Using Your Money Abroad

One of the most important parts of your travel must-have list is your access to money while abroad. As a first line of defense, I withdrew some cash the night before I left, that way if they were any problems with the ATM, I would have been able to find another as opposed to if I had tried to get to one on my way to the airport this morning.


It is extremely important that you balance your need to for cash with the security risks involved with having it on you. You therefore do not want to withdraw less than the amount you know you will need when you exit the airport on the other side. Nor, do you want to get too much, as this would create additional risk of theft or robbery. If your destination country or countries do not use the same currency as your home, you should plan to make your withdrawal days before so that you can purchase the foreign currency. If you are keen on getting the most for you money like I am, you will want to monitor the varying value of your purchase currency relative to your purchasing currency. A website that I used a lot to track the EURO was

Electronic Funds

Credit Cards

As discussed in an earlier post, I researched credit cards that offered no foreign transaction fee and made sure to get one, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to be exact. The foreign transaction fee is an ugly and inconvenient one that is tacked onto every foreign currency purchase you make and on any purchase you make outside of the home country. For some cards it’s a flat rate per transaction, and for others it’s a percent of the transaction. When this fee is absent, your credit card company via the VISA, MasterCard, etc network is able to convert your foreign currency transaction to the value of your home country’s using the best rate for that day. This should obviously save you money that you may have lost doing the conversion yourself (purchasing fees, seller using highest rate for the day or an average, etc.)
I realized afterwards, that I also had another card that offers this benefit, as most Capital One cards do. I was happy to still have gotten the second one though, as it is obviously geared towards travelers with its rewards points and double bonus points on travel charges (airlines, car rentals, train tickets) and dining (fast food restaurants, fancy restaurants, etc). In addition to these benefits, I now also have a back-up source of credit in the event my first card gets lost, destroyed, or compromised.

ATM Cards

You may need cash after you’ve run out of the amount you’ve taken with you. You should not want to be charged other bank ATM fees while outside of the country. These are another annoying fee that financial institutions use to raise revenue, that some banks have actually decided to waive or reimburse for certain reasons. My Charles Schwab account, for instance, does not have commercial branches like other banks as their commercial arm operates primarily online. What results is a savings on administrative costs that is passed on to the consumer as higher saving interest rates on checking accounts, whereas many banks do not even offer interest on checking accounts. Another result of this is that there are no Schwab ATMs for customers to use to withdraw the funds they’ve deposited their via mail or other-bank transfer. To account for this, Schwab reimburses charges you incur as other bank ATM fees.
Another bank account that will come in handy on my traveling is Bank of America’s. This bank participates in an international banking agreement, Global ATM Alliance, that allows customers of any of the participating banks to use the ATMs of most of the others without being assessed the other bank ATM fees.

A list of the Global Alliance members and their service countries, care of Wikipedia, is found below:

  • Bank of America (United States)
  • Barclays (United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Pakistan, Gibraltar, Ghana, Kenya, and other countries in Africa)
  • BNP Paribas (France)
  • BNP Paribas Fortis (Belgium)
  • Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Belgium, India, Spain, Portugal and Italy)
  • Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, Peru, Chile and Mexico)
  • Westpac (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New
  • Guinea and Solomon Islands)
  • Westpac Banking Corporation (Australia, Fiji, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu)
  • Westpac New Zealand Limited (New Zealand)
  • Westpac Bank – PNG – Limited (Papua New Guinea)
  • Westpac Bank Samoa Limited (Samoa)
  • Westpac Bank of Tonga (Tonga)
  • ABSA (South Africa)
  • UkrSibbank (Ukraine)

One thought on “Using Your Money Abroad”

  1. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a good one. What I would recommend and I’ll add it to the prior post for anyone that is using credit cards is to make sure that you request an EMV chip which you can now. Some countries won’t take magnetic stripe cards because they don’t have that extra layer of protection. Good call on the Sapphire for the no transaction fees. It’s a good choice and the rewards are pretty good as well. Nice points on this post too about having cash on hand.

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