Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Develop a currency plan ahead of time!

Planning a trip overseas? Are you traveling to a place where the American dollar has no or little value? Exchange your currency prior to your trip in your local bank thereby avoiding unnecessary frustration. Doing so will allow you to make one transaction as oppose to foreign bankers which can charge you lots of percent on your monies. If you decide to be charged in the local currency, your credit card issuer may charge you a foreign-transaction fee to convert the purchase into dollars. The average credit card charges 3% of the transaction (1 percent conversion fees imposed by the international MasterCard and Visa networks plus their own 2 percent fee), where as the international bankers charge you way more than that. A recent study shows  that credit card firms save the average international traveler over 14% of fees on currency exchange.

Airport bankers such as Travelers and international bankers charge you between 8% and 14% per transaction.

The study also shows that 90% credit card firms charge a minimum of only 3% (some between 5% and 6 %) whereas others don’t charge you at all.(using a credit card that doesn't have a foreign transaction fee is usually cheaper than using the currency conversion services at retail stores, banks, and airports, which tend to charge high fees and could be unreliable in their currency calculations. Networks like Visa and MasterCard usually use the wholesale market rate or the government-mandated rate.) It's therefore important to review all your credit cards and see which one has the best offerings and to use that specific card throughout your trip. (Not to mention you should also have some cash on hand for those that do not accept credit cards.)

It's important to mention that not every credit card charges a foreign-transaction fee, For example Capital One and Discover don't charge any foreign-transaction fees on any of their cards (However according to the N.Y. Times  research Discover’s acceptance internationally has traditionally been limited). Other issuers like Chase have removed these fees on many of its cards marketed to travelers such as their British Airways and Sapphire Preferred cards. Amex, Citi, waive the fee on certain credit cards.
So which way is the better choice? It'll probably boil down to the type of credit cards you have in your wallet. If you own a card that waives a foreign transaction fee, then the choice is clear. Ask to be charged in the local currency to avoid the currency-conversion fee.
However, if your credit card charges a foreign-transaction fee, the choice is not so obvious.You will want to pay in the currency that offers the cheaper fee.
Foreign-transaction fees are usually between 2 percent and 3 percent of the sale. That makes them generally cheaper than the 3 percent to 7 percent currency-conversion fees. Be careful since there are so many variations so be sure to check your card's foreign transaction fees ahead of time. 
Once you know that fee, you can compare it with the retailer's conversion fee. All major payment networks have different regulations regarding currency-conversion fees.
Visa requires its merchants to reveal their exchange rate and any currency-conversion fees or commissions.
American Express bans retailers from charging a conversion fee.Turns out that it's cheaper to constantly pay in your home currency when you use an AmEx card that charges a foreign-transaction fee.

Below is a list of some credit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees:

Chase British Airways Visa
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Fairmont Visa
Southwest Rapid Rewards card
Hilton reserve card
Hyatt Card from Chase
Chase Ink Bold
J.P. Morgan Select Card from Chase
Marriott Rewards Premier from Chase
Priority Club Select Visa from Chase
Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase
American Express
American Express Platinum Card
Centurium card
FNBO Graphite American Express

Citi Bank

Citi ThankYou Premier Card 
Citi Executive/AAdvantage WorldElite MasterCard
Citi ThankYou Prestige

Capitol one
All cards

Discover Travel Card
Discover Open Road
Escape by Discover
Miles by Discover
Discover More
Discover Motiva
Discover Student More
Discover Student Open Road

Bank of America
BankAmericard Travel Rewards
WorldPoints Travel Rewards for Business Visa

Tips to protect your finance before you travel:

1.        Record a list of your card numbers, and their overseas emergency telephone numbers,keep this separately apart from your cards. This way if you lose your wallet or have any issues, you will be able to contact your bank and credit card companies immediately.

2.       Notify your credit card issuer about your trip, to prevent them from blocking a charge overseas for security purposes, the same applies when you travel domestically even though it's only a couple of hundred miles away from your registered address.

3. One last way to protect yourself is to make sure to hold onto all of your receipts. You can dispute currency-conversion fees if the retailer charges one that you didn't approve.

4. Never use your credit card to withdraw cash. Foreign transaction fees are tedious, but nothing in comparison to the costs of cash withdrawals. These transactions usually incur a cash advance fee. In addition a higher interest rate is applied immediately with no grace period. Even more so, even cash advances are often subject to the same foreign transaction fees as purchases!