Never Overpay When Traveling Internationally Again

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Amalfi coast by Naples, south Italy
Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock
Traveling internationally has always been a favorite hobby. It's a great way to learn about new cultures, try new foods (and wines) and get a taste of history. I've savored limoncello while overlooking the beautiful Amalfi Coast; I've toured the streets of Cuba on a scooter; and I've walked over thousands of years of history in Jerusalem's Old City.

Unfortunately, the high cost of airline tickets and hotels have restricted me to about one trip annually. However, over the years, I've been able to figure out a couple of tricks that have saved me a significant amount of time and money when traveling abroad. Here are three.

1. Save Time with Global Entry

There's nothing worse than waiting in a long line at the airport, especially after you've gotten off a 12-hour flight. Now, thanks to Global Entry from the Department of Homeland Security, you may not have to. The program's main benefit is allowing you to skip long immigration and customs lines when re-entering the United States. If you take one international trip a year, that equates to over an hour saved a year plus a huge reduction in stress. Global Entry membership includes TSA precheck benefits, which allows you to go through expedited security lines for both domestic and international flights.

To apply, fill out an application and pay $100 for five years of membership. Once your application has been processed, go to an international airport with a Global Entry enrollment center for a 15-minute interview and fingerprinting. Avoiding security, immigration and customs lines is well worth essentially $20 a year.

2. Save Money with Credit Cards

The first time I traveled internationally, I didn't even know about foreign transaction fees, but I learned quickly. Many credit cards charge such a 2 percent to 5 percent fee when you use your card outside of the United States.

The secret to avoiding these charges is a credit card without foreign transaction fees. I use the Sapphire Preferred card from Chase (JPM), but other cards with this feature include American's Express' (AXP) pricey Platinum card or the free Quicksilver Cash Rewards card from Capital One (COF).

3. Save Money on ATM Withdrawals

More irritating than paying to use your credit card is paying to get access to your own money. Many banks charge various fees to use another bank's ATM outside the U.S. You may get charged an ATM fee by your own bank ($2-$5), an ATM fee from the bank you're using ($2-$5) and foreign transaction fees from your bank on the money you're withdrawing (1 percent to 3 percent). On a $100 withdrawal, you might only receive $87 after fees (3 percent foreign transaction fees and $10 bank fee).

One solution is opening a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor checking account, which charges absolutely no ATM fees or foreign transaction fees on any transactions. I opened a Schwab (SCHW) checking account last year for my Italy trip, and it felt fabulous to withdraw money from any ATM I wanted.

Roger Ma is the founder of lifelaidout, a personal finance blog that helps others identify value and save time, money, and energy in their everyday lives.

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4 Comments

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Nico Saraceno

Thanks for the tips, Roger. If you're in need of an international cell phone plan, G3 Wireless (g3wireless.com) provides an convenient way to save some extra cash. There are no bundles or contracts, and the plans are pay-as-you-go. The fact that it offers services to over 70 countries couldn't be any more helpful, especially when I was visiting Germany last month.

August 06 2014 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Terry and Mandy

The article had very little to offer in ways to save money when travelling internationally. Given the price of airfare, hotels, and food for most trips, the credit card savings will be the least of your expenses.

August 04 2014 at 12:32 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Terry and Mandy's comment
jpfmtka

Spot on... the ancillary stuff can really add up. We just returned from a week long vacation so that we could pay the "neighborhood helper" $60 to water our patio plants while dropping more than $800 to the vet/kennel for taking care of kitty and doggie while we were gone.

August 04 2014 at 2:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jpfmtka's comment
loveeurope2

I have the same costs as you when it comes to pets. I found a lovely young girl, who will take care of my 2 cats in my house, they are even allowed to sleep on her bed and they are happy troopers. I pay $30 a day.

August 04 2014 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down