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  1. #1
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    Bank account for international travel

    Here's a bit of a different subject that is related to touring.

    I spend most of my time touring/backpacking overseas. For the past few years, I've only had 1 debit (bank) card and 1 credit card. Its never gave me too many issues overall, but I think its time I setup a second bank account for emergency purposes.

    I am curious, what banks are you people using for international travel? I am currently with Royal Bank (I'm Canadian), and thinking of opening a second account with HSBC, as they seem to be everywhere in the world. Any other banks that could be recommended?

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    Senior Member dorkypants's Avatar
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    Charles Schwab bank (I'm in the US). Rebates ATM fees charged by other banks, worldwide. Allows online check deposits using your smartphone (or iPod Touch 5th gen) camera. No minimum balance required. Checking balance earns interest.

    For credit card, CapitalOne or Bank of America Travel Rewards: no annual fee, no foreign transaction charges, rewards points that don't expire and can be cashed in or used for travel purchases. BofA issues chip-and-PIN cards, in line with international security standards. CapitalOne so far is still issuing old-style magnetic-stripe-only cards. BofA also lets you generate "disposable" credit card numbers with spending limits and selectable expiration dates for online purchases, though you need a laptop/desktop computer browser with Flash plug-in to use it.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I went into Banks in Ireland , NI and Scotland And used My Visa Debit card..
    Local Oregon,Credit union.

    NB: cash advance on a credit cards incur extra Fees. (buying things does not)


    It was useful Going In the branch , because I hid the Card and other document's in a Money Belt,

    under My clothes, which often included Rain Gear, so I had to peel off Layers.

    It was '97.. Irish Republic Punt , pre Euro, Then..

    You may need to notify the credit card company / bank
    that you will be traveling so they dont assume a thief is on a spree with your card,
    and cancel it.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 01-11-14 at 10:59 AM.

  4. #4
    nun
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    CapitalOne is a good card as it has no fee foreign transactions. Having a foreign bank account can be troublesome for US citizens as there are tax and reporting regulations. Also foreign banks might refuse to open an account for a US citizenship, you should be ok as a Canadian though.

  5. #5
    mev
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    Related issue: sometimes it is also useful to carry cards from more than one bank.

    Prior to a trip I took through Ukraine and Russia, I notified my credit union of my travels so they could add a notation to my account. However, part way into Russia, the card stopped working at ATMs. I tried a bunch in different cities and each time declined. Fortunately, I had some cash to get me through. On my return, I inquired and apparently the credit union had a security breach that resulted in some numbers being stolen. After that, they placed a system-wide block on ATM use of those numbers in the eastern block. So it didn't matter that I had notation on my account, they had stopped processing any transactions under theory that there would be few legitimate uses compared to the security breach of illegitimate use. After that, I traveled with cards from two different banks.

    Depending on where you go, it can also be useful to have a card tied to Mastercard network as well as Visa. There will also be a few countries such as Sudan where cards from US (or believe also European) banks will not work due to financial sanctions placed on the Sudanese government.

  6. #6
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    One of my credit cards worked for one transaction on my first trip to Europe. I checked into a hotel and within minutes the account was shut down when someone on the hotel staff passed the account info to a thief and absurd charges started pouring into the bank. Fortunately I had a second card that worked for the rest of the trip.

    I would not go anywhere without two credit cards. Also bring a debit card but only use that for ATM machines. Am considering getting a second debit card as a backup for ATM machines since I often rely on cash in foreign countries where my non-EMV credit cards are frowned upon.

    Quote Originally Posted by SparkyGA View Post
    ... I am curious, what banks are you people using for international travel? I am currently with Royal Bank (I'm Canadian), and thinking of ... ...
    If you are a USA citizen, new IRS rules if you have an account at a foreign financial institution are quite substantial. Thus, it is unlikely you will get much good information on this forum where most people are in USA. There has been a lot of news published in the past few months about USA citizens living abroad that are having problems finding foreign financial institutions willing to work with them due to the new rules.

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SparkyGA View Post
    I am curious, what banks are you people using for international travel? I am currently with Royal Bank (I'm Canadian), and thinking of opening a second account with HSBC, as they seem to be everywhere in the world. Any other banks that could be recommended?
    When I looked into Canadian banks with an international connection, I discovered that there weren't really any.

    But ... why do you need an international bank? Debit/credit cards can be used all over the place.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    But ... why do you need an international bank? Debit/credit cards can be used all over the place.
    True that you can use any debit/credit card virtually anywhere in the world. Transaction fees and foreign exchange fees, however, have also become the norm worlwide. Add the two up on monthly basis and you'll be surprised how you could have easily paid for several meals or even hotel stays. For U.S. citizens, Charles Schwab Checking seems to be among the best in this respect. A few credit card companies have no foreign transaction fees.

    Most large banks have partnerships with other banks in the world. If that's the case, tell them where you are going. They should be able to tell you which banks to use to avoid transaction fees. Here in Mexico, most expats go exclusively to a particular bank affiliated with their bank at home (unless it's an emergency).
    Last edited by Chris Pringle; 01-11-14 at 09:14 AM.

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
    True that you can use any debit/credit card virtually anywhere in the world. Transaction fees and foreign exchange fees, however, have also become the norm worlwide. Add the two up on monthly basis and you'll be surprised how you could have easily paid for several meals or even hotel stays. For U.S. citizens, Charles Schwab Checking seems to be among the best in this respect. A few credit card companies have no foreign transaction fees.

    Most large banks have partnerships with other banks in the world. If that's the case, tell them where you are going. They should be able to tell you which banks to use to avoid transaction fees. Here in Mexico, most expats go exclusively to a particular bank affiliated with their bank at home (unless it's an emergency).
    You can reduce those transaction fees and foreign exchange fees by careful management ... i.e. taking money out for once a week for the week, taking advantage of cash back, etc.

    And yes, bank partnerships help too.

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    I guess the reason I am asking this is I have come across a few times where my card just doesn't seem to want to work, but other peoples are working fine. I hated have to withdrawal money on my Visa and pay the extra fees for cash withdrawal. That, and I have lost a few ATM cards on trips, bit of a hassle getting a new one.

    Honestly, I am thinking about either an HSBC account (lots of ATM's worldwide) or Scotiabank (common in Central America, where i go often). Just looking for suggestions, that's all.

  11. #11
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Visa & Master Charge are networks and Many banks are tied in to that .. don't have to use only that bank.

    backup I used Years Back was Travelers checks , they do get replaced if you have your pocket picked
    but have a separate record of the serial numbers..

    As I said earlier I put that stuff in a Money belt, and had a separate waist pack
    that had the cash for a few days or a week..

    I stayed in one place for a couple weeks and had enough time for the bank statement to be mailed.

    this was the film camera Pre internet , cellphone /pocket GPS era.

  12. #12
    imi
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    Bank account for international travel

    Travellers Cheques! Wow, haven't thought about those in yonks. Have they gone the way of the Dodo?

  13. #13
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    I'm Canadian too, and planning a big global trip. I have been planning to get an account with Scotiabank because they are part of a "Global ATM Alliance" which allows you to use the card in ATMs of other banks in that alliance without transaction fees. See http://www.scotiabank.com/ca/en/0,,316,00.html for info.

    I don't know yet if Scotiabank's debit card would be on the Plus or the Cirrus/Maestro network. It would be good to carry one card on each of those networks, because one or the other might not be supported by some particular third-world small-town ATM that you're trying to use. On my last trip (Central/South America, 2008/09) I had two debit cards, BMO and ING, both on Cirrus/Maestro, and had trouble getting them to work in a few particular places (Honduras and Uruguay) where a Plus network card probably would have worked. Also I paid a transaction fee of $4.50 every time I used an ATM, so I'd always have to try and guess what the local ATM limit per transaction was, so I could take out that maximum amount, and minimize the number of transactions I'd need.

    I carried two credit cards (BMO MasterCard and CIBC Visa) but I never actually used them for any in person transactions, only for online purchases.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by imi View Post
    Travellers Cheques! Wow, haven't thought about those in yonks. Have they gone the way of the Dodo?
    Long since!

    They went the way of the Dodo back in the mid-1980s. The last time I tried to use them was in 1986, and no one took them. We had to cash them in at the next bank we came to.

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    BTW - when I said "cash back" in Post #9 , I'm not talking about cash withdrawals from a credit card ... I'm talking about buying groceries at Safeway, and when you pay for the groceries, you ask for cash back.

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