Expenses to Consider for International Travel

With summer solstice behind us in Northeast Wisconsin, some adventurous travelers will look over the oceans for new sites to explore, nature to see and items to cross off their bucket lists. While travel has become quicker and more reasonable than ever, there are a few important things of which to be aware as you travel, most notably foreign travel expenses, foreign card usage and chip technology.


As you start to outline a budget for foreign travel, don’t overlook some of the common expenses travelers forget to account for when allocating dollars. After you’ve obtained the correct travel documentation, plane tickets and hotel reservations, the rest of your travel expenses will be determined by your activities and the types of experiences you wish to have abroad.


Food is a major part of any travel abroad, but money drains that may slip your mind are snacks and drinks. Don’t forget to understand tipping protocol for your destination, too.


Mass transit is extremely important as you travel to Europe or Eastern Asia and, unless you already live in a large city such as Chicago or New York, those are travel expenses that may slip your mind as you plan your trip. Using rail, train or taxi to get to most, if not all, of your travel destinations is a must.


When it comes down to paying for goods and services during foreign travel, you have a few options. Taking paper currency to have cash in hand when abroad may make you feel most at ease, having a portfolio of payment options will be your safest option. Taking $200 to $400 in smaller foreign currency denominations on your trip will help cover tips, taxis, bus fares and other miscellaneous expenses. You can order foreign currency in advance of your travels with your bank for a small fee, but don’t forget to use up your coins before returning home, as domestic banks do not exchange foreign coins, only paper currency.


The alternate to cash is to use a foreign-accepted debit or credit card. Paying with plastic may get you a more favorable exchange rate, but most debit/credit cards require a service fee or additional percentage fee on all of your purchases.  If you do plan to use a debit or credit card, be sure to notify your bank in advance so that your transactions are not blocked in an attempt to prevent fraud. All major credit card companies will flag unusual transactions to your account and will call you to verify that the charges being made are from you. However, if you’ve listed your home phone number or do not have cell phone service where you are traveling, and the credit card company is unable to reach you, your transactions will be blocked. Your bank can prevent this situation from happening.


Using cash advances through an ATM once you arrive in your destination is another way to access money during travel. Make sure your Personal Identification Number (PIN) is in the proper format prior to departure. Most countries use a 4-digit numeric PIN but verify and make necessary adjustments before you travel.


One relatively new development to be aware of as you travel is Smart Chip technology embedded into credit cards. If you’re considering opening up a new card with no foreign transaction fees, consider looking into a card with Smart Chip technology. Smart Chip technology requires the cardholder to input their pin or sign for the transactions without exception. These are more secure than typical US debit and credit cards because they do not give access to your personal information through magnetic strips. The Chip embeds all of your personal information behind your PIN, which makes it much safer for foreign travel.


The best way to prepare for foreign travel is to arm yourself with as much information as you can about your destination, costs and incidentals. Keep your receipts and take time after your travels to go through your statements to ensure accuracy.