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In 2015, nearly 32,000,000 Americans travel overseas and over 72 million Americans travel to Mexico or Canada according to U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office. That’s a lot of carry on bags to pack and travel sized shampoo to buy. Whether you’re traveling for business or jetting off on a getaway to unplug, you’re likely going to want to use your credit card and debit cards while you’re away.
But if you do, you could end up arriving home to some huge charges or, even worse, if you don’t notify your bank beforehand you could end up with a nasty surprise at your destination. That’s because your bank could think your card was stolen and cancel or freeze the card to prevent further fraudulent charges. They might require that you call them to confirm that you are traveling before unfreezing your account, or that you get a new card.
Being in another country without access to cash or credit is the last thing you want, as is having to spend your trip trying to track down the right number for your bank in order to call them to confirm that you’re really who you say you are. That’s why it’s critical to follow your bank’s procedures for letting them know when you’re traveling. Don’t know what they are? We’ll give you a rundown of what you need to do if you bank with some of the biggest banks below!
But, before we do that, we’ll examine the huge fees you can rack up if you use your cards abroad without understanding the charges for foreign transactions, ATM fees, or converting cash. Here are some tips for how to avoid bank fees when traveling.
Common Bank and Credit Card Fees When Traveling Abroad
Watch out! Getting money from an ATM can be expensive when traveling – costing you up to $5 per withdrawal in addition to currency conversion fees and additional fees from the ATM network or bank you use. Even if you planned ahead and exchanged money at your local bank before leaving, you might still encounter a situation in which you would need additional funds. For example, perhaps you found a piece of art at a market that you loved and had to pay for it in cash. Or maybe you went out for dinner and didn’t realize that the restaurant you chose didn’t take credit cards. Suddenly you find that you’re low on cash and need to replenish your wallet.
You may also want to use your debit card or credit card in order to pay for some of your transactions. But before you whip out your debit card every time you buy a new souvenir, make sure that you’re aware if your bank charges foreign conversions fees when traveling. The same goes with using your credit card. Even many travel credit cards still charge foreign conversion fees of as much as 2% to 3% which can add up quickly.
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How to Avoid Bank Fees When Using Debit or Credit Cards
There are some debit or credit cards which do not charge a foreign exchange fee, so be sure to find out before you travel what your cards charge. If all of your cards charge a foreign transaction fee, you might want to see if you can switch to a different checking account type that doesn’t or apply for a new credit card with no foreign transaction fees before leaving. Be sure to read all the fine print around foreign transactions on the cards you intend to use.
Another thing that you might not be aware of when you’re using your credit card or your debit card abroad is that you might be given the option to be charged in your home currency. While you might think that this will help you avoid foreign exchange fees and so will be a good deal, the conversion that you’ll get at the terminal often isn’t a good rate. Rather than choosing to be charged your own currency, make sure you got your pick the local currency since your credit card company will offer better conversion rates – often even you’ll get charged foreign transaction fees.
How to Avoid Fees When Using International ATMs
There are a number of ways that you can potentially avoid ATM fees while travelling abroad. One is to pick a bank that is part of a global ATM network. This is a large network of banks from around the world who waive fees for people who are customers at other banks within the network and don’t charge for ATM withdrawals.
For example, Bank of America is part of a network that includes banks in the UK, France, China, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and many other countries. Another bank that will help you avoid foreign ATM fees is Charles Schwab since they reimburse all your ATM fees at the end of each month. HSBC is another great bank to use to avoid international ATM fees since they have branches all around the world and only charge a minimal fee when you use a non-HSBC ATM. Capital One is also a great choice since they don’t charge any withdrawal fees themselves, but you might have to pay withdrawal fees if the local bank or ATM charges them.
How to Avoid Fees When Exchanging Money
Another way to avoid fees when traveling is to avoid changing money at the money exchange kiosks that you find in the airport, in tourist districts, or at your hotel. These firms often charge you a service fee to exchange your money and also don’t tend to provide a good exchange rate. Your best bet is to pay for most of your purchases on a credit card with no foreign transaction fees as credit cards often charge very advantageous exchange rates.
But you’ll also need some money to bring with you. To avoid fees, you’re better off exchanging your money at your bank before you leave since they offer competitive exchange rates. Just be sure to call and order your currency ahead of time to make sure that they’ll have what you need on hand for your trip. Another option is to use your debit card to make a withdrawal at a foreign ATM, but to either do so only once to cut down on ATM fees or to do so at an ATM or bank which is within your bank’s network. The exchange rate at banks at your destination might even be better than the rate offered to you from banks at home.
To save money, make sure that you don’t use things like online sites that allow you to order currency or prepaid currency cards since they will both charge high fees.
Banking Tips for Customers Traveling Abroad
Select a company from the list below to find banking tips for customers traveling abroad:
Wells Fargo Customers
Like many banks, Wells Fargo prefers that you let them know when you are traveling abroad so that they can monitor your accounts. You can easily update them as to your travel plans by logging into your online bank account or Wells Fargo app and filling out the travel notification form with info about where you will be traveling. You can also contact them by calling the number that’s on the back of your Wells Fargo debit card or credit card to notify them of your travel plans.
To make sure Wells Fargo has the cash you need to convert at the branch you want, they suggest you order cash online, in any branch, or by calling 1-800-626-9430.
When it comes to finding a Wells Fargo ATM, you can search for locations online. Some Wells Fargo customers have trouble using foreign ATMs because they often require a four digit PIN number, whereas many Wells Fargo PINs are alphabetic. You can either translate the letters into numbers at a Wells Fargo ATM before you head off on your trip, get help at a branch. or call 1-800-TO-WELLS (1-800-869-3557) for help.
If you are customer at Chase bank, you will want to contact them before you leave in order to set up a Chase international travel notification. This allows you to easily and quickly let Chase know that you will be out of the country and making purchases. That way, Chase will not deny any purchases on your account to protect your bank account. If you do not do this, Chase might freeze your transactions and you’ll have to call Chase in order to get them to authorize them.
In order to notify Chase that you’ll be traveling, you have to log into your online Chase account and click on the Customer Centre. You’ll see an option to set up an international travel notification and all you have to do is click on it and follow the process in order to set it up.
Bank of America Customers
The Bank of America suggests that you notify both your bank and credit card company before you travel abroad so that they are aware that you will be out of town. You can do so by setting a travel notice through your online account, via your mobile banking app, or by giving them a call at 1-800-432-1000.
Bank of America has an online locator where you can search for ATM locations that are within their international partner ATM network.
If you are Citibank customer, it is important to call them and make them aware that you will be traveling. The number to call is 210-677-0065, but if you’re a Citibank Gold customer, you can also call 1-800-CITICODE or call collect at 210-677-3789. Citibank has over 45,000 ATM in 30 countries that have no extra transaction fees for withdrawals when you use your Citi debit card. If you need currency before leaving for your trip, you can get it delivered by the next business day by visiting a branch or calling 1-800-765-7050.
Citizens Bank Customers
Citizens Bank doesn’t require that you notify them when you’re traveling abroad, but you can do so just in case by calling them at 1-800-922-9999. They suggest that you use debit cards to save on foreign currency fees, and do not have a foreign partner for ATM use so recommend you use ATMS sparingly to avoid fees.
US Bank Customers
U.S. Bank suggests that you let your bank know that you will be traveling. Before you leave, you can contact your bank to tell them your destination. U.S. Bank will then put a travel notification on your checking and credit card accounts including a list of all the countries where you might be using your cards. If you do not have this, U.S. Bank might see your debit or credit card usage as fraudulent and put a hold on your account until you verify the purchase. You can let them know via your online banking or by calling the numbers on the back of your debit and credit cards.
PNC Bank Customers
If you are a customer at PNC Bank, it’s important to let them know that you will be travelling out of the country. You can easily do this by logging into your online banking account and clicking on the Customer Service tab. Under the Debit/ATM Card Services tab, you can choose the cards you intend to use while traveling and click on the link that says Notify PNC of Foreign Travel. You can also call their Customer Care Centre at 1-888-762-2265.
PNC Bank has over 8,750 ATMs across the U.S., but they also offer reimbursement for ATM fees with certain accounts.
They also want customers know that if they are traveling in places around Europe, Canada, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East that many credit card terminals are able to take chip or EMV cards. If you don’t currently have a chip enabled card, then you might consider getting one before you leave to ensure the security of your cards.
Author: Jeff Gitlen