When traveling, one of the biggest problems that you can have is to not be able to access money or use your credit cards. Traveler’s checks can be expensive and difficult to cash, but it takes careful planning to be able to take advantage of the convenience of ATMs and credit cards when you go abroad. Most ATMs will accept your debit card, but your home bank may charge you an exorbitant fee to use it and will most likely cap your daily withdrawal allowance. Because the rest of the world is so accustomed to the chip and pin system, our American credit cards do not always work.
When reading this week’s article in the New York Times I was fondly reminded of all the times I had to wait in long lines at train stations to buy my tickets because I didn’t have a chip and pin credit card to use at a ticketing kiosk; and the time I had to mail a friend cash because my bank wouldn’t let me withdrawal enough money to cover what I owed him before we parted ways. Amazingly it made it to him. I’ve learned a lot of lessons on the road and here are a few quick tips I’d like to share to help ease your money troubles as you explore the world:
- Call your bank to find out how much the fee is for using foreign ATMs. Credit Unions usually do not charge fees, even abroad, and if they do, it’s only roughly $1.00. I’d recommend if you can, opening a credit union account and using it while abroad!
- While you have your bank on the phone, ask what their daily cap in USD is on ATM withdrawals.
- Call your credit card companies or look into your user agreements to find out what their foreign transaction fees are. Most of mine are 3%. Capital One’s Venture Card has no foreign transaction fee. I’d recommend applying today!
- While you have your credit card company on the phone, let them know where you’re traveling to and when. Nothing worse than having your accounts frozen due to ‘suspicious activity’!
- Leave your American Express card at home. With its high fees to vendors, it’s not as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard.
- If you need to wire money for any reason, to avoid the fees which can add up quickly between the sending and accepting institutions, ask the recipient if Paypal might be possible or use your Credit Union account. Credit Unions either won’t charge you a fee or will charge you a set fee and not a percentage of the wired amount to send or receive wires, allowing you to eliminate or lower at least one set of fees.
- To avoid issues with credit cards or extra fees, use cash whenever possible, as the article says – “Cash is king!”