When you travel a lot, you need an inexpensive way to access you cash because if you don’t have one, the fees can add up. There are 4 main ways to access your money:
1) Credit Cards
Pros: Convenient and good rates. Most credit cards have competitive exchange rates but make sure your credit card doesn’t have a fee for international charges.
Cons: Not all places accept credit cards. You need to be vigilant of fraudulent charges, especially overseas.
2) Traveler’s Checks
Pros: If lost or stolen, can be replaced.
Cons: You usually get a lower exchange rate than with cash. Not accepted everywhere.
3) Exchanging Cash
Pros: Cash is king. Everybody take cash.
Cons: I would not be comfortable carrying around large amounts of cash for an extended period of time.
4) Debit/ATM Card
Pros: Most banks will offer a competitive exchange rate.
Cons: The ATM fees can add up; Not all ATM’s are free to use.
I usually use a combination of cash, credit cards and atm card. When possible, I change my debit cards to regular ATM cards so that if they are lost or stolen it can minimize my exposure to risk. Someone else cannot use my ATM card without my pin but they may be able to use a debit card without a pin.
One way I minimize my ATM fees when traveling is to choose a bank that does not charge ATM fees for using another bank’s ATM AND refunds other bank’s ATM fees. I currently have an account at TD Bank. Their TD Premier checking account fits my criteria perfectly because they don’t charge for using another bank’s ATM and they refund the other bank’s ATM fees. The only catch is they have a $2,500 minimum daily balance requirement to waive the $25 fee. The ATM fees are usually refunded in a batch as the close of your monthly statement. In the US, they mostly have branches in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
If TD Bank isn’t for you, I’ve also research some other bank options:
Capital One - Fees assessed at any ATM within the United States and at some ATMs located outside the United States will be reimbursed within 5 business days, up to $15 per statement period. Once this limit has been reached, all usual fees apply.
First Republic Bank - does not charge an ATM fee and refunds ATM access fees from other banks. $3,500 minimum average balance to avoid monthly service charges.
Charles Schwab - No ATM fees. Receive unlimited ATM fee reimbursements
State Farm – Account will be rebated up to $10 per statement cycle when a foreign (non-State Farm Bank owned) ATM is used and the account does not have direct deposit. Unlimited ATM surcharge rebates for foreign ATMs with direct deposit.
USAA – refunds up to $15 in other banks’ ATM usage fees each month and does not charge a fee for the first 10 ATM withdrawals. Subsequent transactions will be charged $2.00 each. A 1% foreign transaction fee applies to withdrawals outside the United States.
You can also try checking with your local credit union.
If you find any other options, let me know in the comments below.