Go to the Ends of the Earth For You

Ye olde ATM
Ye olde ATM (Photo credit: ~dgies)

Adele – cover of Make You Feel My Love.

Even though its a love song, Im going to talk about the mechanics of traveling abroad. In the olden days, when you traveled, you took traveler’s checks with you. And American Express made tons of money off all of us. By olden days, I mean when I went to China 12 years ago. Now, Visa and Mastercard debit cards have made it easy to access money all around the world. For a fee. And all your hard earned saved money for traveling to exotic locales is slowly eaten away by ATM fees and foreign exchange fees. There are a couple of ways to get around this – depending on where you are traveling.

Capital One credit cards do not charge you a transaction fee or exchange fee when you use it as a credit card. If you do cash advances, they charge a 3% fee. However, lots of places are still cash-based so you probably need access to real currency as well.

Charles Schwab Bank – no transaction fee or exchange fee when pulling money out of an ATM. They will also reimburse you any fees that other banks charge you for using their ATMs at the end of each month. You have to open a brokerage account in order to get a checking account, but there are no minimum requirements or fees associated if you do not use the brokerage account. There are also no minimums on the high-yield variable rate checking account. I just opened mine yesterday.

Other internet banks – Ally and some others – they also give you breaks on ATM fees. Not sure what the transaction fees are.

Local credit union – if you have a business account that you are traveling abroad with (a common problem for our non-profit) neither one of the above options will work. So we joined a local credit union. No fees charged by our bank, but a 1% transaction fee by Visa and then whatever the other ATM charges you. Its not that big of a savings, but its still better than using the large banks.

Citibank/HSBC – these are two of the largest international banks. HSBC has pulled out of a lot of countries recently, so check before you go, but these banks do not charge if you use their ATMs and they are the most likely to be in your international destination.

And of course traveler’s checks do still exist.

I will continue to be preoccupied with my travel plans until I get on a plane Wednesday and then get on another one Saturday to travel to Turkey. Im sure you didnt expect when you chose to follow this blog a travel commentary. But its about the life of this particular Black Mormon Female – and she is traveling. Im sure God will come back into it during my travels for the next six months. Especially given the part of the world I am going to. Ill make sure to post some exciting pictures. 🙂