It’s that time of year when many of us look to the airways to get away. You saved and planned for the cost of the trip. You checked the weather so you know what you’ll need to pack. Next step, make sure you’re ready to handle your finances abroad so you can relax and enjoy that well deserved trip.
- Inform the credit union and any other financial institutions to note on your account that you anticipate transactions from outside the country. If they have a fraud monitoring system, atypical transactions could trigger a fraud alert. If that happens and a financial institution is unable to contact you, you could find yourself in a foreign country with your VISA credit or debit card frozen. However, it is unwise to give anyone your specific dates of travel in order to protect against home break-ins.
- Contact your financial institution to see if your credit or debit card needs to be activated for foreign use.
- If you plan to use your VISA debit or credit card, check the expiration date before you leave. Cards expire on the last day of the month indicated. If your card will expire while you’re away, contact the credit union and ask for a replacement card early so you’ll receive it before you leave. Your new card may require activation by calling an 800 number; a debit card may require an ATM transaction, or both. These must be done while you’re still in the U.S.
- Carry enough foreign currency in cash to get you out of the airport. Airport exchange rates are high. Many of the larger commercial banks can provide foreign currency for you. Be sure to call ahead to make sure they have it available when you need it.
- Create a list of the contents of your wallet: debit, ATM, and credit cards, and anything else you might need to replace if your wallet is lost or stolen. Include the overseas lost/stolen numbers. Toll-free 800 numbers are not accessible from overseas. Don’t photocopy your cards; this could give thieves all the information they need to transact on your account.
- If you’re relying on an ATM card for cash withdrawals while traveling, it must be connected to your checking account. Foreign ATMs cannot access your savings account.
While You’re Traveling:
- Have a variety of payment methods available, such as credit cards, debit card, and local currency, so that something unforeseen, such as an ATM attendant strike or a network interruption, doesn’t leave you in a pinch.
- Take advantage of local ATMs – they withdraw from your checking account and dispense funds in local currency. A small exchange fee may apply, but it is usually less than at a bank.
- Most ATMs offer a choice of languages; the British flag is used to represent English.
- ATMs may offer the option of entering a six digit PIN. If six digits are required, add two zeros to the end of your four-digit PIN.
With a little planning and forethought, you can save your vacation from becoming a nightmare. Have a safe and happy trip!