How We Use Money Abroad

Money Abroad by Natalie Parker

One question we always get from people is how we use money abroad.  Or, how do we get money, exactly?  Using money is one of those small little facets that makes people nervous and can contribute to not wanting to bother with international travel.

It’s really very simple (most of the time).  This isn’t different from what we do at home:

Use credit cards as much as possible (get tips on how to do that here).  If we can use a credit card, we do.  It’s easier than carrying around cash, we get points, we have fraud protection, and get a good exchange rate.  Credit cards aren’t as ubiquitous outside the US, so we always have cash on hand just in case.  Sometimes using a credit card abroad can be tricky, so check in next week for a separate post with some tips.

Get cash from ATMs.  We use a CapitalOne 360 Checking ATM card*, which doesn’t charge fees for using foreign ATMs.  We try to stick to large bank ATMs (HSBC, BNP Paribas, Barclays, China Construction, etc.) avoid places like Travelex if we can.  If we have to use a shady-looking ATM, we try to withdraw as little as possible until we can get to a better one.  Always call your bank to let them know you are traveling!

On rare occasions, we’ll order a bit of cash ahead of time from our bank.  It’s usually when we go to new places where we aren’t sure about the ATM situation or it’s a cash-heavy culture (China, Turkey).  We never order Euros or Pounds Sterling ahead of time.

There are exceptions to every rule.  In some countries it’s actually advantageous to use cash (Argentina).  Before you head to a new country, check out a guidebook or some online forums.  People are always eager to help!

If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them!  Happy spending!

*We used to use our Bank of America ATM card, but they started charging a percentage of each cash withdrawal, so it got voted off the island.


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