It’s best to have at least two types of cards for travel: a debit/check card (ATM card) and a credit card. Make sure your ATM card is from a checking account (not a savings account).
- Verify with your bank, credit union, or card company that your card can be used abroad.
- Check in advance with your bank and credit card companies to verify transaction and conversion fees on purchases abroad.
- Notify your bank and credit card company that you will be using your card abroad (specify countries) so that they won’t suspect fraud.
- Ask your bank about increasing the limit for cash withdrawal.
- Always use an ATM card for cash withdrawals. Rates for getting a cash advance with a credit card are very high.
- Travelers checks are no longer recommended. They are not often accepted and have become difficult to exchange.
Chip-and-Signature vs. Chip-and-PIN
Credit card companies in the U.S. are gradually moving toward chip technology with allows encryption for better security. Most American cards with chips are “Chip-and-Signature” cards which still require a signature for verification. Most other countries use “Chip-and-PIN” cards which require a PIN number for verification rather than a signature.
Chip-and-Signature cards are still accepted abroad, except in automated kiosks (e.g. ticket machines and gas station pumps). It’s best to plan to have cash on hand for such machines, or go to a ticket window with an attendant.
ATM machines recognize either type of card. Stores and restaurants are also able to process either type of card. Sometimes a clerk may indicate that a magnetic strip card can’t be processed, but it sometimes can with a few extra steps, so ask for a manager if necessary.
Check the following website for current exchange rates: www.oanda.com It also allows you to print a handy conversion card to take with you on your trip.
It’s helpful to have a small amount of foreign currency before you depart if it’s easily available from your bank. You will get a better exchange rate abroad than here, so it’s best to change only a small amount in advance. Major U.S. airports have a currency exchange office, but their rates are very steep. You will normally be able to easily find an ATM upon arrival abroad.