Does Your Bank Support Your International travel?   2 comments

Like many people, I am learning, I do not travel with wads of cash bulging out of my pockets. And like many people, I have not brought a traveler’s check in eons. I travel with my bank card and my American Express card. I use ATM’s, regardless of where I travel. I am addicted to them. I try to never get more than $200 and carry no more than $50, leaving the rest in my hotel room safe or hidden someplace in my apartment. This leads to the crux of this story; how does your bank support your travel or your living outside of your home country?

On my most recent trip to Costa Rica, I lost my ATM card. You can imagine with what I have just said about my banking habits how disastrous that was for me. I had four days left and forty dollars in my pocket. After calling Bank of America to cancel my card, I engaged in a series of discussions with the bank’s customer service agents that led to the following questions that I hope will help you should you travel abroad and need your bank.

Do you need to tell your bank that you are out of the country before leaving? I learned, the hard way, that the answer to this question for me is yes. I once had my ATM/bank card frozen because Bank of America did not know that I was using the card outside of the country. Fortunately, I had some cash (I never let myself travel without my emergency $100 bill) so the awkward situation was avoided. By the way, I never use my bank card to pay a bill. I am too afraid of someone copying my info and accessing my checking account. I only use it at an ATM. I charge with AMEX, who has the best costumer protection service in the universe as far as I am concerned. Anyway, I learned from that situation to let them know if I am going out of the country and using ATMs.

How is your bank at problem solving when you are out of the country? If you do not have SKYPE or some other low cost international telephone service; or your bank does not have a toll free number or an international number or accept collect calls; it could cost a small fortune to work your way through the myriad of people and offices to revolve your problem. When I lost my bank card, I talked to five people. Or was it seven? The time it took was amazing, not to mention the fact that the information I eventually received was wrong. Which led to me tweeting the following, “Lost debit card in foreign country. Bank of America can’t give access to my money w/o taking app. for a 19% interest rate cash advance. Loco!” Little did I know, Bank of America representatives, picked up the message and tweeted me back. They asked how they could help. I was impressed. So the question to be asked is; how would you communicate with your bank if something happened and you were in a foreign country? The Bank of America representative that intervened in my situation encouraged me to tweet whatever problems I had. I guess big brother is watching! I was glad.

If you lost your card how long would it take to get a replacement? Bank of America customer services reps assured me, rushed with FedEx, that I would have a replacement card delivered to my hotel in Costa Rica in four days. That was wrong. They quoted me the time it takes to have a card delivered within the United States. International, it is generally six days. It would have been great to have known this up-front. Then I could have planned my spending better. Also, with Bank of America, the people that issue the cards are a contractor. They do as they are told. This is important to know because they are useless in problem solving and providing information. After asking, their customer service representative in replacement card services assured me that my pin number was not being changed. Wrong! It was changed. They send the new password within a few days of sending out the card. Meaning that if the new card took six days to get to me the password would take at least another two days. I would be in the States when it arrived. Meaning getting the replacement card by FedEx in a rush was basically useless.

Does your bank provide you with emergency access to your cash? I learned that Bank of America does not. They best they can do is give their customers access to a cash advance on their credit card, fortunately I have one, at 19% interest starting on the date of the advance. And they must update your credit information first before even considering giving the cash advance.

What are the fees for using ATMs out of country? First you have to know the rate of exchange that your bank is giving to know if their exchange rates are competitive with that of the local bank. This will tell you how much your bank is charging you for selling you the local currency. Bank of America also charges, outside of their Global ATM Alliance (consisting of seven countries/banks), an International Transaction Fee. This fee is assessed when I use my check card for purchases in foreign currency or in US dollars with a foreign merchant. This fee is also assessed when I use my check card to get foreign currency from an ATM. The International Transaction Fee is a percentage of the U.S. dollar amount of each purchase or ATM withdrawal. Additionally, they charge an ATM usage fee. This fee is charged for using an ATM without a Bank of America’s logo for withdrawals, transfers, or balance inquiries. And then there are also the fees I am being charged by the local ATM bank/operator or network.

As you can see I am paying for the convenience of not carrying a lot of cash.  But for me the peace of mind is well worth it, as is the convenience. The keys are: knowing upfront what my bank can do; factoring the costs for using ATM’s into my budget; and being prepared when problems arise.

Posted June 28, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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2 responses to “Does Your Bank Support Your International travel?

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  1. Great advice! And reminded me that I needed to change my address with my bank. Thanks 🙂

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