GOING ABROAD? HAVE MONEY SAVVY, WILL TRAVEL

Many Dallasites who travel abroad have learned how to save money by taking the correct types of currency with them and by knowing how to buy goods when they get there. But for others, traveling out of the country can be a confusing and frustrating experience.

Leslie Deak, chief executive officer of the retail division of Deak-Perera, the largest and oldest precious metals and foreign currency exchange firm in the United States, has some tips on how to make traveling easier. The New York-based company has several currency exchange offices in Dallas, including a currency exchange booth at D/FW airport.

Because Deak understands the intricacies of the foreign exchange market, he knows how to save money while traveling. He says he typically travels with five forms of currency: a small amount of U.S. cash, U.S. traveler’s checks (20 to 25 percent of his total currency), the foreign country’s currency or its traveler’s checks (the remaining 50 to 75 percent) and finally, widely accepted credit cards such as VISA, MasterCard or American Express.

The first rule of thumb, Deak says, is to avoid paying a commission to get traveler’s checks. He advises finding a financial institution that offers them free. The same principle holds true for traveler’s checks obtained abroad.

Secondly, the poorest rates for exchanging dollars for foreign currencies are usually found at hotels and small shops, Deak says. You can lose 10 to 15 percent of the currency’s value, so it’s worth the extra effort to go to a bank to get the optimum exchange rate.

Often, your purchasing power can be increased if you use cash to buy goods overseas. But that doesn’t mean that credit cards aren’t a good way to save-and possibly earn- money while traveling. For example, Deak says, “When you pay with a credit card, it takes until the credit card reaches the processing center before you get charged for it. So you are basically playing the exchange rate.” Sometimes, items purchased abroad may not appear on a bill for three months or longer. If the dollar becomes stronger, you can earn money on the exchange rate, in addition to the interest earned on the money you float during the billing process.

Deak predicts that this summer may be the best time to travel to Europe for several years, because the dollar may become weaker due to the uncertainty that typically plagues the U.S. economy before a presidential election.

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