If you’re traveling abroad for the first time, you will probably be using a credit card to book your hotels and to pay for the spending you do when you’re on vacation. That way, you don’t have to worry about bringing a ton of cash that could get stolen or trying to find an ATM in a foreign country. And you don’t have to worry about exchanging U.S. currency for foreign currency.
You don’t want to just go abroad with whatever card is in your wallet, though. You should check to see if your card has this feature first. If it does, consider using a different card instead.
Be sure your card doesn’t charge you this fee before you go abroad
Before you head abroad with your credit card, you need to find out if your card will charge you a foreign transaction fee. You can check the fee schedule provided by your card issuer to determine if you will have to pay a fee, or you can call your credit card company and ask a customer service representative.
Foreign transaction fees are charged by some card issuers if you use your credit card to charge things outside of the United States. These fees typically cost around 1% to 3% on average, although the exact fee amount can vary by card. If you spend $5,000 on your trip including hotels, food, souvenirs, and tours while you’re away, you could get hit with a fee as high as $150.
A foreign transaction fee is a complete waste of money. It makes your trip more expensive without you getting any added benefit. There is no reason why you would want to pay this expense when there are a lot of better things to spend money on during your vacation — like a nice meal out or a special gift for a loved one back home.
How to find a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
If you discover that your credit card has a foreign transaction fee, your best bet is to apply for a new card before you head out on your trip.
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You should do this as long as you aren’t going to be making any major purchases that require you to borrow (such as getting a mortgage or a car loan). If you’re making a major purchase, the hit to your credit score from opening a new card might not be worth it just to avoid the fee. But outside of this situation, unless there’s another specific reason not to add a new card to your arsenal, you should find a card issuer that’s not going to charge you just for using it while you are abroad.
Most of the best travel cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees, so check them out to see which is best for you. Not only can you avoid this unnecessary charge, but you may also get a card that offers you other perks, including the chance to earn a new cardmember bonus that could give you some extra cash to enjoy while on vacation.
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