Splurging on a great night out or a special souvenir is part of the fun of a vacation. Spending money “under par” is a little less fun. Even when the Canadian currency is stronger than the local currency, unexpected bank transaction fees wait for your arrival home and then pop up on your credit card statements.

Here’s how to plan ahead to avoid over-paying on fees.

7 do’s and don’ts for those holiday dollars

1. DO pay it forward

Pay for hotel bookings in advance to avoid the risk of currency fluctuations later, and the potential shock of a big credit card bill post-vacation.

2. DON’T miss a sale

If you pay for your flight or vacation package, only to see the price drop a month later, see if your credit card offers price protection. MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard® and Scotiabank® Gold American Express card will reimburse up to $500 and $100 respectively.

3. DON’T pay twice for insurance

Most gold, platinum or travel reward credit cards are equipped with all kinds of insurance assuming your trip is paid for with the card. Some cards, like The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite®, will cover emergency medical expenses even without the trip purchase.

4. DO choose ATMs wisely 

Typically, your bank charges $3-5 to use a foreign ATM. Then you pay the foreign bank for using their ATM, say another $5. On top of that, a 2.5% foreign exchange fee. Yikes! Find out who your Canadian bank partners with abroad and choose those ATMs. RBC offers a “No-fee US ATM locator” on its website, while Scotiabank and Tangerine Bank are members of the Global ATM Alliance.

5. DO chat with your bank

Some banks provide deposit accounts that do not charge a fee on foreign ATM withdrawals. TD Canada Trust’s All-Inclusive Banking Plan allows unlimited out-of-country ATM use, BMO’s Premium Plan waives their fees on up to five foreign transactions, and the HSBC Premier Account lets you use their own global network of ATMs for free while waiving the forex fee on debit card purchases.

6. DON’T pay forex fees

There is no avoiding a forex fee on cash, but a few credit cards allow you to skip the 2.5% currency exchange fee entirely. The Marriott Rewards® Premier Visa® or the Amazon.ca Rewards Visa card are blissfully forex-fee free, while Rogers™ Platinum MasterCard®, charges the 2.5% and then provides 4% cashback.

7. DO axe the tax

When shopping in Europe and the UK, ask for VAT refunds. If the retailer participates, you receive a little extra paperwork with your receipt. Fill it out and redeem at the airport before leaving the country. It’s a minor hassle, but with VAT charges of 21% in Belgium, 25% in Croatia, Sweden and Denmark… a little tax relief can be worth the queue.