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Using Money on Your International Trip

Updated on November 18, 2015

Probably the most common question people ask when contemplating a trip outside their country is about money. Many times, you have already paid for the airfare and hotels and car rental before embarking. You also want to arrive with some of the local money, if possible. Plenty of things you will need it for like food, fees, entertainment and more. Of course, going to a foreign country will have its good and bad experiences but you never want to be short of money because of miscalculations. So, here are some general guidelines:

1. Make sure your credit or debit card will be accepted. Not all Visa and Mastercards are the same or can access the international network. Many places will require more than just a swipe, but will want a PIN. Swiping seems to be the US preferred manner, but in most other countries, you need a four digit PIN number. Be aware of the fees being charge by the ATM used and by the bank your card is. Many ATMs will only let you take a limited amount. Always use an ATM in a very public place in the day. A week before you leave, call your credit card holder and tell them you will be using the card in the foreign country and give the dates to prevent the charge from being denied.

2. Use a prepaid MC or Visa international card. Load the card before you go. You will have the same issues as in #1, but should you lose it, damage is limited. Western Union has its own international card.

3. If you have a trusted friend with a debit bank card in the country visiting, send them money to be used on the trip using Western Union, which is the most common money exchange around the world. The money will go into their account. The money will be local also. Just use their card for ATMs which will never be denied because it is with a local bank.

4. Using Western Union, before you go, send a few transactions to yourself to the country you are visiting. The local money will be collected there only by you after you show ID and passport when you need it (within 30 days). Make sure you also have the MTCN number of the transaction because you will be asked for it and who sent the money. This way, you avoid ATM hassles, such as, out of money, broken, long lines etc. WU is in over 500,000 places in the world.

5. Before leaving the airport, exchange your money for the foreign country going to. You never know when you might need some immediately, or, upon landing do the same. You usually get better exchange rates in the foreign country, but not always.

6. The US Dollar is still king. So, exchange some into USD and take a few hundred with you. If you carry cash, a shoe or money belt is a safe spot.

7. When getting cash from ATMs, get the most you can from a single transaction to avoid additional ATM and bank fees, which add up over time.

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