Costs for out-of-country or overseas transactions using your credit and debit cards can vary. There can be a flat transaction fee each time you visit an ATM, plus a potential percentage for currency conversion, and the machine itself could charge you. Some major credit card companies levy a fee on international transactions – and the issuing bank may add on additional currency conversation or foreign transaction fees that, even if they're only one per cent, still take a bite out of your travel budget.
How to do it: Contact your bank or credit card company before you leave home to determine overseas and/or out-of-country fees. If you're not happy with your bank, do a quick comparison on Bankrate (bankrate.com). Look for a financial institution with a no-fee policy on international transactions for both credit and debit cards.
If your bank does charge a flat fee, follow the advice of award winning travel podcaster Rick Steves: "Just reduce the number of ATM visits and take out the maximum amount of cash each time. And, of course, always stow it in a safe place." If you're travelling with members of your family, divvy up the cash so no one person is carrying all of it.
2. Wi-Fi: to pay or not to pay?
The answer is simple enough: Don't!
How to do it: If your hotel won't give you free Internet access, then you can always visit a spot that does. McDonald's and Starbucks offer free Wi-Fi in some countries – but not all. Local libraries are a good spot as well. Better yet, do a quick search of HotSpot locations (hotspot-locations.com) and free Wi-Fi spots (wififreespot.com) for free Wi-Fi venues such as cafes, hotels, airports, RV parks, coffee shops, community centres and book stores.
3. Learn about cell phones, SIM cards and roaming charges.
Never use your cell phone overseas until you've done a bit of research: You could arrive home to a hefty bill. If you plan on using your cell phone internationally, you need to purchase a SIM card that will allow you to make local calls or telephone home without paying nasty roaming charges.
Or you may want to leave your phone at home buy one when you arrive at your destination. "It can be surprisingly affordable to buy a basic 'pay as you go' mobile phone in Europe," says Steves. "Shop around at the ubiquitous phone marts or at mobile-phone counters in big department stores. No contracts are necessary – most phones come loaded with prepaid calling time – and additional minutes are usually easy to buy."
How to do it: Call your phone provider and get the full scoop on what your plan covers. If you're going to get a SIM card, determine whether you need a local country card (if you're just going to one country) or an international card. And ask if you'll be able to recharge your SIM card for free.
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