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Food, lodging, transportation, activities:  Each require you to pay. With fees, limits, percentages, and acres of fine print it’s extremely difficult to avoid being nickled and dimed.

Here’s your how-to for avoiding the dreaded fee fatigue: Remember the general guideline – use your credit card for purchases and your debit card for cash.


Think of it this way, Cash is king. Everyone accepts it, so you should have at least a little on you at all times no matter where you go. So, how do you access it without unnecessary expense?
  • Exchange your cash before arriving in your next country. Exchange rates are most favorable outside of the country whose currency you’re looking for, and can be a significant difference.
  • Avoid exchanging currency at airports or near tourist sites. The most convenient exchange outlets usually have the least favorable rates.
  • Use an ATM to get the best exchange rate. If you’re arriving without local cash, get it from an airport ATM or bank. Avoid the currency exchange.
  • Cash is so easy to lose and steal. Carry a modest amount with you.

ATM/Debit cards

  • ATMs exist everywhere that has electricity these days. Your debit card may be the most convenient way to access cash.
  • Research the fees associated with using your ATM card abroad will be.
  • Keep withdrawals to a minimum. Taking more out with each withdrawal gives you a smaller percentage of fees per overall use.
  • Expect functionality problems with ATM machines in developing nations. Try a different bank if this happens. The problem isn’t always system-wide.
  • Research and find the safest, legitimate ATMs for your destination.

Credit cards

Job No. 1 is to find the best travel credit card for purchase transactions.

The biggest detriment, however, to using a credit card is the foreign transaction fee – a charge on all the purchases you make overseas. If you use it a lot, this will certainly add up.

Don’t forget:
  • Credit card companies have the freedom to charge whatever exchange rate they want for transactions.
  • You may end up paying more without even knowing it.
  • Make sure to notify your bank before you depart for a foreign country. They may freeze your account when transactions start appearing thousands of miles from your home address. A quick phone call will save you trouble.