4 clever ways to share bills with friends while traveling abroad

For her Italian vacation last year, Angela Feher and a friend from London had to find a viable way to share the cost.

“We looked at PayPal and it would have cost us a fee. And Venmo didn’t work,” said Feher, communications manager at TripIt, a travel planning app based in San Francisco.

Despite the rise of peer-to-peer apps to send money online for free and easily, many options are not available or have usage restrictions outside of the US, including the Venmo, Cell, and Squares Cash app. You need a variety of inexpensive strategies, an app, or something else to split meals and other expenses when traveling internationally with one or more friends.

First, have the right cards and cash

Before you go, consider payment options that don’t charge you for international usage, and see if your fellow travelers have them too:

  • Credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards charge a fee, usually around 3% of the purchase amount, for transactions made in other countries and made online by overseas merchants. See if you have or can get a card that holds foreign purchases free of charge.

  • Debit cards with no foreign ATM fees. Since most US banks abroad do not have ATMs, it is common for a fee to be charged for cash withdrawals abroad. But some online banks have debit cards that don’t charge international transaction fees or ATMs, and will even reimburse you if an ATM operator charges a fee.

  • Foreign currency. Your bank or credit union is probably the cheapest place To get hard currency for your travels, visit a branch if that is an option. Airport kiosks and overseas hotels usually do not offer cheap exchange rates.

On her Italian vacation, Feher paid for meals and activities mainly with a travel credit card that did not charge foreign transaction fees; Her friend usually used euros that she picked up before leaving London.

Then choose how you want the cost to be split

1. Rotate who pays

The swap might be the easiest. That worked best for Feher. For example, she paid for the duo’s train tickets from Venice to Florence while her friend paid for a pasta course.

This strategy can work for large groups as well. Zarak Khan celebrated his 30th with 13 friends in Barcelona for a week. A friend kept track of all expenses and found that at the end of the week only one more had to pay $ 14 to make things even out.

With this strategy, “you give up a little bit of accuracy, but you gain a lot in general happiness,” said Khan, behavioral innovation director at Maritz, a St. Louis company that designs down-to-earth incentive, loyalty, and travel programs and administered in behavioral science.

“You feel generous or you feel treated,” says Khan. “Everyone wins.”

2. Use one app for tracking, another for paying later

Check out a group expense tracker. Instead of keeping receipts or using spreadsheets, free and highly rated apps like Splitwise and Splid organize IOUs by group and person. You can split the expenses evenly or adjust the split e.g. For example, in a situation where in a group of six one person pays 75% and another pays 25% for the group’s city tour. When you want to keep your travel budget under control, an app that documents who owes what can be reassuring.

Refund in the USA When you come back you can use venmo, cash, or some other payment method to put everyone up. This way, you can avoid currency conversion fees.

3. Send money with an international money transfer app

You may want a different app to help you settle your accounts with friends abroad. Some apps like Wise (formerly TransferWise) and OFX Send money between currencies online without the high costs banks charge for international transfers.

4. Use the split function of an app if available

Some apps allow more than one person to pay. Airbnb and Uber both offer this split feature that can eliminate the question of who pays for specific accommodations or trips. While it won’t be an option for all expenses, it is convenient and well worth paying attention to.

However you and your friends cover the costs, a plan can make traveling with a partner or a group a lot less stressful.

Kelly Soderlund, travel trends expert at travel website Hipmunk, notes how this can make everyone happier.

“The last thing you want to do when you travel is to feel compelled to pick up bills for friends without them appreciating or recognizing it,” she says.

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