My International Trip Toolkit

I know a couple of weeks ago, I said I’d be writing about online savings accounts, but how can I think about personal finance when I’ll be going off to Italy in less than a week! As such, I thought a much more fitting topic would be discussing what types of cards I’ll be bringing with me to help me save time and money and make my travels much more enjoyable. Here goes…

Bypass Security and Customs Lines with Global Entry/TSA Precheck

Global Entry CardI must say, signing up for Global Entry last year was a great decision! I got to use both Global Entry and TSA Precheck a couple of weeks ago going to Cancun and coming back and it was a real treat. With TSA Precheck, I got to basically bypass a 15 minute security line, did not have to take off my shoes or belt, or take out my laptop or liquids. Amazing! On the way back from Cancun, instead of having to wait in the awful customs line, I zipped right through to the Global Entry kiosk, pushed a couple of buttons, and I was through! The best part? Global Entry (w/TSA Precheck) is typically $100 for 5 years, but my Amex Platinum card reimbursed the fee.

Relax at the Airport with Lounge Access

Amex Platinum CardI definitely don’t travel enough to get lounge access based on status, but with the Amex Platinum card, I get access to the American, Delta, and US Airways lounges for free – and I can bring up to 2 guests!



Priority PassFor international lounge access, the Amex Platinum card gives me complimentary membership to Priority Pass, which allows me to get myself into a variety of lounges globally. One of the downsides is guests aren’t free though – they cost $27 each.


What’s so good about these lounges anyway? The bathrooms are cleaner, they’re less chaotic, they have free water and snacks, and they usually have free wifi.

Pay for Expenses Using Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees

It seems like there are a lot of cards now that don’t charge foreign transaction fees – I currently carry around the following no fee cards:

Amex Platinum
Amex Platinum Card




Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card




Chase Ink Bold
Ink Bold




So which one will I use? I’ll probably mainly use my Chase Ink Bold card until I meet the minimum spend for the sign-on bonus and then revert to my sexy Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Get Cash with Absolutely No Fees

Every international trip I’ve been on in the last couple of years, I’ve always gotten cash from the ATM, since it’s suppose to be the “best” exchange rate. The problem is when I did that, the ATM charged me a fee, my bank charged me a fee, and I got charged a foreign transaction fee. That’s a lot of frictional costs!

Charles Schwab Debit CardEnter Chuck Schwab. Chuck has no ATMs around, and as such, he reimburses you each month for ATM fees that you incur from other banks. In addition, Chucky doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees. As a result, when I go to get out cash at any of the Italy ATMs, I may get charged by the ATM, but I’m not going to get charged by Chuck, and I’m not going to incur a foreign transaction fee. Best of all, the fee the ATM charges me will be reimbursed by Chuck at the end of the month. That’s right – basically no fees!

So that’s what’s in my wallet! I’ll save time skipping security and custom lines, relax in the airport lounges to keep me sane, and spend money freely while minimizing frictional costs. See you in a couple of weeks!

Other Resources
International Travel Tips
Israel Travel Tips and Itinerary
I’ve Got This Burning Feeling…
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Review
Is the American Express Platinum Card Worth It?

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I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERâ„¢, founder of financial planning firm lifelaidout, and a NYC-based licensed real estate agent. I write extensively about personal finance and real estate on lifelaidout, Forbes, and TheStreet.

2 Responses to “My International Trip Toolkit”

  • I love my Charles Schwab debit card. NEVER have I paid for an ATM fee- US (including the ridiculous Vegas casino ATMs) or abroad. I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t get on board!

    • roger says:

      Yeah, I can’t wait to use it next week! I had heard a little about Schwab last year, but kept thinking it was too good to be true, so I didn’t open an account. There really isn’t a catch though, plus Schwab has been good to me so far. They overnighted me my ATM card so I could use it for the trip!

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