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Travelling Abroad
April 6, 2018
7:43 am
fionag11
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What are your best practices for paying for things while travelling outside Canada? Credit cards, ATM machines, get some currency converted before you leave? How do you get the best exchange rates and the smallest fees?

United States, Europe, where-ever people have experience, I'd be interested to hear.sf-cool

April 6, 2018
7:48 am
Peter
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I travel to the US for business a lot and as much as possible I use credit cards that don't charge a 2.50% foreign exchange fee. For better or for worse, the bulk of the discussions in the credit card forum on this site lately are about such cards.

April 6, 2018
8:20 am
Top It Up
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Personally, I would take a pass on converting currency before you leave with the exception of Danish Kroner - those Danish banks charge a fee of 2.5% on the ATM disbursed amounts … nasty, nasty, nasty ... both locals and tourists pay that nasty disbursement fee - never mind the additional International transaction fee and the FX transaction fee, if applicable. European airports have ATM machines in the arrivals area - JUST be sure to use Bank ATMs and not ATMs like Travelex, which charge unnecessary handling fees on top of Fx fees.

I have never been able to pay with an Debit Card in Europe, nor do I know anyone else who has been able to - although I don't know why you would want to. Many bank ATMs in Europe now offer a contactless option for cash withdrawals.

As a frequent traveller to Europe I’ve found several European countries to be nearly 100% cashless meaning nearly 100% of all POS terminals accept contactless pay, the safest way to pay with CCs. Of course there are maximums to contactless pay so you will need your PIN number to handle things like hotel bills. I use very little actual cash while travelling BUT you will need some say if you're in a fabulous food market and you want to make a sandwich out of a couple of slices of that great looking headcheese. AND it is easy to rid yourself of foreign currencies by paying down your hotel bill at checkout, with the cash you have left over - no need to worry about the taxi fare to the airport or train stations ALL taxis take CCs.

Dynamic Currency Conversion has become insidious - ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS pay in the currency of THE country you are travelling in ... ALWAYS.

I never pre-pay for hotels and always take the pay at check-out option - I find the price difference / savings to not be great enough to go the pre-pay route.

April 6, 2018
2:31 pm
Koogie
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We use a CC that doesn't charge the forex fee as well (Amazon. Replaced with Home Trust). Works well in the US and better in Europe.

I have a USD account, so just take cash out of it for our many trips to the US.
Also keep a stash of USD, GBP and Euro cash bills at home for use on future trips.

Always dump the coinage in the charity bins at the airports in Europe though.

April 6, 2018
3:06 pm
Nehpets
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For frequent travelers to USA best arrangement is to maintain CDN & USD accounts at TD in Canada.

TD operates branches throughout Eastern US, so by maintaining a USD account in the US, TD transfers are instant and seamless at no charge.

As a Canadian client in a US TD bank, you are entitled to a US based credit card.

April 6, 2018
10:08 pm
John Wayne (Marion)
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Keep in mind some immigration folks like to harass you for funds that are available to you if you are on a long stay. You must prove you can support yourself and don't plan to work in another country illegally. I was harassed in both the Toronto and Calgary airport when travelling to the USA and not having a lot of cash because I was supposed to be prepared for a power outage or a brown out...ha! Trips were both for less than 14 days.

For USA I take a couple hundred USA and use credit cards and bring most of the cash back. For UK I had cash only and very minimal usage of credit. We were pretty much on a all inclusive trip.

Keep in mind other European countries are close to corrupt or are tax evaders so sometimes a lot of Cash only. So check before you go.

For ATM....make sure your ATM card will work on the countries banking system. so perhaps a BIG 5 ATM card and a Credit Union Card??

And lastly......I have only used my ATM card as a debit card 4 times!!! So for me debit card usage is out!!!

April 7, 2018
5:59 am
Top It Up
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NEVER travel outside of Canada without proper travel health insurance ... NEVER.

April 7, 2018
8:20 am
John Wayne (Marion)
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Top It Up said
NEVER travel outside of Canada without proper travel health insurance ... NEVER.  

The key word is “proper”. When one answers all the questions honestly one assumes they are covered. Right? Nope! Where is there an honest insurance company in Canada?

April 7, 2018
10:15 am
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I have never had to make a claim - furiously knocking on wood - but I hope the correct answer to "proper" is as simple as, using a reputable provider.

I do know, hearing from others, that the affirmation ...

I solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will tell the truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth.

never rings truer than when applying for travel health insurance.

April 7, 2018
11:12 am
Kidd
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https://globalnews.ca/news/3918874/insurance-provider-cancels-policy-leaves-toronto-man-stranded-in-german-hospital/

There are 100's of examples where insurance companies laugh all the way to the bank.... wait they are the banks, hmmm?

https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/man-hurt-in-mexico-dies-after-5-day-wait-for-ontario-hospital-bed-1.3829443

Top it up.... Don't get my blood pressure up.sf-surprised

April 7, 2018
11:52 am
Norman1
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Mary said

The key word is “proper”. When one answers all the questions honestly one assumes they are covered. Right? Nope! Where is there an honest insurance company in Canada?  

The standard is higher than that: One has to answer all the questions correctly.

Insurance company will suspect fraud if one says no pre-existing conditions on the questionnaire, one collapses in Cancun a week later, and the hospital finds elevated blood sugar from undiagnosed diabetes.

April 7, 2018
12:26 pm
John Wayne (Marion)
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So saying no pre existing but you have undiagnosed condition that needs attention or you have say a broken arm and the undiagnosed condition is discovered. You are hooped? Yes or no?

April 7, 2018
12:54 pm
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fionag11 said
What are your best practices for paying for things while travelling outside Canada?  

I think it's essential that you use credit cards and debit cards from financial institutions that provide IMMEDIATE alerts to you, via text messaging and/or emails, of any possible fraudulent card activity on your cards.

April 7, 2018
2:34 pm
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Mary said
So saying no pre existing but you have undiagnosed condition that needs attention or you have say a broken arm and the undiagnosed condition is discovered. You are hooped? Yes or no?  

You're asking hypothetical questions that are impossible for anyone on this forum to answer.

April 7, 2018
2:51 pm
Peseta
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For credit card transactions, I use Fido MasterCard. They charge 2.5% forex fee but then give 3% back at the end of the year, so you end up with 0.5% net cash back. Another option is Home Trust Visa which doesn't charge you any forex fee at all.

For cash withdrawals, I use Tangerine's no-fee checking account. Tangerine is a member of Scotiabank's Global ATM Alliance which allows you to withdraw money fee-free in a number of countries including USA, UK, Germany, Spain, France, India, Chile, Australia, etc. In countries where there is no Global ATM Alliance bank, the fee for withdrawal is $2 (which is the lowest in the country). Just Google "Global ATM Alliance" to see the list of countries and participating banks.

I avoid exchanging money at banks, airports, hotels, currency exchange kiosks at all costs. The exchange rate is often punitively high to the point of gouging.

Also, be aware of Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC): it happens when you are paying with your Canadian credit card in a foreign currency. The terminal machine will ask you if you want to:

1) pay in CAD using the local bank's exchange rate, or
2) pay in local currency.

Always pick to pay in local currency. If you choose to pay in CAD, the exchange rate could be far greater than what your Canadian credit card would charge you (in one instance in Europe, I would have paid 6% in forex fee had I chosen to pay in CAD instead of EUR).

Travel insurance-wise, there are myriad of options to choose from, but make sure that the policy you purchase is comprehensive (at least $1,000,000 in coverage) with features such as air ambulance/transportation to Canada, etc.

Safe travels!

April 7, 2018
5:08 pm
Norman1
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Mary said
So saying no pre existing but you have undiagnosed condition that needs attention or you have say a broken arm and the undiagnosed condition is discovered. You are hooped? Yes or no?  

I think that depends on the policy and the questionnaire.

I had a look at the medical questionnaire for the TravelCare Medical Plan from RBC Insurance for people age 65+. I think that would be what the daughter bought for the 84 year old Toronto man who is hospitalized in Germany.

At the top of the form, it says

You must answer ALL questions correctly or there is no coverage for ANY condition.

So, an incorrect answer will mean no coverage for anything.

However, none of the questions in the RBC Insurance questionnaire deals with undiagnosed conditions. So, undiagnosed conditions won't affect coverage with that particular policy as far as questionnaire is concerned. Need to check if there is something in the fine print of the policy though.

I noticed that the "gold" policy the Toronto man had requires a questionnaire score of zero. That means answer "No" to all the questions including

4. In the last 12 months, have you been referred for any investigations or received new treatment for any heart condition?

Parents will sometimes not pass on preliminary medical news to avoid needlessly worrying the kids. Perhaps, the father didn't tell the daughter that his doctor had heard something different in his heartbeat and ordered a cardiogram.

It had turned out to be just an individual difference. No treatment required and no need to worry the kids. Maybe the daughter didn't know and she answered that question incorrectly when she bought the policy for her Dad. sf-frown

April 8, 2018
8:33 am
Loonie
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In my experience, the travel health policies offered by the banks are the worst.
A few years back I was about to make an unexpected trip and phoned around to the banks as they were the only places open that time of day. I had them read the conditions to me. One condition was that they would not be responsible if you had any pre-existing condition, whether known to you or not. I considered tat policy completely worthless and didn't buy it. How can I be responsible for what I don't know, have no symptoms for and has not been identified by my doctor? I said this to the person on the phone, and she agreed with me.

One piece of advice that I have read is that you should only deal with someone who is "licensed to sell insurance". You can ask them this and they have to give an honest answer. If so licensed, apparently they are supposed to give you best possible advice as to what to buy in your circumstances. Get their full name, especially if dealing on the phone, so this can be followed up if necessary. In the past, the bank employees who would sell you this were not so licensed. This may have changed.

April 8, 2018
12:57 pm
Top It Up
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The hell I'm going to phone around and negotiate a travel health insurance plan with banks - why do I have to talk them ... I just go online to Blue Cross, answer ALL the questions CORRECTLY and PRESTO, I have a travel health insurance plan.

April 8, 2018
3:06 pm
Save2Retire@55
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My plans are like almost everyone's else already mentioned:

1. CC is my first choice. It used to be always Amazon Visa. Now it will be Home Trust Visa or Fido Master Card.

2. Some countries are not as cashless as we hope. These are almost all countries outside Western Europe/NA. If I am heading to one of those countries, I go with using my Tangerine debit card and withdraw cash from an ATM. Tangerine would be either free or $2. The other banks will charge as well.

In conclusion, it depends on the country and spending. Do your math and see what works better. Sometimes (rare) it ends up being cheaper to buy currency in Canada than withdrawing from an ATM.

Hope this helps.

April 8, 2018
5:25 pm
Bill
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My wife's going on a European cruise holiday and she has $500K travel insurance. She's wondering if that's enough so I said I'd ask the experts here.

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