FAQs

Q?

How will I exchange my currency?

A.

creditcardsThe savviest international travelers carry with them both a no foreign transaction fee credit card and a debit card that also lacks foreign surcharges. The former allows them to take advantage of the low currency conversion rates that VISA and MasterCard are known for as well as the fraud protection that credit cards provide.

Leave the traveler’s checks at home. Traveler’s checks are a waste of time. You will have to wait in lines at the bank as well as there being fees to purchase and fees to cash them.

Do not purchase foreign currency before you leave home. A no foreign transaction fee debit card enables foreign travelers to access cash from ATMs on an as-needed basis, thereby minimizing the risk of carrying lots of cash.

ATMs are the way to obtain currency in foreign countries. As long as your debit card is branded with a VISA or MasterCard logo, you can use it to pay for purchases from any merchant location in the world and any ATM where that credit card network’s logo is displayed. To avoid complications using your debit card abroad, follow these tips.

  • Bring identification: Many foreign merchants will request your ID if you make a purchase with your debit card. Always carry your passport with you as this is the perfect identification.
  • Keep your PIN to four digits: In many countries the cash machines will only accept four digit PINs. If your current PIN is longer, change it to four digits before departing for your trip to avoid withdrawal issues.
  • Notify your Bank of Your Travels: To be certain that your card (both debit and credit) will work abroad, before departing you should tell your bank which countries you will be visiting. Otherwise your bank may block purchases and withdrawals they regard as suspicious.

Charles Schwab Bank offers a High Yield Investor Checking account which offers a debit card with no foreign transaction fees. You can see the features of the Charles Schwab Debit card here

Today there are many credit cards which do not charge foreign transactions fees. You can view and compare credit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees here

Money magazine recommends the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite credit card as its top choice followed by Chase Sapphire Preferred. The article can be read here

Q?

Is There Anything I Should Know Regarding Use of International Credit Cards

A.

Tips for Using International Credit Cards

Once you decide which international credit card might work best for your situation, it’s time to put that card to good use. Here are some tips that can help you make the most out of your travel rewards card when you use it abroad- or at home:

Always call your card issuer before you travel overseas. When you plan to use your international credit card outside of your home country, state, or province, it’s important to call the number on the back of your card and let your card issuer know. This is especially crucial if you plan to travel internationally. The last thing in the world you want is to be stranded in your destination without a reliable credit card.

Bring several payment options with you. Even when you inform your card issuer of your travel plans, there are times when you won’t be able to use your card. Perhaps your international purchase set off a fraud alert – or maybe your card quit working. Whatever the reason, it is crucial to have other payment options with you. In addition to having other credit cards from different card issuers, you’ll want to bring some cash and an ATM card.

Buy everything in the local currency. When you’re making purchases abroad, foreign merchants will sometimes offer to push the transaction through in U.S. dollars, whether for your convenience — or to take advantage of your naiveté. This is often a bad deal, as the rate may be rounded up to something easy to calculate at the register. Fortunately, credit card transactions are typically processed at a very competitive exchange rate. So long as your international credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, you can make your purchase in the local currency at the marked price without worry.

Consider cards with chip-and-pin technology. While you still just swipe your credit card at most checkouts in the U.S., most new credit cards now offer the more secure chip-and-pin technology that is more common overseas. These cards offer increased protections and security measures that can decrease the chance of fraud for users.

Q?

Should I purchase travel insurance?

A.

travelinsurTravel Insurance protects you for the following occurrences:

Loss of deposits or prepayments. You often have to pay in full or provide a stiff deposit months in advance for a tour. And if you have to cancel, you may lose a big chunk of those payments in cancellation penalties and non refundables. Trip cancellation insurance (TCI) reimburses you for non-recoverable deposits and penalties if you have to cancel before you start.

Extra expenses of returning home before your trip ends. If you have to abort a trip because something happens to you, your traveling companion, or a family member at home, getting home quickly may be expensive. Trip interruption insurance (TII) reimburses the non-recoverable extra costs of returning home early or of continuing as a single traveler if your companion has to return early.

Medical expenses. If you get sick or suffer an accident when you're away from home, you may face some stiff immediate medical bills. The main risk occurs when you're outside the U.S. Your own medical plan may cover you anywhere in the world; but some don't. Medicare doesn't cover you outside the US, but many Medicare supplements do. In any event, you typically have to shell out big payments on the spot and argue about reimbursement when you return home. Primary travel medical insurance (TMI) pays up front.

Emergency transport home. On your trip, if you're so sick you can't fly home, or if you fall and break your butt in some remote area, getting you to a hospital in a helicopter or back home on a private jet could cost a fortune. Medical evacuation (ME) insurance pays for any such requirement.

You can easily determine the risk of lost prepayments or cancellation penalties. Consider TCI any time you have more advance payments at risk - the net of what you can recover in refunds - than you can comfortably absorb if you have to cancel a trip. The corollary is obvious: Don't pay to "insure" recoverable payments. TCI is "named peril" insurance that pays for only the contingencies specified in the policy - typically related to sickness and accident, and excluding work-related reasons. That is why we recommend "cancel for any reason" insurance: It is more expensive but you get to decide whether to cancel. TCI policies generally exclude payment for pre-existing medical conditions, but most insurers waive that exclusion if you buy the insurance as soon as you start paying for your trip.

TM and ME are available separately by the trip or in six-month or yearly policies for frequent travelers. We recommend primary TM, so you don't have to max out your checking account or credit card on the spot. Prices for bundled policies and separate TM and ME policies depend on destination, duration of trip, and age. They range from 5 percent to 15 percent of your total trip cost - sometimes even more for very senior travelers.

How to buy: We recommend buying through one of the several independent online agencies that specialize in travel insurance that provides comprehensive search and comparison systems. Among them are:

Q?

What countries are represented in the Schengen Agreement?

A.

The Schengen Area Member States:

Q?

Are there any restrictions to my traveling?

A.

As we all know a valid Passport is required for travel outside our country. However, what many citizens do not know is there may be restrictions on our unexpired Passports.

Check the expiration date on your passport carefully before traveling to Europe. Entry into any of the 26 European countries in the Schengen area for short-term tourism, a business trip, or in transit to a non-Schengen destination requires that your passport be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure.
If your passport does not meet the Schengen requirements, you may be refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin or while transferring planes. You could also be denied entry when you arrive in the Schengen area.

For this reason, the US Department of State recommends that your passport have at least six months' validity remaining whenever you travel abroad. You can find passport validity requirements for your destination country, along with other important information, on their Country Specific Information pages. To ensure that your travel plans are not disrupted, plan ahead to renew your passport before traveling. Visit the US Department of State's passport website for more information on applying for a new or renewal passport.

The European countries that make up the Schengen area are enforcing the requirement that short-term tourism or business visitor's passports be valid for at least three months beyond the intended date of departure from the Schengen area, though adherence varies from country to country. Some Schengen countries assume all travelers will stay the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors, meaning you may not be admitted unless your passport is valid for at least six months, regardless of the duration of your stay. This requirement may also apply if you are transiting a Schengen airport for several hours en route to a non-Schengen destination.

If you are a US citizen with a valid US passport traveling for tourism or business, you can apply to enter the Schengen area without a visa for a period of three months within each six-month period. If you spend three months in the Schengen area during any six-month period, you must wait another three months before you can apply to enter the Schengen area again without a visa. If you do not meet these conditions, or plan to stay in the Schengen area longer than three months, contact the embassy of the country where you plan to spend the majority of your time to apply for a visa.

When you first cross any external border of the Schengen area and present your passport for entry, an immigration official will determine if you qualify for entry into the Schengen area. You may be denied entry if the officer determines you do not qualify for entry. When moving from one Schengen country to another, you do not need to show your passport until you exit the Schengen area. Ensure your passport is stamped upon entry and exit.