Heading off on an exciting summer trip abroad? Whether you’re setting off on a road trip to visit the Grand Canyon or jetting off to travel down the canals of Venice, here are four money tips to help keep your trip free from foreign exchange headaches.
1. Use Your Credit Card
One of the easiest ways to pay for things when you’re on vacation is to use your credit card. So long as the merchant takes VISA or MasterCard, paying with credit may be easier and safer since cash can potentially get stolen (or soggy when you forget to take it out of your bathing suit pockets).
While some businesses might offer to charge you in Canadian dollars, it’s usually better to pay in the local currency since VISA and MasterCard exchange rates tend to be cheaper. Just make sure that you’re charged in the right currency when using your card. If your receipt shows the total in Canadian dollars only, ask that it be rung up again in the local currency. If you get a receipt with two totals — one in the local currency and one in Canadian dollars — check the amount in the local currency before you sign.
2. Get Foreign Cash Before You Travel
Having some cash on hand can be a good idea in case of an emergency, since not all places accept credit cards. And while you might plan to get local currency when you arrive, it might not be as easy as you think. Airports, hotels, resorts and cruise ships can charge inflated exchange rates, and that could mean you spend half your vacation searching for a place to exchange your money that won’t overcharge you. Before you leave, getting the cash you need to pay for those family excursions or piña coladas on the beach can save you money. One way to do this is to order your foreign currency online and then stop by your local RBC Branch to pick up the cash before you travel.
3. Use Your Debit Card to Get Cash at ATMs
If you need extra cash, you can use your debit card at a foreign ATM. Just look for an ATM that has a PLUS logo so you can withdraw your funds in the local currency. If a foreign ATM asks you to choose between Interac and Visa, choose the VISA/PLUS option so that the transaction is routed through the Visa network.
If an ATM offers to “lock in” or “guarantee” your conversion rate, choosing “proceed without conversion” tends to be cheaper. If the ATM asks you what currency you want to be charged in, the local currency usually gives you a lower conversion cost, as VISA does the exchange, which will mean you’ll be able to buy more sunscreen and souvenirs for your dollars.
While using a foreign ATM can be convenient, it can also be costly, so avoid doing it every time you want to buy a churro from a street vendor. You could be charged $3-$5 per transaction in addition to any charges imposed by the local ATM owner or provider.
Tip: Leave your debit card in the hotel safe so if by any chance you lose a credit card or cash, you have a backup.
4. Download RBC’s Mobile Banking App
Downloading the mobile app to your phone before you leave means you have another layer of backup — you’ll have access to your banking information if you need it. Having the app can also allow you to track how much you’re spending on vacation on snorkeling lessons and frozen drinks, allow you to pay bills while you’re away, or send money to your pet sitter back home.
Following these tips can help you have a fun-filled vacation with less worry about money issues. Who knows? Maybe with all the money you save on currency conversion, you can put some money aside to go back to your destination next year!
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.