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Pacsafe Anti-Theft Bags and Travel Security Products

Avoiding Foreign ATM Fees

©istockphoto/Dinic

©istockphoto/Dinic

Using ATM and credit cards while traveling abroad is convenient and adds a layer of security; however, unless you make a plan, using your ATM or credit card outside the U.S. is going to cost you. Here’s a breakdown of typical transaction fees if you use a foreign ATM:

<3% of each transaction (debit or credit card)
an ATM fee by your bank  ($3 – $5) each withdraw
an ATM fee by the bank who owns the ATM ($3 – $5) each withdraw

A two-week trip will likely cost you $200 or more in fees if you don’t have the right debit and credit card strategy. Here are three steps to avoiding foreign ATM fees.

Get a No-fee Credit Card
Apply for a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign ATM fees. There aren’t many cards that offer this benefit, and even fewer that don’t charge annual membership fees, so do some research online and call your existing card companies to find out what they offer.

Get a No-fee Money Market
Set up a free money market account with a financial institution that doesn’t charge fees to withdraw cash from foreign ATMs. Through the year, use this account as your travel savings account. You’ll get a debit card and pin number so you can use it to withdraw money, without fees (except the local ATM fee), from any ATM sporting a PLUS logo, and you’ll earn a little interest while you’re saving.

Book with the Right Card
Use your new no-fee credit card to book foreign hotels from the U.S.

Let Your Bank Do Conversions
While abroad never let a hotel or merchant convert your purchase to U.S. dollars in the hotel, store or restaurant. Instead, let the credit card company do it when they process the transaction so there’s no fee.

Pay for Big Stuff with Credit
While traveling, use your credit card to pay for large purchases such as hotel rooms, expensive dinners and car rentals, while using your ATM card to withdraw cash for shopping and small meals. Your credit card comes with buyer protection—should you have a problem with something you’ve bought with it, you’ll have an advocate. Additionally, if you have a travel emergency you can use the money in your money market as a reserve.

Let Them Know Before You Go
Call your credit card company and your money market account financial institution and let them know the dates and places you’ll be traveling. If you don’t, anti-theft tracking algorithms may freeze your card or your account until the bank can talk to you and verify the charges.

Look for Logos
Call your credit card company to find out what logo to look for on a foreign ATM. If you have a Visa card, look for the Plus logo. If you have a Mastercard, look for Cirrus or Maestro logo.

Pay it Off
When you get home, pay off travel expenses on your credit card with the money left in your money market account. This way you won’t lose money by paying interest on your credit card.

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