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Cards or cash?

Surrey, United...
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for Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Crete
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Cards or cash?

My son is due to travel to LA in a couple of weeks and isn't sure whether he should take, cash, Thomas cook loaded card, debit card and or credit card. He will be travelling around for three weeks and has only paid for his car hire, your advice would be much appreciated :)

Dublin, California
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1. Re: Cards or cash?

His credit card will probably charge a foreign currency transaction fee. Mine charges 3%, which to me is not worth it. Although for hotels he'll probably need to book using a credit card. I'd use bank ATM card to withdraw cash from ATM machines.

San Diego
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2. Re: Cards or cash?

In general when you travel having a credit card with you (not just a debit card) is a good idea in case of emergencies and also to use to check into hotels and for your rental car.

IF you use a debit card there will be a large hold on extra money on the card that may take quite a while to be lifted. Cash is always a good idea but in order to access cash you would need an ATM card to withdraw USA currency from a bank. You will have to do your own homework with the math involved to see what fees your bank will charge for using a credit card abroad or for withdrawing from an ATM. The loaded cash cards also come with fees in various forms . The fees are all part of the cost of the trip so you cannot really get away without any but you can get as few as possible. No one here can tell you which way will work out best for you.

I have a credit card that does not charge any currency fees and my bank allows me 2 free ATM withdrawals a month anywhere in the world. Your banks will most likely be different.

San Francisco, Ca
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3. Re: Cards or cash?

He will need/prefer a credit card to check into a hotel, rent a car, hire a bicycle or do anything else requiring a deposit of some sort. Debit cards are very challenging to travel with here, as each of the aforementioned will place a "hold" on available funds for one to several days after a transaction, which can severely limit his spending.

Yes, a credit card will charge a foreign currency transaction fee, but so will money exchange companies if he brings cash. And then he'll have the hassle of trying to find an exchange location.

Best best is a combo of credit card, cash point card so he can withdraw US$ as needed and a small amount of US$ cash to start off the trip with.

Fortaleza, CE
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4. Re: Cards or cash?

I have 3 credit cards. One charges a foreign currency transaction charge, two do not. The dangers of carrying around large sums of cash are obvious. Great for small expenditures. Absolutely need a cc. I like a cc more than a debit card, for being able to dispute a charge before actually paying.

Surrey, United...
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5. Re: Cards or cash?

Thank you all for your responses ....I am going to appear really dumb here....but what does this mean??

"IF you use a debit card there will be a large hold on extra money on the card that may take quite a while to be lifted."

San Diego
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6. Re: Cards or cash?

Hotels and rental car companies routinely add extra money onto the bill as a "hold" to insure that you don't damage the room/car. When you use a credit card the hold is not so noticeable but on a debit card it may well be more money than you actually have in the account and you won't have access to the cash as long as the hold is in place. The hold goes away and you don't actually lose that money but it can be inconvenient if you don't know about it and you try to get cash or use the card while the hold is in place.

San Jose, California
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7. Re: Cards or cash?

Not dumb, don't worry :-) The hold applies only to hotel and car rentals, not regular purchases. Its basically a refundable deposit. For all other purchases, they just debit the actual amount of the transaction.

I would use credit card for hotel, car rental, any larger purchases. Then get cash from the ATM for daily spending with the credit card as a backup.

Surrey, United...
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8. Re: Cards or cash?

Hi there

Thank you both for the information as I have never travelled to the states I had never heard of this...especially useful information with my son who has limited resources :-)

San Francisco, Ca
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9. Re: Cards or cash?

When you check into a hotel or hire a car/bike, the merchant tells the credit/debit card company to reserve a certain amount of money against your final charges, to protect them if you damage or steal anything. In the case of a credit card, this reserve amount is temporarily deducted from your available credit limit. In the case of a debit card, it is temporarily taken out of your account and placed in the merchant account. When you pay your final bill (or return the items without any damage), the merchant will tell the credit/debit card company to release those funds back to you for your use.

So with a debit card, it's as if you've given that merchant your cash for that time period, as you can't access it. And with some debit cards, it can take several business days between when the merchant releases your "hold" and the debit card company actually puts the money back in your account.

Unfortunately, there is no way for the merchant to speed this up to get you the money sooner. The debit card companies say they can't speed it up, that it's up to the actual bank. And good luck getting someone at your bank to figure out how to get your money back quickly!

So on a week trip, if you check into/out of 2 hotels, rent one car and a bike, you'll probably have $1000 or more in "holds" on your account by the end.

Now, just to make this explanation longer, most hotels and some car hire companies will allow you to place a cash deposit instead. But that's a hassle, too, carrying around several hundred dollars that you can't use for anything else.

Surrey, United...
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10. Re: Cards or cash?

Thank you for taking the time to explain this in more detail :-) as he will be traveling for three weeks and staying in four different locations and hiring a car I would imagine his "hold" will be quite substantial, I believe he has a £4k credit limit, so hopefully that should cover it..