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Q: I’m taking a trip to Europe at the end of the summer and I was wondering what the best credit card is to use in foreign countries. Are there any cards that won’t charge a fee for these transactions?
A: Since we all want to save money, your best bet is to use a card that doesn’t charge fees on foreign transactions. Three companies that don’t charge a fee are Capital One, Discover, and Charles Schwab. Your local credit union may not charge a fee either.
Your second criteria for choosing a card should be how widely it is accepted. Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted internationally than Discover or American Express, so that just leaves a Capital One credit card or a Charles Schwab debit card. Any Capital One card will work, but the Capital One Venture card is good if you’re looking to rack up miles for some more European vacations. If you find any other cards that carry a Visa or MasterCard logo and have 0% foreign transaction fees, feel free to use those as well.
Just like in the States, there may be some stores that only accept cash, so you’ll want to carry around some Euros too. If you’re stopping in any countries that don’t use the Euro, such as Switzerland or England, stock up on Swiss francs or pounds. If you can, do the currency exchange at a bank instead of an airport, and you’ll get a better rate. ATMs will also give you good rates if you don’t want to carry around cash, but be aware that you will be charged an ATM fee, as well as the higher cash advance interest rate if you’re using credit.
A tip for those going on European vacations for the first time: when your credit card company sees a bunch of purchases in California, then suddenly one in Italy, it may throw up a red flag. If you don’t want your purchase denied because of a fraud alert, call your credit card company ahead of time and let them know that you’ll be vacationing in Europe.