Standing in front of Eiffel Tower

Best Practices for Foreign Travel

January 13, 2016
If you are planning a trip out of the country, don’t forget to plan ahead for your banking needs. The last thing you want is to get to your destination and find out your credit or debit card doesn’t work. Help to ensure a smooth-sailing vacation with these best practices.

  • Inform your bank or credit union in advance of your trip with the time period you’ll be traveling. This is important. If you do not let them know you are traveling, and they notice charges on your account that are not the norm for you, they may block your card until they can confirm those charges are from you. For 1st United members, you may call us, email us, or login and start a conversation by clicking Messages.

  • Cash is the way to pay, but there is no need to exchange your dollars before leaving on your trip. Cash machines abroad are the best way to obtain local currency and you will pay fewer fees than if you had exchanged dollars at home. Our tip is to exchange a small amount at home just to get you going for taxi rides, tips, etc.. Then exchange the rest once you arrive at your destination.

  • To minimize fees, withdraw larger amounts and keep excess funds in your hotel safe. The amount you can withdraw will depend on the limits allowed by the machine.

  • Memorize your PIN by the numbers, not letters. U.S. keypads do not always line up the same as foreign keypads.

  • Plan on being able to only withdraw money from your checking account when out of the country. You might not have access to withdraw from your savings account or transfer funds between accounts at a foreign ATM.

  • Bring an extra ATM card in case one gets demagnetized or eaten by the foreign ATM machine. You do not need a chip card to use a European ATM; your standard magnetic strip card will work fine.

  • Make sure your PIN is only four digits long. Many foreign ATMs will not accept 3, 5 or 6 digit PINs. If your card has a 4-digit PIN and the ATM requires a 6-digit PIN, try placing two zeros before your PIN.

  • If you are looking for an ATM, ask for a distributeur in France, a cashpoint in UK and a Bancomat in other countries.

  • Some banks have their ATMs in a small entry lobby, which protects users from snoopers and bad weather. When the bank is closed, the door to this lobby may be locked. In this case, look for a credit card-size slot next to the door. Simply insert or swipe your debit or credit card in this slot and the door should automatically open.

If you have any questions about traveling abroad and your accounts, be sure to call us.