Ticket Talk: Paying for Airline Tickets with Foreign Currency

Thrifty Travel Mama - Paying for Airline Tickets with Foreign CurrencyFinding travel deals is a lot of work.  Have I told you that before?  Probably not.  After all, I don’t want to scare you away.  Especially if you’re a mama.  With no time.  If you’re a mama with time, just leave a comment below and enlighten us all as to your secrets.  Many thanks in advance!

My summer travel deal ship seems to have come in, and I’m planning on riding it to as many destinations as possible.  This weekend, I went in to uncharted waters while buying an airline ticket, so I thought I’d share my experience with you.

I have this friend, a very good friend, who is tying the knot in September.  I so want to be there.  Luckily, Doc Sci wants me to be there too.  And here’s how much: he’s letting me go alone.  Wowie kazowie, I’m stoked!

But, this means that I must be gone for as little time as possible, and I absolutely have to get the best deal.  A few weeks ago, I found our family’s tickets to Bulgaria on cheaptickets.de.  I had been searching for weeks and weeks with no sign of a deal.  Connections were horrible, prices expensive.  Thanks to a tip from a friend, I was able to get the itinerary I wanted for €100 less than the airline’s website.

Naturally, for this new trip, I turned to cheaptickets.de first.  I have found this website to be a faster (though most likely less thorough) search than Kayak for tickets originating in Germany.  And there you have the key factor: my travel originates in Germany.

Airline pricing rules state that a ticket must be paid for in the currency of the country where travel originates.  If you’re going to Switzerland from the US, you pay in US dollars.  If you’re going to the US from Switzerland, you pay in Swiss francs.  If the ticket is sold as a round trip, you pay in the currency of your departure location.

Cheaptickets.de told me that Air France was the cheapest.  However, upon closer examination, the flights were operated not by Air France but by Delta Airlines through a codeshare agreement.  Given my recent feelings regarding Delta, I did not want to use this itinerary.  However, they had the best schedule and no other European carrier came close to the price.  (Note: Had I been flying with Screech – which was an option but not my first choice – I would have chosen a nonstop with Lufthansa for €250 more.)  Plus, I checked SeatGuru and found out that these particular flights all have audio/video on demand, not the ancient overhead TV’s with wonky colors I experienced when flying Delta from Stuttgart.

My target price for this trip was €550 as this is rock bottom pricing for flying to/from mainland Europe to non-hub US cities (hub cities would be New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Atlanta, etc.).  The itinerary with AF/Delta was €572, just a bit more than I wanted to pay.  I remembered I had a credit from cheaptickets.de for €25 which would bring me to my ideal price.  BUT, cheaptickets.de charges a €20 booking fee.  So does fly.de.  In my experience, it’s usually better to book with the airline directly.

However, this presented another problem for me.  I do not have a German credit card since my bank will not issue one unless you live in Germany for one year or more.  Visa and Mastercard charge a 3% fee for foreign currency transactions.  This would put me at the mercy of the exchange rate and way over budget.

In Germany, it’s very common to pay by bank transfer (similar to bill pay services by Bank of America and other financial institutions).  But, Delta does not have a German website, and it is not possible to pay for a ticket in this manner.  After some hunting around, I found that Air France does have a German site that allows bank transfers as a method of payment.  Interestingly, the transaction ended up going through KLM, another Sky Team member.

One note about using credit cards for payment..  I am a World Mastercard cardholder, and purchasing tickets via bank transfer leaves me without its protections and benefits.  If I am not going on a major trip with the whole crew of boys, I am willing to forgo this.  However, if you own such a card, it would be wise to weigh whether the 3% fee would be worth it.  Travel insurance alone can cost more than that.   Of course if you’re originating your travel in the US, using a credit card like this is a no-brainer.

So, if you’re going to be thrifty and travel, consider the currency of your ticket and method of payment.  Explore all avenues and possibilities within your time constraints.  If you don’t find a ticket at your target price, consider whether you are willing to pay extra (€22 to be there when a great friend gets married is totally worth it), or keep looking.  The deals are out there.

Happy bargain hunting!Signature-Marigold

2 thoughts on “Ticket Talk: Paying for Airline Tickets with Foreign Currency

  1. Pingback: Korea: Know Before You Go « Thrifty Travel Mama

  2. Pingback: Tips on Booking Multi-City Itineraries « Thrifty Travel Mama

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