If you plan on using a credit card abroad, you should be aware of two separate fees. One fee is associated with your credit card and one (can totally be avoided) at the register.
You can control whether you’ll have to pay for one, both, or none if you prepare yourself first!
FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES
Charges made using your credit card outside of the issuing country can be subjected to foreign transaction fees. (In fact, you don’t need to even travel abroad to be charged this fee if the transaction somehow involves a foreign bank.) This fee is entirely dependent on your card’s fine print, so be sure to look over the ‘Terms & Conditions’ listed under Foreign Transaction Fees. Typically the fee is 1-3% of the purchase total.
Tip: Look for a card that waives all foreign transaction fees, it’s a definite money saver especially for those who travel abroad often.
My favorite is the Chase Sapphire Reserve because it comes with awesome perks: free Global Entry (5 year membership), Priority Pass access into airport lounges, and no foreign transaction fees of course!
(DYNAMIC) CURRENCY CONVERSION FEES
At the register in the country abroad, you will be presented with two payment options: local amount and converted amount (your home currency).
The merchant uses Dynamic Currency Conversion to charge a mark up fee in order to provide the converted amount in your home currency, which could be up to 18% of the purchase!
Tip: Avoid the extra charge by paying the local amount. Decline the converted amount.
If you are getting charged foreign transaction fees and choosing to pay the converted amount at the register – essentially you are paying for conversion rates twice.
- Find a credit card with low or (ideally) zero foreign transaction fees.
See proceeding bullet point if your current card charges a foreign transaction fee.
- Try to pay in cash whenever possible. Before a trip, I always buy foreign currency to be prepared for any situation that might require it. (Ex: small mom and pop shops, ticket machines, bus fares, taxi)
- Decline to pay for your purchases abroad in your home currency, even if it’s tempting! Choose local currency if saving money is at the top of your list.