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More for Your Money: Readers share hard-won wisdom

Our travel readers share tips regarding money and credit cards while vacationing.

By Catharine Hamm

February 17, 2013

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One of the biggest trouble spots for travelers is the topic of money — how to spend wisely on vacation, what to do in foreign countries, how much, what credit cards and much more.

When we asked Times readers for their travel tips, many responded with dandy money-related ideas. This special edition of More for Your Money is by those readers, whose wisdom guides them — and now us.

Before plunging ahead with those tips, I'll add one that Marybeth Bond, editor of the GutsyTraveler.com and a Saturday speaker at the L.A. Times Travel Show, which also runs next Sunday sent to me as part of a compendium of tips for travelers. You can see the nine others, but here was one that struck me: "Cash is king," she said. "If there's an emergency, and power is out (tornado, etc.), you won't be able to charge with your credit cards. Taxi drivers sometimes demand cash too. I survived a tornado on Cape Cod, Mass., but ran out of cash quickly and couldn't buy batteries for flashlights or fresh food."

Though it's not a great idea to walk around with a wad of cash, having some tucked away could get you out of a jam.

And these tips from readers could do the same. Here's what they advise you should always take:

One dollar bills. I take $100 in new $1 bills. The greenback is very popular in countries where the local currency is unstable.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

U.S. currency that's in good shape. In some countries, a tiny tear or stray ink mark on the bill can render it practically useless. Currency exchange offices can be extremely picky about the condition of the money they will change.

Velvet Dallesandro

Culver City

A four-digit PIN for your ATM card abroad. Many European ATMs won't take anything longer.

Larry Blanton and Starr Sachs

Valencia

Your credit-card company's call-collect number. You may not be able to reach the (800) from overseas.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

A few personal checks in your wallet. In Kenya I saved $300 on some earrings. The owner of the shop saw my personal check in my wallet as I was pulling out my credit card. He said he would cut the price if I used the check instead of a credit card. I also used this in Athens. It did not work in some other cities, but it's worth a try. They don't take up much room.

Judy Alexander

Torrance

Purchase at least $150 worth of foreign currency for the country you'll be visiting. Definitely helpful when you get to a foreign airport and want some handy cash for a cab, food, etc., before you get to a local bank. But call ahead to ensure that the bank or organization where you're getting your currency has it on hand.

Marsha Smith

Los Angeles

Finally, two tips on credit cards — one from me and one from a reader. Mine is this: There's a lot of angst about credit cards' foreign transaction fees, and rightly so. That's what cards tack on for converting the currency you buy in to U.S. dollars. It has always seemed a rip-off to me because how hard is it to convert 5 pounds to $15.68 using http://www.oanda.com? If I can do it in the blink of an eye, anyone can. These fees can really add up, so I suggest getting a card that doesn't charge them. You can read about those cards at NerdWallet, CardHub and others.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice is from reader Carol Garris of Westlake Village: "Advise your bank and credit-card companies when you're traveling, especially out of the country. If you don't, you may have trouble accessing your ATM and changing currency or getting money. When we arrived at the Istanbul airport, we tried to change money at the ATM and were unable to."

In my recent experience, some companies I called wanted to know and others didn't seem to care. But better to be safe than penniless in Paris or Pittsburgh.

travel@latimes.com