Travel hacks for avoiding hefty bank fees overseas
When you are travelling, every dollar counts. Why waste those hard earned dollars on international bank and money transfer fees? Over the last few years of travel we have looked for ways to avoid as many of these fees as possible and wanted to share with you some of our best travel hacks to help save your hard earned cash.
Avoid bank fees when using ATMs abroad
Even though you can get a great exchange rate by withdrawing cash through ATMs abroad, you can also get slammed with some pretty hefty bank fees.
One of our readers suggested opening an account with a bank that is part of the Global ATM Alliance. This is a joint venture between several major international banks whereby customers can use their debit or ATM card at another bank within the alliance and skip the international access and ATM withdrawal fees.
Below is a list of major banks in this alliance:
- Bank of America (United States)
- Barclays (England, Wales, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and certain countries in Africa)
- BNP Paribas (France, Ukraine)
- China Construction Bank (China; Bank of America card holders only.)
- Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal and Italy)
- Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (Italy)
- Santander Serfin (Mexico; Bank of America card holders only.)
- Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, Peru, Chile and Mexico)
- Westpac (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands)
- ABSA (South Africa)
Use a prepaid travel money card
Recently I have noticed quite a few companies releasing their own prepaid multi-currency cards. One of the better options here in Australia is the Qantas Cash card. Built into the Qantas Frequent Flyer membership card, the Qantas Cash element allows you to load the card with up to eleven different currencies and use it all over the world to make purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs. Purchases will attract no foreign transaction fees as long as you have local currency loaded onto your card.
It’s also free to load funds onto the card. Plus, when you load, you can lock in the exchange rate, which I find is great for budgeting as I know exactly how much cash I have with me. You can even use the card to make purchases in a currency not supported by the card. In these instances it will convert the funds from one of the other currencies loaded on the card.
Avoid overseas fees on credit card transactions
If you do want to use your credit card to withdraw cash abroad, you should be aware that you will be charged a cash advance fee. You will however benefit from the good exchange rates on offer. To make this worthwhile, I usually try to limit my withdrawals and take out enough money to hopefully last my trip.
But if you are taking out large amounts of cash you will want to do some research on how to keep it safe. I personally like some of the suggestions made by Matthew on his blog, especially about using a Dummy Wallet.
Getting the best currency conversion
You can’t use your credit card or debit card for everything, and sometimes you just need some cash. There are a bunch of different ways you can get cash in other countries and currencies, and some of them come at a much lower cost than others.
Use your credit card – Using a credit card or bank card to withdraw cash at an ATM will usually give you the best rate. Make sure you have a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees such as the prepaid Qantas Cash card, and if it’s a credit card all you will need to pay is the cash advance fee. I find that even with the cash advance fee, the money saved on the conversion rate makes this option worthwhile.
Avoid currency exchange offices at the airport – Any currency exchange offices that are near places where travellers congregate, like an airport, bus station, etc, will usually have the absolute worst currency conversion rates. If you need to convert cash, it’s best to hold off until you are in the city.