How to Pay for Things Overseas

Having access to enough money is vital when traveling abroad. The last thing you want to worry about on your trip is running out of money. You can use several methods for bringing your money abroad, some of which are cheaper and easier than others.


Regardless of what method you use to carry most of your money, you should bring at least enough cash to pay for some food and a taxi. You can exchange cash for foreign currency before you depart for your trip, which you can use immediately after you arrive if you can’t access an ATM immediately. Paying in cash while you travel is usually the most simple and straightforward method. However banks and exchange kiosks charge fees for converting money, and the conversion rate usually isn’t great. Also, if your cash gets lost or stolen, you have no options for replacing it.

Credit Cards

Most credit cards charge a conversion cost between 2% and 3% percent. Cash advances can be very expensive cash including a cash advance fee, local ATM operator fee, international ATM fees and interest, which is charged from the day you withdraw. Look for credit cards before you leave home that specifically say they have “no conversion fee” and just use your card for purchases not cash advances.


* If you choose to use a credit card while traveling, carry some cash as well. Some stores won’t accept credit cards.

* Before you depart, call your credit card company and notify them about your trip. They may cancel your card if they notice unexpected purchases in a foreign country.

* Also keep separate a phone number you can call from abroad if something does go wrong with your credit card.

Debit Cards

Similar to credit cards, most debit cards convert your money at rates that include a conversion cost of 2% to 3%. However because ATMs are so convenient and cash is king carrying a debit card is a good idea. The banks who own the ATMs you use will usually also charge an additional fee as well as your bank back home.


* To minimize the cost of using overseas ATMs look for reciprocal agreements your bank has with banks overseas.

* Not every company or service will accept debit cards. If you choose to use a debit card as your main payment method a backup method is advisable.

Prepaid Travel Cards

For security, traveler’s checks used to be a popular payment method because you could replace them if they were lost or stolen. Today, instead of checks, you can buy prepaid travel cards that function like a credit or debit card and have security and replacement features built-in. Security comes at a price. The cost to convert can be between 1% and 6% and there are also reload fees and sometimes activation fees, ATM fees, and fees for reloading the card.

Sending Money Abroad – Between Banks

If you end up spending more than a few weeks overseas (like working holiday makers or long-term travelers), you may find you need to use a local bank account to pay for things or get paid.

Many banks offer international transfer services; however, there are usually fees charged by your sending bank and your receiving bank in addition to exchange rate conversion costs. The total cost to sending your money using banks will normally be between 4% and 6%.

Check out Transumo for a list of services that operate by country.

One way to avoid many of the fees that other methods attract is to transfer money between your two bank accounts using a money transfer service.

The total cost of transferring your money using this method is usually between 1% and 2.5%.

Sending Money Abroad – In Cash

If you lose your cash or run out of money unexpectedly, and don’t have a bank account, someone from back home can send you cash. The cash is usually organized through a company with a physical agent like Western Union. The money is then converted to the foreign currency, and the recipient can pick it up from an agent in their area. Fees for sending money this way can be very high to pay for all the convenience, sometimes exceeding 10 percent. Usually, the faster you want to receive the money, the higher the fee.

Final Word

All methods of bringing money overseas have their pros and cons. Some are more straightforward and convenient, while others cost less in fees. The best method for you depends on your specific situation.

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