February 21, 2011 10:48 ET

Foreign Currency Expert Offers Money Saving Tips For Traveling Abroad

Travelex's President Jon Dario Shares How New Technology Plays An Important Role in Accessing Money Overseas

NEW YORK, NEW YORK--(Marketwire - Feb. 21, 2011) - The world leader in foreign currency is advising travelers that new technology overseas is making it more necessary than ever to be well prepared before a trip abroad, while also reminding them that getting stuck with unused foreign cash can be costly – and unnecessary.

According to Jon Dario, president of Travelex Currency Services Inc., like anything else in life, the motto of those planning overseas trips should be, "let the buyer beware."

"Traveling abroad can be stressful and potentially more costly than necessary," said Dario. "Folks are preoccupied with remembering documentation, prescriptions, and the small plastic containers needed for air travel. Yet they often forget to think about purchasing foreign currency until the last minute and don't take the time to learn about foreign transaction fees, which type and amount of foreign currency they need or if their credit or ATM card will even work overseas."

Dario shares practical advice on what to be aware of when making purchases out of the country.

Learn About Local Payment Methods

Approximately 22 countries, including Canada, Western Europe, Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico have adopted chip and Personal Identification Number (PIN) credit card technology. These cards are equipped with a "chip" versus the traditional American magnetic strip. Once read by a chip payment reader, the cards require a PIN number to complete the purchase, making it less vulnerable to identity fraud than magnetic strip cards. Overseas merchants who have switched to chip and PIN technology can be reluctant to accept magnetic strip cards. It's particularly problematic at automated ticket kiosks at places such as train stations, gas pumps and parking garages where there are no cashiers. Travelex recently launched the first chip & PIN Cash Passport™ card, available in Euros and British Pounds that utilizes chip and PIN technology. This new pre-loaded card is convenient and safe compared to carrying loads of cash. The card can be used wherever MasterCard is accepted, and it also still includes a traditional magnetic strip, for those merchants not yet using chip and PIN technology.

Understand Your Foreign Currency Options

Many travelers expect to be able to purchase foreign currency when they arrive at their destination at the same rates they viewed online or in the newspaper. However, travellers should beware of online and newspaper rates as they are only available to institutions where extremely large amounts of currencies are exchanged. Regular consumers will pay a "retail" rate for their currency, similar to the markup that the majority of retailers charge. Travelers can get more for their money by utilizing foreign currency retailers who offer special deals – just be sure to inquire about fees upfront. It's important to understand the full cost of buying foreign currency as opposed to simply looking at the exchange rate. Ask about additional items such as extra service charges and fees to return unused currency. At the end of a trip, these fees can quickly erase the savings from what may appear to be a good rate.

Avoid the Freeze

Contact your bank or credit card company before traveling and advise them you are traveling abroad and to mark your account with that information. Many card issuers have automatic alerts to freeze cards when spending patterns become irregular (such as charges from Asia when you reside in Connecticut). It's a real hassle to have to call your bank from overseas to unlock your card, or worse having your card frozen and blocked from use for the duration of your travels.

Exchange Unused Cash

According to market research, U.S. travelers return with more than $2 billion in unused foreign currency each year but they don't exchange it. In today's economic climate, it's even more wasteful -- consumers want to ensure that they are getting great value for their unused foreign currency when they return home. Travelex offers a $0 Fee Buy Back program, which allows customers to return their cash without a fee at the prevailing market exchange rate.

For more information on Travelex or to locate a Travelex retail store to purchase the new Travelex chip & PIN Cash Passport, visit Travelex US.

About Travelex:

Travelex is the world leader in the foreign currency business, with more stores, more airport relationships, and more annual transactions than any competitor. Travelex has more than 700 retail stores across 30 countries at key airport, seaport, rail and tourist locations. Travelex is also one of the world's leading providers of outsourced travel money to banks, credit unions and travel agents. Among the company's innovative services is Cash Passport™, which allows users to preload their travel budget onto a convenient card for safe and convenient use in millions of ATMs, shops, and restaurants worldwide. Cash Passport is PIN and signature protected and is not connected to the user's bank account, thereby minimizing the risk of identity theft due to the loss or theft of a Cash Passport.

The Euro and British Pound Cash Passport is issued by West Suburban Bank®, pursuant to license by MasterCard International.

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