Years ago when traveling I always took Traveler’s checks to pay for my expenses. Today, the ATM Debit card is used worldwide and travelers checks are a thing of the past. So these days, I travel with my credit cards, ATM Debit Cards and just in case of extreme emergency, a few hundred dollar bills.
– Numeric PIN: In Europe and parts of the world the ATM machines use Numeric Keypads to punch in your Personal Identification Number (PIN). So make sure that the DEBIT cards you bring all have a 4-Digit Numeric PIN.
– ATM Fees: Be aware of the fee’s that your bank charges on withdrawals so you can decide how much to withdraw at a time. I will usually withdraw 200 Euro (or whatever denomination) per visit to the ATM Machine. This will usually give me enough to spend for a few days. Another thing I’ve been doing recently is withdrawing enough cash (within my daily balances) so I can pay for lodging expenses in cash as I go along rather than charging them to my credit card. I really like it because I don’t have to come home to a big credit card statement.
– Extra Backup: I’m quite paranoid when it comes to traveling and having access to my money, so I have 5 Travel ATM Debit Cards. Yes you hear right. I don’t have a lot of money in each card. The reason is if one gets stolen or lost I don’t have that much in there. I believe in the concept of not having all my eggs in one basket. I usually rotate withdrawals from three of them and the other two is just in case of an emergency.
– Language: In Italy, although the ATM machines offers choices in different languages on the screen, the key pads are still in the language of the country that you are in. At least they are in Italy and the Czech Republic. The key pad locations for Enter and Cancel were pretty similar to how they are here, but I was still unsure if I was indeed pressing the correct key. It might be useful to learn the words for Enter and Cancel in the languages of the countries you’ll be visiting just in case.
– Notify your Bank: Make sure that you contact your banks (Credit Cards and ATM Accounts) at least 1 week or two before your departure dates to advise them that you will be leaving the country for vacation. They will ask you for the dates and destinations of your travel. I had no problems using both my ATM and my Credit Cards for the entire trip.
– Bank Connected ATM Machines: I only use ATM machines attached to a Bank for extra security. I never use my ATM debit card for purchases at stores or at any ATM machine not connected with a Bank. I feel that Bank ATM Debit machines are much safer and if there were any problems with my Debit cards either at the time I’m using it or later when I am am able to see the activity on my bank statement I can contact that Bank to resolve the problems.
– Important Contact Numbers/Information: Make sure that for each of the cards that you bring, you write down the pertinent information like Name of Bank, Account Numbers, Emergency Contact Phone Numbers (for International calls) and the balances for each card.
– Security: I always take a printed copy of my Important Contact Information and keep it in my Neck Security Pouch. I treat this information like cash!
– Safety: I am very cautious and aware of my surroundings when using my ATM Debit cards. As I do at home, I make sure that I only use machines that are well lit and located in visible places. If I have any feelings of discomfort, I will usually listen to my instincts and pass the machine move on to another machine or return to the machine at a later time when I feel safer.
Most Important thing to Remember is never spend more than you can afford.
Rick Steves – Money 101