Indonesia Expat
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An American Abroad: Tips for Saving Money and Avoiding Unnecessary Fees on your Indonesian Trip


Whether visiting the temples and mountains of Java, exploring the sprawling melting pot of Jakarta, or finding tranquility on the beaches of Bali, it is undeniable that Indonesia has so much to offer the intrepid traveler. As with any form of travel, there are costs involved when planning and making your journey to Indonesia. This guide gives two quick tips on how to save money and avoid unnecessary bank fees on your Indonesian trip.

Tip 1: Get a Travel Credit Card with No Foreign Transaction Fees

It’s highly likely that flights and hotels will be unavoidable expenses in your journey to and around Indonesia. When booking flights and hotels, the right travel credit card can save you an abundance of money. Travel credit cards are designed for intrepid travelers, conferring rewards such as points on flights, hotel bookings, and other travel costs as well as providing travel-centric benefits like airport lounge access and travel credit. The combination of these rewards and benefits can put money back into the cardholders pocket and make their journeys less stressful and more enjoyable. If you are an individual who travels often and is a responsible card user, a travel rewards card could be a fantastic tool in your repertoire in planning your Indonesian journey.

What should I look for in a Travel Credit Card?

With a wide range of travel credit cards on the market, it can be hard to choose one that is right for you. Here are some pointers in helping you choose the right travel card for your Indonesian trip:

How you earn points and how you redeem points: Travel credit cards earn points, sometimes known as “miles” on more airline-centric cards. Depending on the card, points will be earned through different types of purchases, for example, plane tickets or hotel bookings. Most cards have multiple ways to redeem points which affect the value of your points. Before deciding on a travel card, learn how you can redeem points for the most value.

Annual Fees: Many travel cards have annual fees attached. A travel card can range from no annual fee to over US$500+ per year depending on the card. A general rule of thumb is that the higher a travel card’s annual fee, the greater the rewards and benefits. Before applying for a travel card with an annual fee, make sure that you will get more value in rewards and benefits from the card than you will pay in fees. If you are someone who travels once a year and seldom stays in hotels, there is little point in paying US$500+ a year in fees for a card you will rarely use.

Foreign Transaction Fees: When choosing a travel card for destinations such as Indonesia, a card with no foreign transaction fees is vital and can save you a ton of money. Generally, foreign transaction fees sit around three percent, which can add up to a large sum during your journey. When comparing potential travel cards, make sure to look for this.

Benefits: Travel cards, not so surprisingly, come with benefits to accommodate intrepid travelers. Such benefits can include a range of travel insurances, rental car perks, hotel room upgrades, airport lounge access, and more. In most cases, the higher the annual fee of a card the better the benefits, so if you are in the market for a lavish benefits suite (for example personal concierges, premium lounge access, and travel credits) premium-tier travel cards would be what you are looking for. Once again, make sure you will use and get value out of the benefits on a chosen card. There is no point in paying a large annual fee if you won’t utilise a card’s benefits.

Signup Bonuses and Referral Bonuses: Many travels cards provide significant signup bonuses when you spend a certain amount in the first few months of opening your card. Some higher tier travel cards also offer bonus points when you refer a friend who signs up. Such bonuses can add up to a free hotel stay or flight, so they are worth your consideration when choosing a travel card.

Restrictions and Blackout Dates: Some travel card reward programs have restrictions on them, for example, they cannot be used on peak travel days. Make sure to read the fine print and understand any potential restrictions when choosing a travel card.

EMV Technology: When traveling to Indonesia, it is recommended that you have a card that has both chip-and-signature and chip-and-PIN. Keep in mind that not all travel cards come with both.

There are numerous travels credit cards with a wide range of annual fees on the market, so make sure to do your research and follow these pointers when choosing the right travel card for you.

Tip 2: Get a Debit Card with No Currency Conversion or International ATM Fees

While a travel rewards card is ideal for booking flights, staying in hotels, and eating in restaurants, there will be times on your Indonesian trip where you will need to use the local currency, the Indonesian Rupiah. A number of places may not take credit cards, so cash will be a necessity for everyday purchases, especially in more remote areas of Indonesia.  When it comes to withdrawing cash from ATMs, you will want to skip using the credit card as cash advances usually come with extortionate fees. Prior to your trip, you should acquire a debit card with no currency conversion or international ATM fees. This will require you to open a checking account with a bank who offers such debit cards. Banks with no debit card currency conversion or international ATM fees include Charles Schwab Bank and Capital One 360.

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