Money and Traveling Internationally

Financial Considerations When You Plan To Travel Internationally

You’ve got your passport and your bags are packed, but are you ready financially to travel abroad?

While we’ve been to some pretty interesting places over the years, and usually we haven’t had issues with getting local currency or being able to use credit cards, there have been times when things just didn’t work.

Hopefully we’ll be back on the road soon (please Lord) and a look at possible issues with money and cards while traveling would be in order about now.

For instance, some time back our favorite credit card was Discover. It offered a generous point system and claimed no transaction fees when used internationally. After a number of trips over a couple of years we gave up on trying to travel with our Discover cards. While they claimed that the card would be accepted anywhere the Diners Club emblem was displayed we found that was rarely the case. So we now travel with Visa and MC cards with no transaction fees and haven’t experienced any difficulties.

Recently on a trip to the Falkland Islands, Argentina, Uruguay, and points South we began to have problems beginning with Argentina. In attempting to reserve a hotel the first few wouldn’t accept the Visa card. It seems that credit cards are not widely used there. We then went to our bank to exchange for Argentine Pesos and were told they weren’t available. Checked with AAA – same thing.

Next we reserved a guide and 4×4 in the Falkland Islands but were told that we couldn’t use credit cards. No ATMs and they also use their own version of Pound Sterling. After several emails back and forth we settled with being able to pay with cash in British Pounds or US Dollars (no Euro’s).

Because Argentina has had a currency crises over the past few years money can be a problem. Our trip begins at the international airport for Buenos Aries but have been told to avoid the exchange counters there. We have now resorted to planning on using a debit card (which we rarely do), attaching it to an account with a specific low balance without overdraft and accessed some limited cash at an airport ATM. We needed cash to get into the city. After that we had mapped several locations for Citi affiliated ATM’s in Buenos Aries with no service fees.

We will also be traveling out to Iguaçu Falls for a couple of days and while the hotel will accept Visa cards most everywhere else will require cash. This need for cash and not being sure where we can use credit cards made us a bit nervous. After some issues with ATM’s everything worked out.

Here are a few tips on using money while traveling internationally

Many banks will freeze your accounts if unexpected foreign purchases show up. It’s important that the bank or credit card issuer is aware of your travel plans so they can ensure the account remains active with proper safeguards.

1. Let the bank know where and when you will be traveling.

2. Determine if your PIN number will work where you’re going.

Before your trip, call your bank and credit card issuers and ask if your PIN will work at your destination ATM’s. Four-digit PINs work in most countries but not all. If your PIN contains zeroes, that may be a problem in some non-network ATMs. Additionally, a number of foreign ATMs don’t recognize four-digit PINs. Calling ahead gives you time to change your PIN, if necessary.

3. Watch out for international transaction and currency conversion fees.

Since fees and conversion rates vary widely, it’s important to know exactly what you will be paying to make ATM withdrawals or paying with your debit or credit card. A new process that has become common is for merchants to ask if you want to charge in your home currency or local money? While it seems easier to us your home countries currency avoid the temptation. If you do you will discover that the bill included high transaction fees and a less than normal exchange rate and often the merchant gets a commission. If you plan to travel with a credit card get one that doesn’t charge transaction fees and let your bank calculate the transactions exchange rate. You’ll save money.

Contact your bank before you travel internationally to avoid any financial surprises

4. Ask about daily withdrawal limits on ATMs

Banks may have different withdrawal limits than ATMs. Keep in mind that any individual ATM may have a different withdrawal limit and limits may be expressed in the local currency. Have a backup plan that involves more than one way to pay as you travel.

5. Verify your account balance.

Be sure there’s enough money in your account to pay for travel expenses once you get there; you don’t want to find yourself overdrawn on your trip. To alleviate any additional stresses of overdraft fees, on top of running out of money, you can transfer funds from one account to another using a mobile banking app (never use wi-fi without an activated VPN while traveling. Cellular service is the safest way to bank online.

6. Carry telephone numbers.

Get all the information you will need to contact your financial institution while traveling in case of stolen or lost cards. Most banks and credit card issuers will have international toll-free or local numbers you can call to report any mishaps that may occur while traveling internationally.

7. When booking your hotel or rental car, use your credit card not a debit card.

It is best to use a credit card for reserving a hotel or rental car because hotels and rental car companies may place a hold on your card for a certain dollar amount for incidentals. If placed on a debit card these funds could be tied up for some time.

Use a credit card to pay for your hotel or rental car in case they also place a hold on your card for incidentals like tolls.

8. When getting cash in local currency, best to use a debit card.

Your debit card is ideal for getting cash in local currency because you may get the same interbank exchange rate as you do with credit card purchases – this is generally the cheapest way to get local currency. Getting cash with your debit card allows you to avoid the cash advance fees that your credit card would charge. It’s also convenient as there are ATMs available in many international airports. Most major bank ATMs don’t charge a usage fee, but watch out for ATMs that are not affiliated with any banks-they may charge really high fees.

9. Set up auto notifications on your credit cards.

We also set up options to be notified by text message for all transactions where the card is not presented in person. This has helped on a couple of occasions. Once while in Spain it looked we went on a bicycle buying spree in Rome (who buys ten bicycles?). Nice to able to contact your bank when something like this happens.

Bon Voyage!

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