Traveling on a budget? Try these seven money-saving hacks

As summer vacations and holidays approach, many of us are eagerly planning our next adventure abroad. 

While exploring new destinations and immersing ourselves in different cultures is undoubtedly exciting, the financial aspect of international travel can be a source of concern. 

Jason Higgs, Senior Deals Strategist at Bountii, explores seven savvy money hacks you can use to stretch your travel budget and save hundreds while enjoying your time abroad.

1) Use a no foreign transaction fee credit or debit card

Many banks charge a 3% foreign transaction fee every time you use your card abroad for purchases or ATM withdrawals. These fees can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars on a longer international trip. 

To avoid getting this high foreign transaction fee, consider using a credit or debit card that does not ask for foreign transaction fees such as Chase Sapphire Reserve, Capital One Venture, or some travel cards from various banks like Citi and Bank of America.

This allows you to pay in the local currency directly at the best interbank exchange rate without incurring any extra fees from your bank.

2) Get a travel-friendly bank account

Opening an account with a digital bank like Revolut, Wise (formerly TransferWise), or N26 that is designed specifically for international travel can save you significant money. 

“These accounts allow free ATM withdrawals abroad, no foreign transaction fees, and let you hold and exchange multiple currencies at the interbank mid-market rate,” says Jason.

This saves you from paying ATM fees, getting poor exchange rates, and other charges your regular bank may impose when using your account internationally.

3) Avoid currency conversion at hotels and shops

When making a purchase abroad, you’ll often be prompted to pay in your home currency instead of the local currency through a process called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). 

While this may sound convenient and easy, you should always decline to use DCC. The merchant sets their own exchange rate which is usually 3% to 5% worse than the daily rate your bank or card issuer would charge. Always pay in the local currency to get the best conversion rate possible.

4) Be flexible with travel dates

Being flexible with your travel dates, even by just a day or two, can unlock huge savings on flights and hotels. 

Use tools like Google Flights and Skyscanner to look for the most affordable combination of dates and times to fly. Travel during shoulder seasons or off-peak times when prices are lower. Shifting your dates by just 24 hours can sometimes save hundreds per ticket.

5) Book flights with long layovers

If your destination has an expensive airport to fly directly into, look for cheaper flights with long layovers that route through a major hub nearby. Then book a separate low-cost flight from the hub to your final destination. 

This ‘hacking’ of flight routings can provide major savings over booking a more direct flight. Just make sure you have enough time to make your connection.

6) Use travel rewards credit cards

Take advantage of travel rewards credit cards that earn points or miles for your spending. These rewards can then be redeemed for free flights, hotel stays, upgrades and more. 

The savings you can potentially get from redeeming rewards can immediately offset the annual fees you have to pay on premium travel cards. Just be sure to pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.

7) Buy an eSIM to save on data roaming charges

Using your normal phone abroad can be eye-waveringly expensive – especially if you travel beyond the EU. However, there is a way around returning to a large bill: buy an eSIM to save on roaming charges when going abroad.

You can buy eSIM cards for specific countries or regions, and can choose the number of days and data you need. Once you’ve bought your eSIM via an app, you just need to make a few easy changes to your settings to switch to a local network when you travel.

If you get stuck, eSIM apps like Airalo have helpful customer service agents available on chat to talk you through accessing your data.

Do your research and save money

The key is being flexible, doing research, and leveraging the right tools and strategies. In no time, you can stretch your travel budget significantly further on your next international trip.