International trips should be full of fun and adventure, but nothing puts a damper on a journey abroad quite like a sticky financial situation. Whether it's not being able to take out cash, having your debit card stolen or some other monetary misfortune, a pleasant time can be turned into a nightmare in seconds.
With late summer being one of the most popular times of year for travel abroad, here are some tips to help international travelers avoid financial challenges, especially when traveling to unfamiliar places.
- Keep your cards in the clear. A week before your trip, call your bank and credit card company to inform them of your travel plans, including where you are going, as well as when and how you plan to use the cards. This will help avoid the companies flagging your cards for fraudulent use, which could result in declined transactions.
- Find out how to contact your bank in an emergency. U.S. 1-800 phone numbers cannot be dialed from an international phone and you could incur high rates if you call directly from your cell phone. So when you inform your bank of your travel plans, don't forget to ask about alternative ways to contact them if you need to.
- Know your PIN. You should refresh your memory on your PIN for any cards you bring on your trip. Also, most international ATMs do not accept six-digit PIN numbers. If your card has a six-digit PIN, contact your bank to reset your PIN to four digits.
- Know about chip cards. In most shops abroad, you can use a non-chip card, meaning a card that only has a magnetic strip and not an EMV chip. However, there are many countries where unattended kiosks in a train or gas station only accept chip cards. If you don't have a chip card, buy your train tickets ahead of time when the counter is open and plan to purchase gas when there is an attendant on duty during the day.
- Be aware of transaction fees. Typically a three percent fee is charged on all foreign transactions. In addition, most banks charge an ATM fee to withdraw cash abroad. The international bank may also charge a fee. Check the fine print or call customer service to learn more as many banks have checking and card products that help you avoid these transaction fees.
- Transfer money from savings to checking. If you leave the money you saved for vacation in your savings account, you may struggle to access it abroad from an ATM. Transferring money to your primary checking account will ensure you have enough available funds to enjoy your trip.
- Take some foreign currency. Americans are accustomed to paying with debit and credit cards for every day transactions. Overseas, many businesses still rely on cash, making it difficult to pay for a taxi or buy a soda without a few bills in local currency. In addition to these every day purchases, plan to have enough cash available for tips in hotels and restaurants (as local customs allow).
These tips should help you prevent money mishaps while traveling abroad, but if one does occur, you can always call your financial institution. Don't let a financial fluke ruin a great journey.