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AAA Tips on Spending Overseas

July 27, 2009 By: Alexia Dellner


If you have clients going overseas this summer, be sure to share these tips from AAA on how to spend smart and safely while abroad. To protect vacation funds and maximize convenience, AAA suggests international travelers use a combination of various forms of payment, each offering different advantages.

Credit and debit cards are a convenient way to pay abroad. Carrying a credit card is safer than carrying cash, and may offer great exchange rates in the bargain. AAA recommends calling issuers prior to departure to notify them of overseas travel plans and to determine what fees are applied to international purchases and conversion rates. These may be as high as 3 percent to convert purchases to U.S. dollars. But even with the surcharges, paying by credit card may still be cheaper than converting cash overseas.

Paying with plastic is quick and convenient, especially in Europe, where Visa and Mastercard credit cards are widely accepted. In addition, many credit cards come with traveler-friendly features, such as extended protection against theft and the accidental damage of purchases. Others offer travel-accident and car-rental insurance.

In terms of cash, one convenient option is obtaining at least a small amount of foreign currency in advance of travels. This ensures travelers avoid high exchange rates at airports and ATM fees, and still have money on hand. Call or visit AAA offices and banks in your area and ask if they offer foreign currency exchange, the fees associated, limits and how long it will take to receive funds.

Traveler's cheques are safer than carrying cash as they are refundable if lost or stolen. Most traveler's cheques never expire and come with a 24/7 customer service for replacement and may include additional benefits, such as being exchanged for local currency where accepted at your destination.

The best option for travelers is to carry a mixture of credit cards, debit cards, local currency and traveler's cheques. Other useful tips are to call card issuers in advance and inform them of any travel plans overseas so that they don't put your card on hold after one or two foreign transactions. Travelers should review accounts and statements as soon as possible, and keep all receipts for ATM, credit and debit cards in case you need to dispute a charge later.

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