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Money Matters on the Road

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  • Money Matters on the Road

    How do you handle money matters while you're traveling abroad? Does anyone out there still use traveler's checks? Do you get a little foreign currency before you leave, exchange money at the airport or just try to hit the nearest ATM as soon as you arrive?

    Tell us your money strategy!

    Related Story: Money Matters on the Road
    Last edited by SarahS; 02-07-2007, 10:28 AM.
    Sarah Schlichter
    Senior Editor
    Independent Traveler
    www.independenttraveler.com


  • #2
    Re: Money Matters on the Road

    Travelers checks? Haven't used those in 10 plus years.

    I always hit the ATM in the luggage area of the airport.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Money Matters on the Road

      Because I worked at a company where gaining access to foreign currency at near-spot rates (i.e. rates listed in the papers) I would always get about $50 or $100 of foreign currency before I left the USA - especially if I knew I was visiting more than one currency, I'd get a little bit of both maybe but always, always, had some already for wherever it was that I was arriving into.

      This just made it easier as I do not sleep much on planes and the last thing I feel like doing when I arrive is to have to find the ATM in a foreign airport (I think only CDG isn't foreign to me, although it's been a few years!) after a long flight. I just want to FIND my LUGGAGE, FIND my way to my HOTEL and then figure it out from there. So long as I have currency, I don't have to worry about a thing.

      I don't think I ever brought travel checks; when I worked in a bank during college, they were SO annoying just to SELL to customers! One customer made us order them IN FOREIGN CURRENCY - YES, you can get travelers checks in other currencies, despite what the teller tells you because she probably doesn't know it or doesn't want to go through all the trouble! But it is possible; best done through American Express. But you pay fees and I find more and more at the destination, folks are less and less likely to want to accept them. Cash and credit cards do the trick. Travelers checks probably originated back in the day when very few people, if any, had credit cards, there were NO ATM cards and US dollars of course, were useless outside America. They are kind of obsolete, except maybe for the money replacement factor but even then, if you don't have ALL of your check serial numbers (lots of people make the mistake of keeping the purchase agreements, with the serial numbers on them for your records, WITH the checks and so when the checks go, the records of the serial numbers go to) you WON'T get a refund. The purchase agreements should be kept separate, ALWAYS from your checks as soon as you buy them and always when you travel, if anyone does buy them; otherwise, no protection.

      The only real thing you have to worry about is your ATM PIN number. A lot of people have alpha characters in their PINS but many overseas ATMs do NOT have alpha characters on their keypads. SOOOO, either make sure you KNOW the corresponding numbers for your alpha keys and can numerically enter your password even if it has alpha characters in it OR, change your PIN to something all numeric.

      When I started this email, I said I got special deals on currency etc; it was just a fortunate convenience - one little thing for spending practically every waking hour, day and weekend at my job. Most folks can get foreign currency from banks, American Express or online - there are currency dealers online that are completely legit (just like all the banks, mortgage lenders etc) so what you want to do is start keeping an eye on the currency (or others if visiting multiple countries) as far in advance as possible and try to keep an eye on the trend. The only real trend - it's Jan 2007 as I write - is that the US$ is weak against most signifigant Hard currencies - Euro, Yen, Pound Sterling, Swiss Franc etc are kicking the US$ hard, but that's been going on for awhile - so, ya just have to learn how to stretch your holiday funds, but we all been doing that at home here too, most of us anyway so you work in those same principles, allow for some splurges (again, same as home) and you'll have a nice holiday in spite of bizarro currency rates. If breakfast is included in your room rate CHOW DOWN!!!! That ought to keep ya good till about dinner - maybe you just grab a nibble somewhere along the way (chocolate works for me) and then plan for your nice dinner out.

      Keep your money AS CLOSE TO YOUR BODY AT ALL TIMES so that no one that you aren't RELATED TO or otherwise known to in the biblical sense CAN TOUCH YOU OR YOUR MONEY, PASSPORT, ATM/CREDIT CARDS! Check out some of the travel catalogues for specially designed money carriers/wallets etc; LLBean Travel, Magellans, Eddie Bauer, eBags and probably even designers too! Here's how you'll know if you have a safe and secure money holder: it'll always be ever so slightly a bit of a task to get to your money/cards/passport etc. If it takes a few minutes more to pay etc than it ever would at home, then you've probably got the right money carrier.

      Now go and spend that travel money well!
      Colleen Costello
      Message Board Moderator

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      www.IndependentTraveler.com
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      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Money Matters on the Road

        I always use ATM's, and have had no problem doing so in Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, etc. However, on a recent trip to the Caribbean I got tripped up by an ATM in Jamaica. It was really my own fault ... the machine asked if I wanted to withdraw in Jamaican or U.S. currency. I chose U.S., but then the monetary range seemed outrageous (maximum withdrawal $6,000?!) so I got confused and thought "maybe they are asking me in Jamaican currency after all..." So I entered $600 -- and gasped when 30 crisp $20's came out. I really didn't want to be carrying that much cash, but even worse was that I ended up overdrawing my checking account! EEK! LOL

        And who thought my bank would LET me take that much out (when I asked later on, they said they waive the maximum withdrawal amount in other countries as a courtesy to travelers)?! A real courtesy.

        A lesson learned... If you are confused about the conversion, better to take out LESS and then go back for more than take out (way) too much.






        Get a countdown clock!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Money Matters on the Road

          Originally posted by travelmel View Post
          So I entered $600 -- and gasped when 30 crisp $20's came out. I really didn't want to be carrying that much cash, but even worse was that I ended up overdrawing my checking account! EEK! LOL
          LOL, that sucks, travelmel! But it sounds like an understandable mistake to make.

          When I travel I always use ATM's or credit cards. My Capitol One credit card doesn't charge any fees for foreign transactions, so I use it everywhere that it's accepted and then use cash from ATM's for everything else. Like dhammer53, I usually hit the first airport ATM I see.

          As for traveler's checks, I definitely don't use those anymore. (Does anyone?) I took some on my first ever international trip and ended up paying such a hefty fee to change them that I decided it wasn't worth it.
          "I haven't been everywhere yet, but it's on my list." -- Susan Sontag

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Money Matters on the Road

            my friend and i went to italy nearly a year ago, and we were seriously debating between traveler's checks and ATMs. we read some forums, and after about 2 posts, we decided to ditch the check idea and rely on ATMs and credit cards. we had about $100 USD changed before we left the country, just in case we couldn't find an ATM right away.

            we landed in rome, and lo and behold, there was an ATM right in front of us. we went to one every few days or so and withdrew about $300-$400 USD (can't remember the conversion to the euro) each time. since my friend's bank charges him like, $5 per overseas transaction, he wrote me a check before we left and I deposited it into my account; my credit union charges $1 per overseas transaction.

            so if you're travelling with a trustworthy friend, ask how much their bank charges for overseas transactions. you might be better off pooling your money together (and keeping track of everything, of course!) instead of getting hit with high fees.
            Last edited by iceprincess; 02-08-2007, 02:00 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Money Matters on the Road

              I second the recommendation for the Capitol One credit card which charges no foreign exchange fee. I then use my debit card in the ATM to get cash for other purchases. I had to have traveler's check when I went to Ethiopia because there are few ATM's in the country and not many places take credit cards either. But when I took along my left-over traveler's checks on a trip to Turkey, I was told by a bank official not to try to cash one there, but to use my ATM card instead. He said that he would need to charge me a $20 fee for cashing a $100 check. Naturally, I took his advice. There are a few places in the world where traveler's checks are useful and necessary, but in most places you are better off to hit the ATM's.
              In addition to keeping your money close to your body, keep it in several different places. If you encounter a very skilled pickpocket, you aren't likely to lose everything.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Money Matters on the Road

                For domestic travel, sometimes take travelers checks (free checks from AAA) as a safe and fee-free means of hauling cash. Generally, I'll cash these periodically in a local bank. Not as much hassle as cashing a check and with no ATM fees. Abroad (Mexico, Costa Rica, Scandinavia and Russia), we've relied on U.S.currency and credit cards, with an ATM card in reserve. I work in U.S. currency as much as possible where a credit card won't do because I hate to take home any significant amount of foreign currency. [Of course, using up the last of our dwindling supply of foreign currency to purchase souvenirs and T-shirts can be fun!] In a pinch, we've relied on our hotel or local businesses to exchange U.S. currency for foreign, but that usually provides a less than favorable exchange rate.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Money Matters on the Road

                  Don't count on being able to use an ATM in Japan. For some reason they don't seem to be connected to foreign ATM's. I have used my ATM card in countries all over the world but it wouldn't work in Japan. I ended up having to get a cash advance on my credit card. Some other tips: years ago I went to China and found out that they gave a better exchange for travelers checks than US currency. In Bali, they wouldn't change a U.S. bill that looked old or worn out. They wanted to give me much less because it was worn out. They have a lot of money changers in Bali but they have tricky ways to try to cheat you. At one place, as the guy was counting out my money, an attractive girl came and sat next to me and then from the corner of my eye I noticed the guy flicked some of the Balinese money back behind the counter. The ATM is probably the safest bet there, they were dependable and gave a good rate of exchange.
                  Last edited by hafa; 05-10-2007, 06:46 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Money Matters on the Road

                    My ATM card hasn't failed me yet. Money matters on the road isn't a problem so long as you have it. Aid it with credit card just in case.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Money Matters on the Road

                      Worldwide cash withdrawals free of ATM transaction fees from HSBC.”
                      or
                      No cash withdrawal fees from us when you take out your money abroad from any Cirrus/Maestro cash machine.
                      and
                      “Fee free and free in this leaflet means free of any charges from HSBC Bank plc”.

                      HSBC PLUS Account will cost you just 12.95 per month and one of the "Advantages" they offer in exchange for you signing up for a minimum of one year, is the above FREE cash withdrawals abroad.

                      Only that is doesn’t mean that at all;
                      It costs HSBC PLUS Account customers a FEE equal to at least 2.75% when they use their DEBIT CARD Abroad. That’s at least 8.25 on 300
                      Plus the account fee of 12.95 per month (subjuct to certain offers)

                      In August the Advertising Standards Authority gave a ruling that HSBC advertising Worldwide cash withdrawals free of ATM transaction fees from HSBC.” Was misleading and that HSBC should therefore waive this so-called 2.75% fee. Do you know how much HSBC refunded to their customers that they misled? Well they refused to return the fees that removed from my account, suggesting that I go to the Financial Ombudsman Service, that should take another six months. In the meantime they have my money that I have to fight the world's third largest bank to get back.

                      Just check it out again

                      HSBC offer PLUS Account Customers

                      World-wide cash withdrawals free of
                      HSBC ATM transaction fees
                      When you’re travelling overseas you can
                      use your debit card as you would in the
                      UK to withdraw cash, or to pay for goods
                      and services in shops and stores. As a
                      Plus customer we will not charge you
                      an ATM transaction fee when using your
                      Debit card abroad. Just look out for the
                      Maestro or Cirrus symbol.

                      Do HSBC believe it’s worth risking the wrath of ASA, FSA (treating Customers Fairly) and the law on Misrepresentation? . Is HSBC above the UK Law. If HSBC are capable of all of this, how can the lay-customer trust HSBC ON ANY MATTER?

                      HSBC seem very happy with the following wording as “tried and tested” to be sufficiently ambiguous, but to play safe sometimes, is hidden away in small print elsewhere. This wording doesn't say if the so-called adjustment is UP or DOWN and carefully avoids (the "F" word) calling it a FEE.
                      as Worldwide cash withdrawals free of ATM transaction fees from HSBC

                      Let us examine the wording used in more detail, could it be made understandable if plain English was used? Or would that take up too much space
                      In gobbledygook and easily misunderstood by lay-customer and sometimes hidden away from the main text of the offer.

                      "Foreign currency exchange rates are
                      shown on your statement against each
                      transaction inclusive of an adjustment,
                      which is currently 2.75%."
                      = Characters with spaces 136

                      In PLAIN ENGLISH? and the truth. There are two fees the lower fee is free.
                      HSBC will charge PLUS Account customers a
                      FEE, currently 2.75% on every transaction abroad.
                      = Characters with spaces 126
                      Do you think that HSBC really want the lay-customer to believe, that this is a Fee FREE service, hence their advertising six months later, is still In defiance of the Advertising Standards Authority
                      World-wide cash withdrawals free of
                      HSBC ATM transaction fees
                      When you’re travelling overseas you can
                      use your debit card as you would in the
                      UK to withdraw cash, or to pay for goods
                      and services in shops and stores. As a
                      Plus customer we will not charge you
                      an ATM transaction fee when using your
                      Debit card abroad. Just look out for the
                      Maestro or Cirrus symbol.

                      What do you think? Would you like to pay HSBC 12.95 per month (min 12 months) to discover that FREE did not mean FREE and that HSBC make you run the gauntlet to get your money back?

                      You can get genuine FREE cash withdrawal abroad from NATIONWIDE. Check it out ! they mean Free I think its their flex account.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Money Matters on the Road

                        The Capital One cards are still the best bet to avoid the foreign transaction fees, but I just recently returned from a trip to Europe and noticed that the ATM charges that I incurred on the cash withdrawals that I took was pretty negligible. However, the best route is still the Capital One card wherever it's accepted and the ATM for everything else.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Money Matters on the Road

                          If we intend to use ATM's to obtain money abroad, will they always have instructions in English?
                          In particular we shall be going to Georgia and the Ukraine and need to know whether we will be able to operate the ATM's without a knowledge of the local language?
                          Also if anybody has been to Georgia can they tell us how common ATM's are outside the main towns?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Money Matters on the Road

                            I have never been to Georgia or the Ukraine so I don't know about the availability of ATMs there. Every ATM I have ever used in other countries whether in Europe, the Middle East, or in Africa has had a choice of languages, English being one of them.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Money Matters on the Road

                              Thanks Travelling Granny, that is reassuring. By the way I'm a Granny too. We are riding our motor bikes around the Black Sea from France, where we live, through Italy, Austria,Hungary, Ukraine, Georgia Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and back home to Bordeaux.

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