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Best way to take money

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Best way to take money for 4 months in South America
13 years ago, May 10th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #34833  
We're spending 4 months in South America - Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela. We're planning on taking some cash (US dollars), some travellers cheques (Amex in US dollars) and the rest on credit card (both Visa and Mastercard). Is this the best thing to do? And what proportions of each should we take e.g. 1/3 cheques etc Thanks Reply to this

13 years ago, May 10th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #34835  
All depend where you are from...if from the States, look at a bank that doesn't charge hefti for ATM withdraws.

But wherever you are from, here is the trick...

Most spending on a visa-matercard. Make sure you have 2 cards...on two separates accounts, that you keep separate...so if one go missing, you do have a back up. Make sure you card give you things like insurance, and air miles or cash rebate!

Plus a debit card to withdraw in ATM all over the place....same thing, two of them are better.

If you are from the States, look for a big bank that have lots of affiliates down there, or if from somewhere else, a bank like HSBC.

I wouldn't take much cash at all with me, and no traveller cheques at all.

I'm on the road all the time....and barely carry cash with me...it's true...sometimes it can be fun....few years ago I landed in Rio with 7usd in my pocket, and none of the ATM was working...hop on the local bus and went to an ATM in town...but that's fun!

Have a great trip, I was all over South America in Feb...it's on my blog!

Peter Reply to this

13 years ago, May 10th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #34897  
Marie and Emma,

I can only speak to Ecuador, though I was there just a few weeks ago. PA makes good points and I would generally follow them all. In fact, while I've had no troubles, I wish I would have gotten a second debit card just in case. Too late now, of course.

In Ecuador, ATM's are plentiful. I found the ones with Banco Pinchincha (spelling may be a little off) didn't charge me a fee to use the ATM...my bank did, but that's another matter.

Be sure to ask your bank and credit card companies about service fees and foreign transaction fees. It could add as much as 1-5%!t(MISSING)o every purchase you make.

I wouldn't use traveler's cheques...they will be difficult to impossible to cash.

Speaking of cash, Ecuador uses the US dollar as the official currency with their own coins - but all correspond to U.S. coins (i.e. a one cent piece, 5 cent, 10 cents, 25 cent, and also a 50 cent piece. They also use the golden Sacagawea dollar coins that Americans won't use, even if they are legal US dollars). That said, it was my experience it is hard to make change in Ecuador. I would get/bring a fair amount of small bills such as 1's and 5's. You will need them. Don't use 50's or 100's, nobody will accept them. In fact, they get suspect of $20 dollar bills. You'll see them holding them up to the light for the strip though the bills and using the counterfeit pens on $20's and sometimes even $10's. Be sure to note, even banks don't like to give change for $10's and $20's...all the more reason to bring small change. That said, if you're at a restaurant and all you give them is a $20 after you ate the food, they won't have much choice but find change. You may just have to wait until they go down the street to another business to find change...or you may end up giving a big tip.

I would also plan on using cash for most purchases in Ecuador. Relatively few places take credit cards because the banks charge very high commissions to use credit cards (such as 6-8%!o(MISSING)f the purchase). You may find if you want to use a card (and a business will accept them), they will add 6-10%!t(MISSING)o the bill. About the only places that took cards without much hassle were the biggest businesses, such as the big hotels, some restaurants in Gringoland (La Mariscal) if you had a minimum amount of purchase, and the airlines.

Hope that helps on at least Ecuador. I found it a spectacular country to visit and want to go back sometime soon.

Reply to this

13 years ago, May 10th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #34900  
Great advice, thanks. We're traveling on New Zealand $ so were going to convert everything into US$ since that seems to be the best. Only 1 NZ bank offers a debit card and it only started that few months ago! Go figure that! But no time to change banks... I could use my UK debit card but then would have the hassle of sending a telegraphic transfer and not so easy to sort out if things go wrong using the UK account as we're returning to NZ.

So the plan was cash advances on credit card with the second card as back up. My NZ bank fees for this are ok.

How easy is it to get cash advances from ATMs? Reply to this

13 years ago, May 11th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #34904  
M&E, I'm not sure I can offer a whole lot of first hand experience on that...I had a debit card so I either used that or charged to a credit card. That said, all the ATM's asked if my card was a credit or debit card so my guess is that it is pretty easy, other than normal stuff like PIN's and service fees.

One last thing...contact your bank to make sure your particular card is set up to allow transactions from foreign locations. I say this as my particular bank is a small bank and pretty conservative on its practices (and, therefore, also a pretty stable little bank). I'm glad I asked ahead of time as they told me they have to "activate" the card for various regions ahead of time. It took my bank about a week. That said, I gave them a basic itinerary and they "activated" my card for the areas I said I was going. This is all to prevent against fraud in foreign countries. You may also want to inquire on your available withdrawal limits if you haven't already. Mine are set to specific daily limits so if someone got my card there's only so much they could spend. Actually, my card also doesn't allow access to my savings account, only my checking account. This is actually nice as there's another protection to how much could be taken out if I lost my card. I just go online and transfer money online from savings to checking when I need to do so. It's worked out pretty slick.

One last thing, since you mention your UK card. There are some currency exchange places in Quito, the capital. That said, I really didn't see anywhere that spoke of Euros or Pounds, but it seems you're planning on using dollars, so probably not an issue. Just a heads up. If you need more info on Ecuador, let me know and I'll tell you what I can. Have a great trip!

Reply to this

13 years ago, May 11th 2008 No: 6 Msg: #34905  
great thanks for the help newplacestogo, I'll check out the withdrawal limit as I hadn't thoguht of that. Yeah we've got it noted on both the NZ cards that we're going to be traveling in South America as apparently these types of transactions get flagged for fraud and they put a stop on the card until you confirm its genuine. The note tells the bank its the card holder so all is ok.

Ecuador seems a long way off for us at the moment as probably won't be up there until August (making our way south to north) and we haven't got a fixed plan - just the countries and the order! But wil probaby pick your brains nearer the time... :-) Reply to this

13 years ago, May 11th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #34911  
Just go ahead and add a post when ready for any info...I'll keep myself subscribed to this blog so I get a reminder email to answer your question. August is a ways off, but it will come more quickly than you think!
Reply to this

13 years ago, May 12th 2008 No: 8 Msg: #35016  
Hi,

Gary adds up great point of vue...and he his specially roght for merchant who are charging more if you pay by credit card.

As a general rule, cash advance on credit card is a very very bad idea...excecpt for the profit of the bank. You would still be better of with a uk TT and using a debit card through ATM...using a credit card in an ATM is bloody expensive.

In Argentina and Peru, it's very easy to get your hands on USD and change them. And for Ecuador, as everything is in USD, that's easy too...don't know for the other ones.

Have fun in NZ...ove their wines! Reply to this

13 years ago, May 12th 2008 No: 9 Msg: #35017  
Good point, PA...my credit cards charge a service fee off the bat to get a cash advance, usually around 3-5% of the amount (with a minimum charge), and then immediately start charging interest at usually a much higher rate than normal purchases - no grace period like normal purchases. Credit cards in general are such a tool of the devil, I sadly can attest to!

If you can find a way to not use credit cards for cash advances you would be well advised to not use them. I think, however, there are ways to get a cash advance but make it look like a "purchase" so you save the extra fees from your credit card, though you pay that merchant a fee so you'll have to investigate what is the better deal if you need cash off the credit card. That all said, I've never done this so I don't know how to do it - just heard the rumor...

Take care, again email with more questions... Reply to this

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