion app on your phone to stay informed about the exchange rate. This way, you can easily calculate how much your money is worth in the local currency. Alternatively, your bank can provide you with the current exchange rate when using an ATM to withdraw local cash.

5. Is it essential to carry multiple ATM cards while traveling?

Carrying multiple ATM cards is a wise precautionary measure. Sometimes, technical issues may prevent a specific card from working at certain stores or ATMs. Having a backup ATM card ensures you can access your funds without relying solely on one card.

6. Which debit card is recommended for international travel, considering ATM fees?

A debit card that reimburses international ATM fees is an excellent choice for reducing costs. Some banks offer this feature, refunding the ATM fees incurred during foreign transactions. For example, the Charles Schwab debit card is known for providing such reimbursements.

7. How can I secure a favorable exchange rate for my trip?

One way to secure a favorable exchange rate is to use a WISE card or a similar service. With these cards, you can load them with your local currency and convert them into the desired foreign currency at a favorable currency exchange rate, essentially locking in the rate you prefer.


Managing foreign currency while traveling can be confusing, but with the right tips, you can avoid overpaying and stay within your budget. Start by getting a good travel credit card that rewards your travel purchases, allowing you to earn points and enjoy various travel perks. Avoid foreign transaction fees by using credit cards that offer fee-free transactions. Steer clear of currency exchange centers near airports and train stations, as they often have unfavorable rates and fees. Instead, use ATMs or local banks for fair currency exchange rates and minimal fees.

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