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Getting and Using Money Overseas

Getting and Using Money Overseas

One of the most frequent questions The Traveling Professor gets is regarding money.  Where do I get it, and how do I spend it?  Let's answer those questions here.

Before we start, every traveler needs to be armed with a credit card that does not carry foreign transaction fees.  Also needed is a  ATM card (preferably one with no ATM fees) from a major bank - one that is part of the CIRRUS network or a similar international banking system.  Just call your credit card company and they will tell you if your credit card/ATM card is in this network. European countries are moving faster towards a cashless society than the United States or Canada are.  For instance, there were places in Norway on a recent Traveling Professor small group tour that did not accept cash at all.  The Professor is also finding available ATM's in cities is getting increasingly more difficult.

Where to Get Money:  The best place to get money while overseas is from an ATM located in a bank.  If you can't get into a bank, get money from an ATM associated with a major bank.  Airports are good places to find these.   It is a good idea to call the number on the back of the cards to tell your financial institution of your travel plans.  Otherwise, the cards may be flagged when trying to make a transaction overseas.  Getting cash from ATM's associated with larger banks is the least expensive way to get cash in a foreign country. 

Where Not to Get Money:  The worst place to get money is from a currency exchange counter.  Commissions and fees are incredibly high.  The next worst thing to do is to order currency from your bank before departure.  The exchange rates are on the side of the bank, not yours.  There are also fees involved.  If possible, avoid ATM's in places like shops and convenience stores when traveling overseas.

A Creative Way to Get Local Currency:  This happens sometimes on a Traveling Professor small group tour.  Let's say you are dining out with 7 other travelers (a total of 8 of you) for dinner in Dublin.  The bill comes and it is 200 euro (that comes to 25 euro each).  If the other 7 travelers agree to pay you 25 euros each (a total of 175 euros) in cash, take the cash and pay the entire bill on your credit card.  You now have cash and some points on your credit card.  It's a great deal for everyone. 

How to Spend Money:  Put everything you can on the credit card.  With the way Europe is going cashless, probably the only thing cash is needed for is tipping, some taxis might only take cash, and there might be some miscellaneous smaller items where cash is required.  In addition to the cash money budgeted for tips, taxis, and miscellaneous items, It might be good to have the equivalent of $40 or $50 more on hand (in local currency of course) in case of some sort of unexpected emergency  Get rid of the excess when departing by spending it at the airport or by paying that last taxi driver on the way to the airport in cash.

Some Good Things to Know:  When withdrawing money from an ATM, know your daily limit.  Find that out from your bank and maybe ask them to adjust it higher (or lower) before departure.  In many cases, the daily limit does not apply to weekends or holidays.  For instance, let's assume your daily limit is 1000 euros and you withdraw 700 euro on a Friday.  That means for the remaining weekend, only 300 euro is available to you.  Carry two credit cards and two ATM cards from different banks just in case one of them doesn't work.  

Join The Traveling Professor on a tour.  We travel to exciting destinations like Scotland, Croatia, Peru, and Canada.  Our small group tours are perfect for solo as well as accompanied travelers. 




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