With every vacation the question arises, how much cash should I take? Do I need more than 1 credit card and/or ATM card? Should I take Travelers Checks?
I advise you take both cash and credit card, and leave the Travelers Checks at home. Here is why:
Travelers Checks as a main source of payment are becoming rare and most businesses do not take them. The exchange rate, plus a cashing fee, will end up costing more than its worth.
Cash is simple for everyday purchases like a souvenir or a bottle of water. If you run out, ATMs are everywhere and will distribute cash in the local currency at or near inter-bank exchange rates. If given the option of being “charged in your home currency” (USD) instead of the local currency, ALWAYS choose the LOCAL CURRENCY to avoid the extra fee for the “convenience.” The simple rule is to always withdraw based on the local currency for the best deal.
Credit Cards take the hassle out of the currency exchange rate, and will usually give you the best exchange rates (better than exchanging cash at a kiosk or at the airport). Each credit card company is different when it comes to foreign transaction fees, I suggest checking with you credit card company so you are not surprised when you get home. The merchant may ask you if you want this charged in the local currency or your home currency (USD). Always choose the LOCAL CURRENCY! Your bank will do the proper exchange rate for that date of purchase.
Please note: Some businesses require the purchase to be 10 (euros or pounds) and over to use a credit card, so make sure you always have cash.
Taking a single credit card with you can be risky. You need to be prepared for any circumstance as you are a long way from home. I always suggest having a backup. Keep it separate from the others. If lost or stolen you can still enjoy your vacation with little or no hassle.
Remember to write down both the toll-free and international collect numbers provided on the back of your credit cards in case it is lost or stolen. You will need those numbers to call the credit card company as soon as possible.
On a final note, you should contact your credit card/bank before leaving to inform them what countries you will be using your cards and to check your daily spending limit and increase or decrease as you see fit. You don’t want your card declined due to safety precautions when trying to use them.
Most of all, spend wisely, and enjoy your vacation!