Handling Currency on Vacation


Recent world events have coincided to make a very strong US dollar, thus providing Americans with a unique opportunity to see the world at a cheaper rate. In fact, experts estimate that prices will be between 15 and 50 percent cheaper than at this time last year. Currencies will continue to fluctuate, however. By knowing how to handle foreign currency properly, you will always be able to travel comfortably and within your budget.

Whenever you travel abroad, knowing how to exchange currency at the most favorable rates will prevent shocking charges to your monthly bank and credit card statements. Most travel experts recommend relying on credit cards and ATM machines when traveling abroad. Credit card companies and banks both charge modest fees ranging from 2 percent to 8 percent, and many offer special deals for customers with travel-specific cards or programs. Be sure to research your bank or credit card company’s offerings at your destination, and consider applying for a credit card specifically made for foreign travel. Buying currency online or using traveler’s checks will generally offer less favorable rates. However, the worst thing to do is to allow businesses to exchange currency directly, as this usually leads to hidden fees.

When the dollar is strong, don’t be afraid to take advantage of it. Europe tends to be the most popular choice for Americans when the dollar is strong against the euro—the EU’s currency is down 18 percent compared to this time last year—but there are many other excellent travel options. Morocco’s currency has fallen considerably, creating savings of up to 20 percent, while Canadian dollars and Australian dollars are both at six-year lows compared to the US dollar. Those looking to stretch their dollars furthest might consider even more unconventional locales. The Russian ruble’s collapse may mean savings of 50 percent, thereby allowing Americans to see Russia’s cultural treasures at a fraction of the cost.

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