Do not put all of your eggs in the same basket! You should use a combination of a debit or credit card, traveler’s checks and a small amount of cash to pay for your expenses abroad. Here are some helpful tips.
CREDIT CARD vs. DEBIT CARD
Please remember that credit cards usually charge a very high interest rate on cash transactions. In addition to this they usually start charging an interest rate from the day of the transaction (no grace period). Because each issuing bank has a different set of rules, check with your bank to see what their policies are.
A Debit card (also known as a bank card or a check card) is really the best one to use as long as you have money in the bank because it does not charge you interest on the cash withdrawal and usually allows you for multiple withdrawals during the same week (if needed), as long as you have money in your account. Make sure that your debit card works worldwide.
In most if not all countries around the world today you can use a credit card to pay for a wide range of services and to get cash money at an ATM machine or in a bank. The credit card companies also offer the best exchange rates although they do charge a transaction fee for it in most cases. VISA and MASTERCARD are the most widely accepted cards around the world. American Express is also widely accepted. DISCOVER cards are not accepted in most countries outside the United States.
TIPS BEFORE DEPARTURE
Because each issuing bank has different policies you should check with each issuing bank the following things:
- How much do they charge per withdrawal? Remember that you will probably be charged for cash withdrawal by your credit card issuer AND by the local bank as you are in the U.S.
- Do they charge a currency exchange fee? Most bank charge 2% or more for that service.
- How much money can you withdraw per week?
- Find out what number you should call if you lose your card, have it stolen, or have any other problem? Remember that except in North America, you cannot access a 800 number from abroad, so you need another number. Most Banks print it on the back of the card an International Collect number to call.
- Make two photocopies of your credit cards front and back and leave a copy with someone you trust at home, take the other copy with you and store it in a safe place but not with your credit card(s).
- The Cirrus and Plus networks used by Visa and MasterCard offer over 1.5 million ATMs around the world.
- You can locate an ATM for a Visa card by clicking here!
- You can locate an ATM for a MasterCard by clicking here!
- Find an American Express office around the world by clicking here!
Traveler’s checks are issued by a financial institution and functions as cash but is protected against loss or theft. Traveler’s checks are useful when traveling, especially in case of overseas travel when not all credit and debit cards will be accepted. A charge or commission is usually incurred when a person exchanges cash for traveler’s checks, though some issurers provide them free of charge. The charge is minimal averaging $1.00 per $100.00 of traveler’s checks.
You can obtain Traveler’s checks from your bank or a travel agent. Traveler’s checks are available in several currencies, but, usually, you get a better exchange rate if you get Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars and exchange them in your country of destination.
You should have Traveler’s checks as a backup plan in case you have problems using your credit/debit card, or if you need to pay rent, and/or a deposit upon arrival since there is a limit on how much money you can withdraw from an ATM machine per week.
Bring a minimal amount of money in cash! $200.00 is probably the maximum amount of money that you should carry in cash in U.S. currency. You can change money upon arrival. There are ATMs at most, but not all airports around the world as well as currency exchange offices.
Should you buy foreign currency before arriving in your country of destination? In most cases the answer is no because you usually do not get a good exchange rate, but you can if you want.
Wire transfer is a very safe way to transfer money between the U.S. and your country of destination. You can transfer money from a U.S. bank account to a bank account in the country of destination. However, banks on both side will charge you a fee ($30.00 to $50.00 on the U.S. side alone per transfer) and, in most countries, opening a bank account is often a long process. You can also transfer money via Western Union.