The old saying goes “Money makes the world go round” but how do you access your money while traveling around the world?
You’ve worked hard and saved even harder, and now it’s time to make your dream trip a reality. You hunted around for the cheapest flights and hotels and managed to score the best deals on the market, but the travel planning doesn’t stop here. Now it’s time to think about dollars and cents and how you will access your hard-earned money abroad. There is no simple right or wrong method for accessing your money while overseas but there are a few options that help minimize those nasty bank fees, ridiculous foreign transaction charges and poor exchange rate. Here are five simple tips to keep in mind while travelling to ensure your not left penniless abroad.
Using your eftpos card at ATM’s abroad:
ATM’s are almost everywhere from the Himalayan settlement of Namche to the desert town of Jaisalmer and are by far the most convenient way to access money while on the road. While they can’t be faulted on their accessibility using overseas ATM’s will cost you. Foreign transaction fees can make it tempting to withdraw all your spending money before you depart, but this creates an obvious security risk. While you can’t do much about pickpockets, you can limit the fees you pay when using ATM’s.
Most banks charge a flat rate for using overseas ATM’s and then charge a percentage fee for currency conversation (mine is $5 NZD with a conversation charge of 1.1%) . To minimize foreign transaction fees avoid ATM’s with low withdrawal limits. Countries with a weak currency usually have a lower withdrawal limit compared to home, however some are better than others. Don’t use the first available ATM when you arrive in the country do a quick Google search to find the bank that offers the highest withdrawal limit and then make an effort to use this machine and withdraw the maximum allowed, this is usually about $50o NZD.
Foreign transaction charges are not the only ATM fees to be wary of while on the road. Extra fees can be incurred from the local bank that maintains the ATM and this can be charged at any rate (usually between $4 and $10 NZD). Be aware, this fee isn’t always advertised and sometimes only appears just before you withdraw money so you might have to try a few different ATM’s to find one that is free (while in Delhi I checked over 7 different ATM’s before finding one that didn’t have a usage fee).
Choose an Internationally accepted card:
What’s the point in minimizing foreign transaction fees if your card doesn’t work abroad! Before you depart it’s important to ensure your eftpos card or credit card can be accessed internationally. Talk with your bank to find out whether your eftpos card will be accepted in your chosen destination. Usually if the eftpos card has the ‘PLUS’ symbol on it, it will be accepted abroad. However, you should always carry more than one card from several banks as certain ATM machines won’t accept certain cards (despite having the ‘PLUS’ symbol on my eftpos card not one ATM in Kathmandu would allow me to withdraw cash).
Carry a credit card:
Credit cards can be dangerous little debt traps if you neglect your repayment obligations. Though if you repay the money you spend within the agreed upon time frame they become the best method for spending overseas. Credit cards are the most secure spending option and are a widely accepted form of payment. While security and low conversion fees make credit cards a hands down winner, some cards even come with added bonuses like travel insurance and rewards points which means you are earning while spending (my credit card gave me travel insurance free for a month and I earn Airpoints with every dollar spent).
Be aware that most credit cards do charge a currency conversion fee. Before choosing to use your credit card calculate weather or not it’s cheaper to pay the currency conversion fee or withdraw cash from the ATM. (My bank charges 1.8%, when I calculate how much money I can withdraw from an ATM, the $5 fee and 1.1% that will be incurred, the credit card works out to be my best option!)
If you do decide to take your credit card abroad don’t forget to notify your bank of your travel plans. That way your bank won’t be surprised by foreign transactions and block your card (I forgot and missed out an a cheap flight to London).
Carry cash in a strong currency:
Its an excellent idea to carry extra cash in a strong currency while travelling overseas. This can be used to exchange into local currency in an emergency like if your ATM/credit card is blocked or you can’t access an ATM. (I usually carry $100 USD in small notes which I hide in several places throughout my bag). Remember not all destinations are the same, do your research before you depart and find out whether your travel destination accepts USD or Euros. In many Asian countries like Laos and Cambodia you can only pay for visas in USD. Don’t become that American tourist who tries to pay with USD everywhere they go… The Euro is the preferred currency in Europe and is commonly accepted instead of the local currencies in Countries like Croatia and Serbia and can be converted with pretty good exchange rates (I was charged 0.5% for exchanging Euros into Dinars in Serbia).
Find a bank with low international fees before you depart:
To avoid paying high international transaction fees it may be time you start an affair and entrust your travel money with a bank that will make it go further. Before you depart on your overseas adventure research all the banks in your country and find out who has the lowest overseas transaction charges and what eftpos card is more commonly accepted in the countries your planing on visiting. This information can be found in the fee section on their website. (I found a bank with an overseas transaction charge of 1.1%, all other New Zealand banks charged over 2.5%).
“Money makes the world go round” and now you know how to travel around the world with your money.