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The ABCs of ATMs Abroad

Tips for Using ATMs While Traveling Internationally

It use to be the standard. Along with passports and airline tickets, travelers would always remember to bring their travelers' checks. However, today fewer merchants are accepting traveler's checks, and with the relatively high fees for buying and cashing them, many travelers have moved on to credit, debit and ATM cards. As the major source of funding for travelers, these cards can be risky to use if the right safety precautions are not taken. Here are some tips for using ATMs for transactions while traveling internationally.

  • Visa and Mastercard charge a one percent fee for all foreign transactions, and most banks will tack on an additional two percent charge for converting ATM transactions to U.S. dollars. Check with your credit, debit and ATM card providers to determine which of your cards are the most travel-friendly. You can also sign up for a new card with a provider that waives or reduces the international fees.

  • Make sure you have ample available credit and/or funds deposited. Also, check the expiration dates on your cards.

  • Many foreign ATMs accept four-digit PINs only, and often times they don't even display letters on their keyboards. If you use a word for your PIN, memorize its numeric equivalent before traveling.

  • Unusual foreign transactions may be flagged as fraudulent, so let your credit, debit and ATM card providers know of your travel plans prior to your departure. This will ensure they do not freeze your account once you begin making international transactions. Also, take more than one card with you just incase one of your accounts is accidently frozen.

  • Make a list of convenient ATM locations in your destination cities before leaving. Both Visa and Mastercard have on-line worldwide ATM locators that cover more than 210 countries. Make sure that your card displays a Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus or Plus logo for worldwide acceptance.

  • Prepaid debit cards are a safe, albeit more expensive, alternative to a traditional debit or ATM card. Simply purchase the necessary value ahead of time and use the card in ATMs while traveling. Since the card is in no way connected to your checking account, there is no danger if your card is lost or stolen. However, these prepaid cards usually have additional fees attached.

  • Make all of your purchases in local currency and beware of merchants offering to convert your purchases into U.S. dollars. Merchants can inflate the exchange rates by as much as five percent.

  • Cash-to-Cash machines are common, especially in Europe. They look like ATMs, though you feed in currency rather than your card. Despite being convenient, the machines often charge inflated exchange rates. The same may be true for the currency exchange booths at many international airports.

Exchange rates and commission fees can be very expensive when converting foreign currency back to U.S funds. Try to limit all cash withdrawals to just what you need. Use your remaining currency for that last lunch or souvenir, or tuck it away until your next trip.

Source — Magellans

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