Before you leave for your vacation outside of Canada, it’s a good idea to formulate a strategy on how you’ll pay for goods and services.
Ideally, all big purchases, such as hotels, car rentals, dinners, etc., should be made by credit card. Most Canadian credit cards have foreign transaction fees, which often means an extra 2.5 per cent added on. As well, when buying overseas, if a merchant offers to process it using Canadian dollars, always decline: they’re only trying to sneak through a marked-up conversion fee. Make sure that all credit card purchases are processed using local currency.
Besides plastic, it’s a good idea to carry some local cash with you to make numerous smaller purchases travelling inevitably incurs. When exchanging your loonies for a foreign currency, you should expect to pay from five to no more than 10 per cent of the total. Before changing your money, go online and check out what the Canadian dollar is trading at that day against the currency you wish to buy. That will give you a good starting point from which you can decide whether the rate you’re being offered is in line with the actual market realities.
One new and convenient way to change your money is through online services like www.travelex.ca. You buy foreign currency at the online posted rates with your credit card, and the banknotes will be couriered to your home next day or you can pick it up at a Travelex store, located at select airports. While the service is commission-free, you should check the offered rates; though competitive, they will not always beat the banks. On the plus side, it’s very convenient and, when you return, they promise to buy any remaining money back at excellent rates.
Automated Bank Machines
This is usually the cheapest method. Cut transaction costs by withdrawing a lot at one time. Avoid independent ABMs, as you may be hit with unexpectedly high service charges.
Depending on the country you’re in, banks may tack on high service fees. European banks are generally considered to offer fair fees.
Currency exchange businesses
In busy tourist areas, vendors may offer extremely attractive rates in order to win your business. Many, however, will be just as happy to rip you off.
Airport & train stations