I've been getting so many calls from people who are planning overseas trips later this year, and I want to make sure you're not getting ripped off when you get where you're going. Below are some of the best pieces of advice I can give you.
- Before you leave the United States, call your credit card companies and ATM companies and let them know where you'll be traveling. Because of international crime rings, you may find your card(s) shut down if you don't alert the issuers. You can sometimes just go directly to your issuer's website and fill out a form to alert them about your foreign travel if you prefer not to call.
- Ask your lender about their foreign currency fee. Capital One has no foreign currency fee on its credit cards, but other credit card issuers charge up to 5%! With ATMs, you also need to know if your bank will charge junk fees. If they do, those fees can be as much as $10 for each withdrawal. Ask if there are any partner banks overseas that might offer ATMs where that fee will be waived.
- Money belts are highly advisable in many international cities. Pick-pocketing can happen anywhere. I also suggest you make photocopies of your passport before you go. Leave some copies at home and take others with you to leave in your hotel room. Be sure to carry your original passport on your person at all times. Replacing a lost or stolen passport when you have a copy of it is so much easer than if you have no copies whatsoever to show.
- Never use your regular cell outside the United States. The charges can be ugly, especially for data. It's not unusual for people to get thousands of dollars in data charges just to check email overseas. Internet cafes offer a good alternative. I take a laptop with me when I travel and use free wifi.