Foreign Transactions & Currency Abroad
My first travel chore when I arrive at a destination is to get local currency. Unless I need cash immediately, either for a taxi or public transport, I usually wait until I get to my hotel. Pre-booking a car or taxi in advance can make your arrival a smooth and effortless process. For example, Red Cab or Exclusive Airports, are my go-to airport private car hire services for Europe when I need them. But when I need to get cash, either at the airport, near my hotel or anywhere on the road, I use bank owned ATM’s and avoid ATM’s or cash machines owned by foreign currency exchange companies. You will see a lot of ATM’s at the airport but which is the best to use?
Use a Bank Owned ATM
You will get the best exchange rate of the day at an ATM owned by a bank or financial institution. Privately owned ATM’s or Cash Machines owned by foreign exchange companies will charge you a high fee or issue the currency at a terrible exchange rate. Only use ATM’s owned by a bank and be sure to use a Debit Card (that takes money directly from a checking account) with a four digit pin code. Withdraw the maximum amount of money you can for that day (amounts vary depending on type of account). Now you have some petty cash for some time and this will help minimize any fees incurred. It will also save you time by not having to return to the ATM so frequently.
Beware of Fees
Your bank may charge you a fee for using an out of network ATM and/or a foreign transaction fee. Do the math before your leave. Some banks, like Bank of America, waive the out-of-network ATM usage fee for each withdrawal. For big purchases or expenses, I travel with a credit card that offers no foreign transaction fees. There are loads of them available now. This is key to minimizing or eliminating the fees that come with foreign transactions.
Chip and Pin or Chip and Signature Cards
Using your American style magnetic credit card may possibly present some problems. At kiosks, automated machines, toll booths, etc, your magnetic credit card is useless and will not be accepted. Also, presenting your magnetic card to a waiter, especially in European restaurants, may become an exercise in patience. More and more banks in the US are now offering chip and pin or chip and signature cards to make foreign transactions go smoothly. Do yourself a favor and inquire about getting yours before you leave. Otherwise, be prepared for the possibility of trouble when using your magnetic card.