Payment Options for Traveling Abroad Jun 30, 2011, 8:00 am By Emily Haleck

Summer is here and you have plans to travel abroad. You’ve studied up on the best hotels, museums and tourist traps, but have you looked into the best way to pay for all of those things? Here’s what you need to know about cash, debit cards, credit cards and prepaid cards for international travel:

Cash

You should always carry at least some cash in the local currency when you travel (great for local transportation and small purchases), but carrying around large sums of money isn’t always convenient or safe. Some of the downsides of using cash is that it makes you a prime target for pickpockets, and you’ll have to pay a fee to exchange U.S. dollars to foreign currency. You can exchange U.S. currency for a small fee at any Bank of American Fork branch before you depart, which may save you from the notoriously expensive exchange rates at airports (allow up to 5 business days for some foreign currency exchanges). Determine what a fair exchange rate is and how much currency you’ll need to convert by using a free online calculator like  this one from Yahoo Finance. Oftentimes, the cash exchange rate is less than the exchange rate you’ll pay using another form of payment, such as a credit card.

 If you run out of cash while abroad and need more, you can use your Bank of American Fork debit card at any worldwide ATM displaying the Visa or Plus symbols. You will be charged a surcharge fee and a currency conversion fee when using ATMs not in Bank of American Fork’s network. Both fees vary depending on location and daily exchange rates. You may also be charged a usage fee by the owner of the ATM. Find an international ATM in our network at http://visa.via.infonow.net/locator/global/.

Credit card

Credit cards are accepted at millions of places across the world, though be aware that with every swipe, you will pay a  foreign currency conversion fee (1% of purchase price with Bank of American Fork credit cards*, but may be higher with other credit cards), which may be higher than with foreign cash withdrawals.

Despite the fees, credit cards may prove a good option for many travelers as they are easy to carry, widely accepted, replaceable if lost or stolen, and offer fraud protection. You can also use your credit card to get cash from an ATM (fees apply). In order to get a cash advance from an ATM, you will need a 4-digit PIN. If you do not know your PIN for your Bank of American Fork credit card, contact our customer care team at 800-815-BANK at least 10 business days before your departure.

Before you depart, it’s a good practice to notify your bank of your travel plans so they know that the incoming foreign charges are legitimate. You may also want to provide a cell phone number or contact person in case the bank needs to contact you.  

Debit card

Using a debit card will help you stay on budget since you can only spend what is in your checking account. Like a credit card, a debit card is convenient and can be accepted worldwide if it is part of a major network like Visa. It can be used to make purchases, withdraw cash from most ATMs and conduct cash advances (1 percent currency conversion fee applies for all). Keep in mind, however, usage and acceptance of debit (and credit) cards may be limited in rural or undeveloped areas.

As with credit cards, notify your bank about any upcoming travel to avoid having your debit card suspended during your vacation.

Prepaid cards

Prepaid travel cards, such as Bank of American Fork’s Visa Gift cards, allow a certain amount of money to be “loaded” onto a plastic card, which is then used to make purchases like a debit card.

Like credit and debit cards, you will usually be charged currency conversion fees and a flat fee for cash withdrawals. Prepaid gift cards also have a small upfront fee to load and activate the card.

*Subject to credit approval.
VISA®, the name Visa, VISA (stylized), PLUS®, and the PLUS Design Mark® are federally registered Trademarks of Visa.

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