Planning a summer trip abroad? This year, Americans plan to spend an average of $2,236 on family vacations, according to NerdWallet. If you’re splurging on an international vacation, that money can go very quickly so here are 5 things you need to do before your trip that’ll save you big.
1. Give your bank a call. Let them know where you’re going and when. That way your card won’t be flagged for potential fraudulent activity, and your charges won’t be declined while you’re trying to have a good time. For access to cash, most foreign banks only accept four-digit PIN numbers. If you have a 6-digit PIN, check with your bank’s customer service rep if you need to change it, or if you’re able to use the first four or last four digits of your current PIN code. The rules may vary depending on which country you visit.
2. Request a waiver to minimize banking usage fees. Before you get off the phone, request a full waiver for all your international transaction fees and ATM fees during your travel dates. Even if your bank has a partnership with an overseas branch, it’s likely that you’ll still get hit with 3% to 5% international transaction fees on top of the amount you withdraw, plus a $5 ATM fee. Which means on your European trip, every time you withdraw 500 euros, your bank may charge you 20 euros.
When I called my bank, they approved my request within minutes and extended the waiver for 60 days. And I was informed that I could visit any ATM, not just their partner branches – which is a huge time saver since I won’t have to go out of my way to track down specific branch locations during my vacation.
3. It helps if you’re a good customer. I was curious to know what qualified me to get approved so quickly so I asked the customer rep how often they decline these types of requests. The rep said it depends on the overall relationship the bank has with you: your balances, how long you’ve been a customer, and how many accounts you have. Because I called directly into their preferred line, they were more than happy to oblige my requests year after year. Otherwise, it could’ve taken longer and I probably would’ve had to ask to speak with the rep’s manager. If your bank is unwilling to work with you for a full waiver, try to negotiate a lower usage fee of 1% down from 3%. And make it known that you’re considering switching to your local credit union that charges lower usage fees overall.
4. Travel with the right credit card. Take one that doesn’t have any of those pesky foreign transaction fees – which are also about 3%. There are so many fee-free credit cards out there, but if you don’t have one and it’s too late to sign up for one before your trip, just make sure you’re free and clear for all those fees on your debit card.
5. Schedule your bill payments. More than a third of your credit score is determined by your payment history and being 30 days late on just one payment can drop your score by 100 points. And the most common reason for missing a payment? Forgetfulness, according to a recent CreditCards.com survey. The survey found that 42% of cardholders said they forgot to make a payment and 11% said they were late in paying up because of travel. To avoid that, schedule your bills while you’re traveling or sign up for autopay. Because the last thing you need to come home to is a late fee, an interest fee, and a lower credit score.