As the weather turns and we move toward the Summer months, it’s natural for all of us to look forward to forthcoming holidays and some time away somewhere nice! Foreign finance is a notoriously troublesome area, with poor exchange rates on overseas credit card transactions being just one of several fairly recent high profile examples of consumers being exposed to practices which increase the cost of their travel. With that in mind, here are our five tips for getting the most for your money and keeping it safe, wherever you’re heading off to this year.
Check the fees on whatever method you’re using to manage your foreign currency
If you’re planning on using your credit or debit card abroad then make sure you thoroughly check your bank’s policies and fees. Credit card fees can go up to around 3% per transaction and debit card fees can be higher, if you’re allowed to use it at all. Check all of the methods you’re planning to use for spending carefully and put something new in place if they work out as too expensive. There are a handful of credit cards that charge nothing for foreign transactions, so consider applying, especially if you’re a regular visitor to foreign climates.
Put together a ‘travel wallet’
Losing your wallet when abroad can be a pain but you can limit the stress of this by keeping a travel wallet handy to grab whenever you’re heading out of the country. The concept is simple: your travel wallet has everything in that you’ll need abroad, whilst your everyday wallet – full of store cards and other things you won’t need but could do without losing – stays safely in the UK. If you take out a credit card to benefit from the low foreign transaction rate then keep that in your travel wallet, alongside things like your EHIC card and any spare cash you brought home from your last trip.
Consider a pre-paid card but…
Pre-paid cards loaded with foreign currency can be another good way to avoid costly foreign transaction fees but you need to look at the options closely and bear in mind any limitations. Some cards want you to spend everything via the card, for example, and charge you a fee for withdrawing cash. If you’ve got an excess left on the card at the end of the holiday it’s also worth thinking about what your options are for converting it back into sterling and whether you’ll incur a charge for doing so.
If you’re travelling in Europe, make sure your EHIC is up-to-date
The European Health Insurance Card or EHIC is a must for travelling to Europe, as it gets you access to the same healthcare a local would get at free or discounted rates. It has proved vital for travellers in emergencies and it’s free to get hold of, so it’s a real ‘must have’. Be aware though that the cards do run out, so check that yours is in date well before you fly out.
Tell your bank you’re going abroad
Even if you’re not planning on using any of your cards, it is a good idea to get in touch with your bank and tell them where you are going and how long for. You never know when you might need to call on reserve funds and, if it’s an emergency, the last thing you want to have to do is have lengthy conversations with your bank who are trying to protect you from fraud, whilst you try to get access to your cash. Most banks will be able to add the note about your foreign travel to your account quickly and easily.