Having or attending an overseas wedding, or are simply planning a vacation abroad? These tips on the best debit card for international travel, the top travel bank account to open up, and the best credit card for foreigners will help you save money on foreign currency transaction fees and more.
While I'm knee deep into planning the destination wedding of my dreams, our nearest and dearest family and friends are planning to travel abroad with my fiance and I for our wedding. And now that I'm in my wedding year (how crazy is that?!), I'm getting lots of logistical questions about the wedding, including how to not spend extra money on foreign currency transaction fees. I started off writing family back individually, but then I thought it would be easier to refer them to a blog post that contains all my top tips on the best travel bank account, the best overseas debit card, the best credit card for foreigners, and more!
I love to travel, and I spend so much time in other countries that I ordered my newest passport with extra pages! So read on for the money travel tips that I've gathered from logging lots and lots of miles Whether you're planning an overseas wedding like me or are simply planning a trip to Europe, I'm certain these tips will help you save money!
The Best International Debit Card
After years of spending insane amounts on international ATM-withdrawal fees and encountering really bad exchange rates, I found a gem: a no-international-transaction-fee debit card. Yup, such a thing exists, and the first step to obtaining this unicorn of a travel cash card is to open up a travel bank account. The best part about obtaining the account and the foreign travel card? There are no fees! At all.
Your first step will be opening up a Charles Schwab high-yield checking account, and here's a referral code to get a $100 credit. Once you have the account set up, you'll be able to request travel debit cards. These cards will allow you to use any ATM machine pretty much anywhere in the world, and you'll get a credit for any ATM fees that you incur. You can also use the debit card with no foreign transaction fee. I've been using this debit card overseas for quite awhile now. The customer service is great, too. I once lost my ATM card, and Charles Schwab mailed me a replacement to my hotel in Europe!
Other Bank Options
In my opinion, Charles Schwab is the best bank for international travel. However, if you're feeling like you don't want to get a new foreign travel card, the next best thing you can do is contact your current bank and ask if it has a relationship with any sister banks overseas. For instance, Bank of America usually has one or two sister banks in each country, and you typically won't be have to pay ATM fees at these banks.
The Best Travel Credit Cards
When it comes to the best travel card for Europe, there's more than one option. Which best currency card you choose will depend on how often you travel and if you want to get a free credit card or if you want to invest a little bit to get better rewards and perks. I'm going to go over several options for a credit card for foreigners.
No Annual Fee: CapitalOne Venture One Visa
I've had a CapitalOne credit card for years, and this was the first credit card I used overseas. It has no foreign transaction fees, which is great. I like the CapitalOne Venture One Visa, but you can also get a Mastercard through CapitalOne. The rewards are pretty barebones for the no-annual-fee card that I have, but when they accumulate I use the points to get reimbursed for travel-related purchases. If you're not a big traveler, I'd opt for this pick.
Annual Fee: American Express Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
This Delta Credit Card is one of my favorite options if you travel a good amount and are willing to invest in an annual fee. The version that I have provides free checked bags for you and a companion, as well as a domestic companion ticket each year. You also get a fee credit toward Global Entry, which is a pretty sweet deal, as well as priority boarding. The card has no Amex international fees and offers nice rewards, which you can use toward more travel.
Annual Fee: United Explorer MileagePlus Visa
I recently got this United credit card because as much as I love Delta, there are way more options for flying United out of my closest airport. In addition to offering no foreign transaction fees, this credit card also provides a free checked bag for yourself and a companion, a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, priority boarding, and two United Club passes a year.
Annual Fee: Business Credit Cards
If your personal and business lives constantly overlap, like mine do, it can be good to have a business credit card with no foreign transaction fees, in addition to a personal one. Several options from American Express, such as the Business Gold Card, offer no foreign transaction fees. I also really like the Chase Ink Visa Signature Business card, which also has no foreign transaction fees.
The Best Way to do an International Transfer
Last but not least is the art of transferring money internationally between banks. You might be like I was a few months ago and think that you'll never need to do an international transfer. But with planning an overseas wedding, we've paid deposits for most of our vendors via international transfer. If you're attending an overseas wedding or simply planning an international trip, it's possible that smaller hotels or vendors may require payment this way.
Our wedding planner recommended TransferWise as a low-fee way to pay our wedding vendors, and it really is the best way to complete an international transfer. You have to pay a small fee per transfer, but the amounts are small compared to other bank and transfer options, including PayPal. This is also the easiest way to send money that I've seen, as the recipient receives the money in just a few days.
Do's and Don'ts to Avoid Wasting Money Abroad
Now that you've decided which foreign travel cards to get, here are a few more tips to make your trip seamless.
DO check in with your bank and credit cards before you leave the United States.
These days, not all credit cards require you putting in a travel notice. And many that do make it easy by allowing you to do this online. Check in with your card and bank before you leave, because the worst thing would be having your card freeze up when you reach your destination!
DON'T rely on only using Amex abroad.
When it comes to American Express international fees, many of the credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees. However, Amex isn't always accepted abroad, especially at smaller businesses. I was trying to pay for a massage in Hungary recently, and the spa only took Visa and Mastercard. The same often goes for boutique hotels and small restaurants. If you're traveling with an Amex, I'd recommend also bring a Visa or Mastercard along, too.
DON'T exchange your money.
It might seem like a good idea to trade American dollars at the airport, but I guarantee you that the exchange rate you get there (or even at your hotel) is going to be worse than the one you get from an ATM machine.
DO get money from the airport ATM machine.
These ATM machines often have smaller limits of what you can withdraw, but if you have a debit card with no ATM fees, this is no problem. Get a small amount of local currency before you leave the airport so that you can pay your taxi driver. A lot of cab drivers abroad don't accept credit cards.
DON'T order money from your bank.
I used to order money from my bank ahead of time. But once I discovered the ATM trick, I stopped doing this because the exchange rates abroad are going to be better. For this reason, I also don't exchange leftover money at my bank when I get home. I usually go on a $20 or so shopping spree the last day of a trip. Or if I'm going to be traveling again soon to the same country, I keep the currency so that I have it for next time.
DO make a purchase in the local currency.
You'll get the best exchange rate by choosing the local currency (versus American dollars), when using a credit or debit card.
For more travel-related content, check out amydgorin.com/healthytravel. In particular, I think you'll enjoy these posts:
- Traveling to Europe for the first time
- A nutritionist's tips for healthy travel
- Best places to eat in Florence
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I'd love to hear from you! What do you about these ideas for the best debit card for international travel, as well as teh best credit card for foreigners? Are you attending an overseas wedding anytime soon? Tag @amydgorin on Instagram and Pinterest and @amygorin on Twitter and Facebook.