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Travel Tip Tuesday: How To Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees When Traveling

foreign exchange fees

(Photo from here)

Love traveling but hate paying the foreign transaction fees when you go abroad?  Or, maybe you don’t mind the fees since you only travel occasionally…but the truth is, the fees add up: a few bucks for withdrawing at an ATM, 1%-3% or so for any credit card transaction, and who knows how much commission when you go through an exchange bureau to swap your USD’s.

The first tip is to avoid the exchange bureaus.  You get better rates withdrawing from an ATM and/or using your credit card.  To avoid the ATM fees and the credit card fees, however, do this:

1) Get a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.  The credit card one I recommended in this post is perfect for that.  Alternatively, there are many others out there with no foreign exchange fees and this site has a list of the current cards that fit this bill.  If you’re an occasional traveler, stick with a card that has no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees.

2) Open a Charles Schwab checking account to withdraw from any ATM fee-free.  I opened a Schwab account a year ago in anticipation of my big trip around the world, but I wish I had opened one years ago!  Schwab has the best customer service: they are quick to answer emails, they do online chats, their reps are quick to help you out on the phone – it’s everything you wish your current bank is but isn’t.  The only downside is that it’s a bit tricky to set up your initial deposit (you have to set up a brokerage account with them first and it takes a few days for the deposits to go through) but after that’s done, it’s easy to transfer money in and out… and despite all the hassle of getting the initial account set up, it’s totally worth it when you can go to any ATM in the world to withdraw money and not have to pay a single penny to do so.

Help me keep this series going!  If you have any travel tips, please email me at diana@justwanderlustblog.com and your tip may end up in a future post!

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