Before I begin, I want to say money is personal, and when it comes to managing money abroad, there are many ways to go about this. In this guide, I am going to share what I’ve done and what has worked for me. It’s important to do your research. There is a lot of information on the internet and you have to do what’s best for you. Also, I don’t have a credit card. I never did. So, I cannot tell you about my experiences with one.
Before you go overseas, it may be a good idea to see what things generally cost in your host country. If you are planning to live in your destination country, you may want to see what the average prices for rent are (if it is your responsibility to find housing, do not pay anyone for rent while you are in the United States. Wait, until you are in-country to agree on a rental contract, if you are staying long term), if you don’t have housing lined up.
Even if you are just visiting and not staying in your host country long enough to rent, or if you are living in a dorm, it may still be wise to see what transportation, entertainment, and food may cost. Researching the average cost of items will help you when you are planning your budget.
Before you leave, talk to a trusted family member or friend who can deposit funds into your account just in case there is an emergency. Also, if you’re having trouble with a bank overseas, they can call the bank on your behalf.
Before you leave, contact your bank(s) and credit card company to let them know that you are traveling overseas. You should tell them when you will leave the United States and how long you expect to be gone. Failure to notify your bank/credit card company of your overseas travel may result in having your account being frozen. They will suspect suspicious activity even though you are just trying to get money out to buy breakfast.
Also, while contacting your bank be sure to ask them if they have any banks they partner with abroad. This will help with transaction fees. Also, ask about any ATM or international transaction fees.
When I’m abroad, I pull out my money through the ATM. Fortunately, the bank that I use in the United States does not charge me fees when I use any ATM around the world. Because my bank does not charge me transaction fees, regardless of the ATM, I can estimate how much money I will need. I highly recommend getting a card that does not charge ATM fees overseas. Not only do you save money from not having to pay transaction fees, but you don’t have to worry about taking large sums of money out in countries where cash is key.
I don’t want to endorse a particular card (even though I have a personal favorite). However, to find out which debit cards do not have transaction fees overseas or domestically, I would recommend searching “debit cards with no transaction fees” in your favorite search engine.
I rarely use these stands (usually located outside of the airport) because I find that they don’t give you a good of an exchange rate. When I pull cash out of the ATM, it gives me money in the local currency. Since I get my cash out of the ATM, and my card does not charge me a transaction fee, I don’t use them. Also, I never go to the banks in my home country to get foreign currency because I get my money out of the ATM.
Even though I rarely go to the local currency exchange stands there may be an instance I do. I would go to the local currency exchange stand if my card did not work at the ATM (and the card should work if you’ve called your bank ahead of time. But things happen). If this does happen it’s important to have options.
In many countries, cash is still king. You might have to use more cash than your card. Be sure to research your specific country beforehand and see how they handle money.
Personally, I never used a traveler’s check. From my experience, I was okay with using my card and cash.