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Currency Exchange Rates

    If you’re traveling to more than one country, you will find that exchange rates fluctuate depending on where and when you happen to swap your home currency into bahts or soles or rubles. Of course, in Europe, you can use Euros everywhere. Here are a few "rules of thumb" about exchange rates.
      Before you leave
    Exchange rates – While planning your trip, check out the exchange rates for your destinations online. This gives you a current information for what you should expect to get for your home currency when traveling.
      Tip: It's also convenient to use a currency converter app on your smartphone. Here's one we use: Currency converter app
    ATM cards – Your ATM card can be used in cash machines in foreign countries. Your ATM card is linked to your checking or savings account at home, so be sure to deposit plenty of money in the account before your trip (you wouldn't want a negative balance while traveling). Also, check at your bank so you know what fees are associated with using your card in ATM machines abroad. For example, each time we use our ATM card in a foreign country, our bank charges us a $5.00 transaction fee.
    Chip & PIN cardsIn Europe, credit and debit cards all use "chip and pin" technology, which is safer than the mag stripe cards issued in the United States. You can your U.S. credit or debit card to pay bills in restaurants or hotels, but at gas stations or train ticket machines, be aware that a U.S. credit or ATM card often will not work.
   

Credits cards in cash machines – These days you can also use your credit card (with a PIN number) to get cash from ATM machines abroad. It's convenient, but once again, check on the fees and interest rate for each cash advance.

      Getting the local currency
    At the airport The experience of money exchanges at airports is different every place you go. These days at the airport, it's usually the going rate. In any case, you’ll need the local currency as soon as you land, so use the ATM machines or bank (to exchange your local currency) at the airport.
    ATM machines In large cities, you'll find that ATM machines are very convenient. However, there are limits as to how much you can withdraw each day.
   

Tip: Sometimes if you are in transit from one country to the other, it isn't easy to have the local currency. To pay for a taxi, if you use dollars, for example, don't expect the best exchange rate.

      Understand the Costs
   

Foreign transaction fees on credit cards The bad news is that some credit card companiescharge "foreign transaction fees" for a foreign currency billing on your card. This fee can be anywhere from 1% - 3% (e.g. 2.7% for American Express). For a large expenditure, such as a hotel bill, it can be a chunk of change. So, before you go, check your credit card policy to find out about fees, so there aren't any nasty surprises when you get your credit card bill.

Using credit cards at ATMS – Using your credit card at ATM machines to get cash is probably the worse option. Each time you go to the cash machine, there's likely to be the per transaction fee (anywhere from $1 - $10), plus the percentage (1% - 3%).

  Budgeting Tip: One friend we have always "deposits" a percentage of her traveling budget on her credit card. That way, she’s not faced by a humongous credit card bill when she gets home – and she has no worries about going over her credit card limit while traveling.
travel for kids | travel tips | money exchange
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