Travel Money: Saving Money on International Transactions

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Editor’s Note: This guest post is by Mark Shaw

With the very last no-charge debit card having bitten the dust, what next for travel money? Budgeting for holidays abroad can be a tricky business and alongside taking account of currency exchange rates, tourists should be aware of the charges and commissions applied to international transactions. Here’s a short guide to what to look out for.

Pre-paid cards

Pre-paid cards are a great way to set and stick to holiday budgets – load them up with money before leaving the country and then use them as you would a normal credit card abroad. The market is booming at the moment, which means loads of offers on the table – check terms and conditions, withdrawal charges, commission and foreign currency exchange rates.

Credit card

Whilst the last no-charge debit card has disappeared it’s still possible to find a travel credit card that doesn’t charge a commission on international payments. Transactions are treated to up-to-the-minute currency exchange, which means best rates. Shop around for the right card, be aware of ‘load charges’, where they apply and on what type of transactions or withdrawals – 0% balance transfer cards can also be a great way to minimize any financial impact from a jaunt abroad.

Traveller’s cheques

Often regarded as the dinosaur of travel transactions, traveler cheques do continue to offer a safe option for international transactions. They offer the purchaser to opportunity to change money in advance, plus they can be replaced if lost or stolen. As with any money exchange, currency is selected and reflected on the cheques, which can be exchanged at all sorts of venues all over the world, from banks and bureau de change through to hotels and shops. Keep an eye out for commission charges, both on initial exchange and buy back options.


Nothing speaks quite the same as hard cash – changing money in advance is a good way to avoid commission charges and also pick a prime exchange rate. If the destination is home to a soft currency dollars are always a good option and are generally accepted anywhere and everywhere. Using cash is also a good way of setting and sticking to budgets in advance, however it can feel a little risque wandering around a foreign country with a bundle of stash.

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