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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beginner's Guide To: Managing your money abroad

What's the cheapest way to manage my money when I travel?

Using debit and credit cards is generally the best way to deal with money when you're abroad these days – but it's important to follow certain rules to avoid getting landed with a string of hefty charges.

If you want to pay for goods and services by card, it's usually best to use a credit card – as you shouldn't incur any charges for these transactions. However, check with your credit card provider before you leave, as some do charge for using your card overseas. It's also worth simply letting your card provider know where you're going – to ensure that its fraud detection department doesn't block your card when it sees a number of transactions in a foreign destination.

If you need to take out cash, use a debit card. Most banks and building societies – with the notable exception of Nationwide – will charge you a small fee for withdrawing cash this way, so keep withdrawals to a minimum. Never withdraw cash using a credit card – the fees and interest rates are very high.

What rate will I get?

The main card networks – Mastercard, Visa and American Express – all use competitive exchange rates for transactions on their network. These are usually much better than anything you'll find in a bank or bureau de change.

Am I safe to use my card while abroad?

You're at risk of card fraud everywhere in the world – including the UK – but as long as you have not been negligent with your cards, your bank should pick up the cost for any fraud on your account. If you notice that you are a victim of fraud, let your bank know as soon as possible. And take a couple of cards with you when you travel, so you're not left high and dry if one gets closed down.

Where can I get the best rate to exchange cash?

If you want to buy foreign currency before you leave, Travelex promises to have the most competitive rates if you order online.


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