NEW YORK (AP) — Headed overseas for summer vacation? It's easy to get hit with extra fees and expensive exchange rates when switching currencies.
Some currency exchange tables in airports and tourist areas offer bad rates, taking more of your money. And some credit cards and banks can add fees when you buy something with your card.
Your best bet is to bring a credit card that doesn't charge currency exchange fees and some cash for backup. Most purchases should be done on the credit card, says James Gambaccini, a certified financial planner at Acorn Financial Services. That's because credit cards offer fraud protection. If you lose cash, or it gets stolen, you won't get it back. Lost credit cards, or fraudulent charges, are easily replaced or fixed, says Gambaccini.
"Walking around with a money belt and a large amount of cash is not relevant anymore," he says.
Here are five tips to maximize your dollars:
1. GET AN APP
Before boarding the plane, download a currency converting app on a smartphone you plan to use on vacation. You can open up the app to see if you're getting a good deal when exchanging money. With the apps, you type in the amount you want to exchange and it will calculate a figure in the new currency. There are several free ones to choose from, including XE Currency and GlobeConvert.
2. ASK BEFORE YOU EXCHANGE
Be wary of currency exchange places that say they don't charge fees or advertise really good exchange rates. "Don't trust it," says Stan McGahey, an international tourism professor at Saint Leo University in Florida. Often, they will offer you a worse exchange rate to make up for the low fees or have caveats that they don't advertise. Instead of just handing them your money, ask how much you would get for the amount you want to exchange first, McGahey says. That way you will know exactly what you're getting.
And always do currency exchanges in the country you're visiting. You're likely to get a better rate than if you do the exchange at home, McGahey says.
3. FIND THE RIGHT CARD
Get a credit card that doesn't charge a foreign exchange fee. Some will charge a 2 percent to 3 percent fee for every purchase made with a foreign currency, says Matt Schulz, a senior analyst at credit card comparison site CreditCards.com. There are many that don't. You can find a list of them on websites such as CreditCardInsider.com, CreditCards.com or Bankrate.com.
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