Traveling internationally? Here's help understanding the nuances of foreign transaction fees, exchange rates and how to protect your money before you go.
Foreign travel can broaden your mind. But unless you're careful, it can also thin out your wallet. Use these valuable tips to help keep your finances under control when traveling abroad.
Before you go:
Pay your bills.
Make sure you've paid all your bills and your accounts are up to date. If you're leaving for more than a month, use your bank's online banking service to schedule payments ahead of time, to help avoid late charges that could pile up in your absence.
Inform your bank that you're traveling.
If your bank or credit card issuer sees a bunch of charges to a Caribbean resort, they may suspect fraud and freeze your card, so keep them in the loop on your travel plans. If you are a Bank of America customer, you can set up a travel notice via Online Banking to alert us you're planning to use your card while traveling. Or call 1.800.432.1000 for assistance.
Pack double the forms of payment.
As a precaution, have at least two forms of payment when traveling, such as a debit card and a credit card, in case one of them is not accepted as payment where you are traveling.
Check your health coverage.
If your health plan does not cover costs incurred while traveling, purchase a comprehensive travel health insurance policy.
Lock in a favorable exchange rate before you leave the U.S.
Exchange rates can change in a Cancun minute. Eliminate uncertainty by making the exchange before your trip, and buy foreign currency ahead of timeFootnote1.
Prepare your PIN.
Some international ATMs support only 4-digit PINs. Be sure your PIN does not start with a zero, and know your PIN by the numbers, as some ATMs outside the United States do not have letters on the keypads. To change your PIN prior to traveling, select “More Options”, select “Change PIN” and follow the screen prompts at a Bank of America ATM.
While you're traveling:
Be prepared before using an International ATM.
Before you use your card to get cash from an international ATM it pays to do a little research. When you use a foreign ATM, you could be charged a variety of fees, including non-bank ATM usage fees, ATM operator access fees, and international transaction fees for conversion to U.S. dollars. One way to limit such fees is to use your Bank of America ATM or debit card at one of our international partner ATMs. This enables you to avoid the Non-Bank of America ATM $5 usage fee for each withdrawal, transfer or balance inquiryFootnote2 as well as the ATM operator access fee.
Keep in mind that when you use your debit card to withdraw money from an international ATM, Bank of America will assess an international transaction fee of 3% of the converted U.S. dollar amountFootnote3. Foreign ATM operators may offer to do your currency conversion for you, but they may charge a higher fee for conversion. You can refuse the foreign ATM conversion and be assessed the 3% Bank of America international transaction fee instead.
Shop like a local and save on exchange rates.
Even if merchants accept U.S. dollars, they may tack on exorbitant exchange rates, so pay with the local currency. To get a sense of what the going rate is locally, purchase foreign currency before you travelFootnote1.
Pay plastic for big purchases, cash for cappuccinos.
Many credit cards hit you with a foreign transaction fee every time you make a purchase abroad. That's why it's a good idea to try to use local currency for smaller purchases like snacks and your credit card for more expensive purchases, such as restaurants and souvenirs, since you may not want to carry large amounts of cash.
You can also look into getting a card with no foreign transaction fee like the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® card. (For more information about the rate, fee and other costs and benefits of this card, see Terms and Conditions.
If you lose your wallet, don't lose your head.
Make a photocopy of your passport and everything in your wallet, especially your cards and their overseas emergency phone numbers. Pack these copies in a secure place, or leave them in a hotel safe. That way, if you lose your wallet, you can contact your bank and credit card companies quickly to get your trip back on track sooner.