Banking While Travelling Guide

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Banking While Travelling Guide

This complete guide to banking while travelling will make certain you save money while abroad.  Avoid paying those unnecessary bank fees and take control of your money and spending.

Banking may not be first on your mind while you’re planning or partaking on the trip of a lifetime.  However, following these simple tips will save you hundreds of pounds, dollars etc.  Everyone has been guilty of taking the easy option, instead of putting in time to do the research, myself included.  Confusing terminology and lack of time can understandably be a deterrent for people when it comes to making the most of their money and spending.

This banking while travelling guide will cover the easiest methods for making the most of your money while overseas, including; avoiding ATM & foreign transaction fees, poor exchange rates and getting rewarded for your spending.  If the previously mentioned are ignored, you could be hundreds worse off than you would be if you follow this advice.

No one would choose to hand over their hard earned cash to their bank would they? That is exactly what you would be doing though.  With a little bit of effort and knowledge about banking while travelling, you can travel much smarter when it comes to money.

Avoid Paying ATM Fees

It is key to look out for ATM fees while you are travelling.  Most ATMs worldwide will charge you a fee – separate to your banks charges – for withdrawing cash with a foreign bank card.  For example, the majority of ATMs in Thailand charge a fee of 200 Baht ($5.65) for withdrawing cash.

Luckily for us, you can avoid these charges by withdrawing cash from a banks ATM in the Global ATM Alliance, using a participating banks card.  Simple hey? Yes, but no.  Although you won’t receive an ATM charge if you follow the previous advice, you may still receive a foreign transaction fee from your bank, which is usually 3% (charged for the conversion of your home currency to the local currency).

List of Banks in the Global ATM Alliance –

  • Bank of America (United States)
  • Bank of Nanjing (China)
  • Barclays (United Kingdom & Gibraltar, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
    • Barclays Africa (South Africa)
  • BNP Paribas and its affiliate banks (France, Italy)
  • Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (Italy)
  • CIMB (Malaysia, Indonesia)
  • Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Spain)
  • DBS (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan)
  • POSB (Singapore)
  • Scotiabank (Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Guyana, and the Caribbean)
  • Ukrsibbank (Ukraine)
  • Westpac (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands)

My advice, check with your bank what fees they charge.  It may well be worth getting a travel card such as Revolut as well, which doesn’t charge anything for withdrawing cash in a foreign ATM, however, doesn’t avoid the ATM fees.

Also, check with your local banks, building societies and credit unions.  These small institutions may have travel schemes in place to avoid fees, in order to compete with the big banks.

Don’t Pay Unnecessary Foreign Transaction Fees

Foreign transactions fees can easily eat away at your money when you’re spending overseas.  These fees   are another brainchild from the banks to make more money.  The majority of foreign transaction fees from banks usually stand at around 3%.  If you add that 3% up across all your spending, it can equal plenty of needless costly bank charges.

The good news is, these greedy and unnecessary fees are easily avoided.  It’s quite simple, choose a travel card or credit card which doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.  As financial institutions face more competition from ever before by their smaller counterparts, there’s no lack of choice on the market when it comes to providers who pledge to charge no foreign transaction fees.

The following credit cards do not charge foreign transaction fees.  While they also do not charge annual fees.

Australia – Bankwest

United Kingdom – Post Office Money, Santander, Revolut

USA – Capital One

I have never paid a foreign transaction fee while overseas.  You shouldn’t either.  I ensure I have a credit card and a pre-paid travel card with me at all times.  The easiest method to find these cards which avoid foreign transaction fees is by searching on price comparison websites.  A little research and effort when it comes to your banking while travelling, pays off in the long run.

Banking While Travelling Tip – Ensure you pay the credit card off in full each month.  Otherwise, you will be hit with hefty interest charges. 

Get The Best Exchange Rate When Transferring Money

A huge no no when it comes to transferring money overseas, is transferring through your bank.  While transferring money through a company like Western Union can cost you significantly more.  Avoid these methods of sending money abroad, their exchange rates are terrible.  It may be more convenient to just transfer to your account overseas via your online banking, but trust me, with a little bit of effort and signing up to a foreign exchange company, you will be much better off financially.

By a stretch, the best and cheapest foreign exchange company I have come across is TransferWise.  Banks often add mark ups to their exchange rate, which in effect means you are losing out on money when you transfer with them.  However, TransferWise uses the mid-market rate, which basically means they are using the actual exchange rate you would see on Google for instance.  There is a fee involved when you transfer money with TransferWise, nevertheless that fee is much lower than the majority of foreign exchange companies and definitely lower than the banks.

Avoid Poor Exchange Rates When Making Purchases

The best bet when it comes to making purchases is to use a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.  Along with avoiding unnecessary fees, you also need to watch out that you don’t get stung with poor exchange rates.

From my research I have found that Mastercard offer slightly better rates than Visa.  The majority of credit/travel cards I listed above which don’t charge foreign transaction fees are Mastercard, which works out perfectly.

Another tip is when you are making a purchase via your credit card in a chip and pin machine, often you will be asked whether you would like to be charged in your home currency or the local currency.  Always go for the local currency.  That way, you will receive your credit card schemes (e.g. Mastercard) exchange rate, rather than a poorer rate through the local bank.

Make The Most Of Your Spending

When you’re travelling, spending money is inevitable, it can’t be avoided, can it?  Well, why not get something back for something that you will be doing anyway.  What I mean by this, is that there are credit cards out there, which will reward you for spending.  Sounds great doesn’t it?

There are tons of credit card reward schemes out there; cashback, air miles, instant shopping discounts, gifts cards and more.

If you’re travelling now and looking to travel more in the future, it makes sense to get yourself a reward credit card which offers air miles.  Air miles are accumulated through spending on the card.  The air miles can then be used for discounts on, or even free flights.  What have you got to lose? You’re literally spending money you would anyway, with the potential to get free flights out of it.

The majority of air miles credit cards offer a sign up bonus of around 40,000-100,000 points.

Remember, make sure you pay off your credit card in full to avoid interest charges.

 

Banking While Travelling Tip – Ensure you carry cash with you as well as the previously mentioned cards.  My advice, carry US Dollars and cash in the local currency.  If the worst was to happen and you don’t have access to any cash via a card, you have that emergency cash.  Also, there are some places which don’t have ATMs, so that cash could come in handy.

 

Bank fees can certainly take a large chunk out of your budget over a period of time.  This banking while travelling guide shows that you can definitely avoid the majority of these fees.  No one would proactively give the banks money out of choice would they? Take-charge of your finances and stop giving away money.  Follow the previous tips and you will minimise these fees.  Be smart when it comes to banking while travelling.

 

Moving to Australia on a working holiday visa and found this Banking While Travelling Guide helpful? Check out my other working holiday visa tips to make sure you get off the the best possible start.

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2 Comments

  • Only Once Today

    Great guide! I loved reading it and will check out these cards you mention. We used to pay way to much money to our bank as well as the local ATM. If you add it all up, we gave away more than enough money already. Thanks for the great and useful tips!

    01/03/2017 at 7:14 pm
    • Nathan
      Nathan

      Thanks! The fees can seem just a small amount in the individual transactions, but like you said, if you add them all up, it adds up to more than enough. Glad you found the post useful.

      02/03/2017 at 6:34 am
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