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Banks, ATMs, Traveler's Checks & Money

How do you avoid fees?
13 years ago, December 23rd 2008 No: 1 Msg: #58254  
N Posts: 9
I plan on traveling in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East and am wondering if anyone can make recommendations about money.

Of course I will be carrying traveler's checks, however I know that when these run out I'll need to visit a bank. Some banks seems to charge a lot for foreign withdrawals.... my bank, Union Bank of California, charges $5 a transaction. I wondering what's the best way to avoid this, if possible, since the ATM itself may charge me too.

All opinions welcome! Reply to this

13 years ago, January 11th 2009 No: 2 Msg: #59657  
B Posts: 12
This is a great question! I, too, would love to know. Reply to this

13 years ago, January 12th 2009 No: 3 Msg: #59775  
Are travelers checks the best way to go? I always thought if you're going to be over there for an extended period it might be better just opening an account? Reply to this

13 years ago, January 13th 2009 No: 4 Msg: #60013  
Travelers checks are heading the way of the Dodo, some companys like money gram, western,travelex etc are now providing money cards, these are preloaded with money and can be topped on, the are some fees to use it but less than using your own bank card and it also means if the card is lost the is no access to your bank account as the is only the money loaded on the card that can be accessed.

In the UK nationwide bank have the flexi accoun t which has a visa debit card which does not charge fees but they covert currency below the interbank rate....so you get less bang for your buck so to speak.

Another option is that you can get an account with a gobal bank like HSBC and get one of there international accounts, I forget the name but you pay a set fee and you can withdraw cash anywhere in the world without charge, but it depends how the fee works out against no charges?

Hope that helps😊

take care

Mike😊 Reply to this

13 years ago, January 13th 2009 No: 5 Msg: #60030  
Yeah I had a travelex card for the month I spent in England last year. They charged 3pound per withdrawal so I tended to withdraw 300pounds a pop (I was staying with family so had a secure place to keep excess cash). I found it great because I knew that I didn't have to worry about exchange rates because all my money was already converted to pounds. Reply to this

13 years ago, January 16th 2009 No: 6 Msg: #60360  
N Posts: 9
Thank you everyone for the suggestion. The HSBC or global bank option sounds like a good idea. The preloaded money card is also interesting, but I'm assuming I'll get robbed at some point so I don't want to be out a lot of money.

I had no idea traveler's checks were on the out. Thanks again.

Any other suggestions are appreciated! Reply to this

13 years ago, January 20th 2009 No: 7 Msg: #60806  
N Posts: 8
I checked out the HSBC idea by looking through their web site. I couldn't find any real information about fees so I called their customer service. They charge a whopping 3% currency conversion fee. It's "free" to use an HSBC ATM but there are fees if you use another bank. A better idea is to set up a "mySmart Cash Account" with Fidelity.com. No charge to use any ATM anywhere in the world but there will be a 1% currency conversion fee. This is the best deal I've found anywhere and 1% is the standard fee charged by everyone. Reply to this

13 years ago, January 21st 2009 No: 8 Msg: #60834  
Nice find Yannatry😊, are fidelity gobal and so can anyone set up an account or are they US or European based?


Mike😊 Reply to this

13 years ago, January 21st 2009 No: 9 Msg: #60899  
N Posts: 8
I checked with Fidelity and unfortunately they are US based. You have to open the account in the US and have a US address. It can be used anywhere in the world.
Claire (Yannatry) Reply to this

13 years ago, February 4th 2009 No: 10 Msg: #62216  
Thanks Claire😊 Reply to this

13 years ago, February 4th 2009 No: 11 Msg: #62264  
When I travel I use a ATM Debit card from a Credit Union here in the U.S. I have never had a fee when using this card abroad in Europe, Central America or Asia. Here in the U.S. I do get hit with a fee if I use an out of network ATM, but not in foreign countries. I honestly don't know why this is. The exchange rate is always right on with xe.com, too.

I recommend this method. Reply to this

13 years ago, February 4th 2009 No: 12 Msg: #62266  
N Posts: 8
does this mean you do not get charged with the 1% conversion fee either? Which credit union is it?
Claire Reply to this

13 years ago, February 4th 2009 No: 13 Msg: #62269  
Hi Claire,

As far as I could tell we didn't get charged any fee. When I do the math it seems to be an exact exchange. Although, I never knew about this 1% conversion fee and since it's such a small percentage I might have been charged that. Anyway, I am with Community First Credit Union of Florida.

Jonathan Reply to this

13 years ago, March 25th 2009 No: 14 Msg: #66913  
N Posts: 9
Just got the Fidelity account. Here's the info:

Key Benefits Fidelity Advantage Open online today to:

* Competitive interest rates (see current rates PDF) This link opens in a popup
* No account fees
* No minimum deposit or balance required
* Deposits are eligible for FDIC insurance3
* Easy cash management features, including:
– ATM/Debit Card – never pay another ATM fee2
– Free Fidelity BillPay®
– Free unlimited checkwriting
– Free automated money transfers
– Electronic Funds Transfers
– Direct Deposit
– Fidelity® Investment Rewards® Credit Card

* Reimbursed ATM fees at over 1 million ATMs worldwide2
* Invest efficiently – establish the new automated money transfer feature – set high balance alerts to tell you when cash is available to invest in potentially higher yield options
* No annual fee Fidelity® Investment Rewards® Credit Card lets you earn points that can be redeemed for cash into a mySmart Cash Account® at a 1.5% rate.4

* Enroll in free Fidelity BillPay, ATM/Debit Card and checkwriting
* Establish Electronic Funds Transfer and direct deposit
* Have checks sent to you (when you sign and return your signature card)

1. The mySmart Cash Account is a brokerage account designed to meet your everyday spending needs. It is not intended to serve as your main account for securities trading. Customers interested in securities trading should consider a Fidelity Account.® You can also link these two accounts for seamless management of your finances.
2. All Fidelity ATM withdrawal fees will be waived for your mySmart Cash Account®. In addition, your mySmart Cash Account® will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using a Fidelity Visa® Gold Check Card linked to your mySmart Cash Account® at any ATM displaying the Visa®, PLUS® or STAR® logos. The reimbursement will be credited to the mySmart Cash Account® the same day the ATM fee is debited from the account. Please note there is a foreign transaction fee of one percent that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account. The Fidelity Visa® Gold Check Card is issued by PNC Bank, DE and administered by PFPC Trust Company, which are not affiliated with Fidelity Investments.
3. The Cash Balance in the mySmart Cash Account is swept to an FDIC-insured interest bearing account at a Program Bank. The deposit at the Program Bank is not covered by SIPC. The deposit is eligible for FDIC insurance subject to FDIC insurance coverage limits. For more information about FDIC insurance coverage, please visit the FDIC website at www.FDIC.gov. As referenced in the FDIC-Insured Cash (Core) Disclosure Statement for the mySmart Cash Account, customers are responsible for monitoring their total assets at the Program Bank to determine the extent of available FDIC insurance. All FDIC insurance coverage is in accordance with FDIC rules. See list of Banks Eligible to Receive Cash (PDF) or Bank Assigned to Receive Your Cash (PDF). For additional information please see FDIC Disclosure Document (PDF). Reply to this

13 years ago, March 30th 2009 No: 15 Msg: #67627  
N Posts: 8
I just sent a deposit to the Netherlands using my Amazon Visa credit card which is through Chase. Afterwards, I realized I should have checked to see what the conversion rate was. I called and found out it was a whopping 3%. Too late to change it but I was interested in seeing my statement. There is no information anywhere that there was a conversion fee. It is just hidden in the charge. I figured it out to be $75 (we're buying a camper so it was based on 2500 euros). So, you may think there are no extra charges but unless you remember what the rate was the day you charge something and then do the math you will never really know that you've been charged a fee. Fidelity only charges 1% and that is the lowest anyone charges for the currency conversion fee. Reply to this

13 years ago, April 12th 2009 No: 16 Msg: #69274  
B Posts: 18
One thing I should note: When you view the 'official exchange rates', they are the inter-bank rates and almost alway accompanied by a note that the rate is valid for transactions over $1,000,000. I believe Visa & MasterCard add a set percentage to that amount (somewhere around 1-2%!)(MISSING). S no matter where you bank, you will never get the published exchange rate.

For me, Bank of America charges a flat $5 fee for using a foreign ATM. Of course, I also have to add a 1%!V(MISSING)isa conversion fee plus the fee charged by the ATM's owner. Irregardless, as I usually withdraw $100-200 at a time, the $10 or so in fees/conversion percentage is MUCH better than the large fees for converting cash/travelers' checks. My last time using traveler's checks, it cost 2%!f(MISSING)or the checks (again, from Bank of America...put the fee is waived for people with certain premium checking accounts) plus I get charged a €15 by the currency exchanger (and I don't know what the extra %!t(MISSING)heir 'exchange rate' was). If you want to get something expensive, it might be more beneficial to get traveler's checks in the currency you need. If traveling to a popular country, you can see if your bank sells foreign currency...you will probably be charges a small percentage fee, but you will avoid the fees imposed by your bank for a foreign ATM and by the ATM's owner. Reply to this

13 years ago, April 14th 2009 No: 17 Msg: #69526  
Just came back from Singapore and Malaysia and just got all my bank and credit card statements from my trip. My advice about travelers check is DON'T!! No one will take it and those who did will charge you a lot up front. In Singapore, even some of the major upscale mall merchants will not take travelers checks - a sign prominently displayed at the cash register to that effect. Same thing in Malaysia. The only ones who will take travelers checks are the hotels but you pay for it. At the Hyatt Regency, on the day when the exchange rate is MR$3.60 to US$1.00, the hotel will cash travelers check at MR$3.40 to US$1.00. When I inquires, I was told they really don't like travelers checks because they pay a lot to cash them in and worst is that there are just too many fakes and the hotel had to assume the risk of getting counterfeit travelers checks. With modern high resolution printers easily available for cheap, it's too easy to make fake ones - so while hotels will take the risk at a cost, most merchants will not.

The best way is to use your ATM. I have a credit union ATM card which I was able to draw money from my checks or savings account anywhere. They charge the standard fee of $2 for using the card not at my own atm but NO foreign exchange fee. Also, the exchange rate was whatever the daily posted bank-to-bank rate which is as good as it gets. So, make sure you let your bank know you are traveling overseas and use your ATM card to get local money.

Also, if you are paying your hotel bill by credit card, ask to settle your bill in US$ (If your credit card is US base.) Many international hotels will do that (Orchard Hotel in Singapore did and so did Marriott in KL but not Hyatt!) By doing so, you get the commercial exchange rate for that day (rate posted at banks and money-changers) but your credit card will not charge you a foreign exchange fee. Reply to this

13 years ago, April 15th 2009 No: 18 Msg: #69556  
I just received my Wizard Clear Advantage credit card. 55days interest free, no international ATM withdrawal or purchase fees. You are able to put excess money on the card so that you are never using 'credit' but watch out because this money (your own money) is not covered by insurance should somebody scam you. Reply to this

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