Secrets for International Trip Savings Hidden in Fine Print, Travel Options


(Los Angeles, July 19, 2005) — With a weak dollar and high gas prices worldwide, international travelers are looking for ways to stretch their money further on summer vacation trips, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Travelers can save money by prepaying most of their trip expenses in the U.S. and making sure they use a credit card with no markup on the exchange rate when they do spend while overseas, Auto Club experts say.

"Name-brand credit cards such as Visa have different policies on international exchange rates, depending on the bank that issues the cards," said Mike Johnson, the Auto Club's vice president for marketing products and services. "Consumers should read the fine print on their credit card agreements to find the best one for them to use. Some credit cards charge a 2 to 4 percent premium over and above the normal Visa or MasterCard exchange rate when consumers make international purchases, and that amount can add up on a long summer vacation." The AAA Visa and MasterCard, for example, do not include an additional surcharge on international purchases.

Another way to avoid high exchange rates is prepayment of travel costs. Many people booking through AAA Travel this year have opted for European cruises, which allow tourists to prepay their lodging, transport and most of their meals in American dollars, said Diana Meinhold, the Auto Club's vice president for travel products and services.

"European cruises are very popular this year because of the weak dollar," Meinhold said.

Overseas travelers may still need to use foreign currency at some point on their trip, even if they pay mostly by credit card or travelers' checks. Travelers can obtain a small amount of foreign currency in popular denominations by visiting an Auto Club office ahead of time to purchase a "TipPak". They are designed to be conveniently used to pay for food at the airport, taxi fares and other expenses which usually require smaller denominated currency. TipPaks are available in Euros, Mexican pesos, Canadian dollars, Japanese yen and British pound sterling. Travelers' checks are also available at Auto Club offices.

Travelers who will need at least $300 of foreign currency for their trips can order it online from in over 100 different currencies, and avoid the expensive currency exchange fees at the airport.

The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest AAA affiliate, has served members since 1900. Today, Auto Club members benefit by the organization's roadside assistance, financial products, travel agency and trip planning services, highway and transportation safety programs, insurance products and services and automotive pricing, car buying and financing programs. Information about these products and services is available at