There’s nothing worse than being overseas and realizing you have no access to your money.
Everything was Going Smoothly
When I was in my early twenties, a friend and I took a trip to Thailand. On our way there we had an overnight layover in Taiwan where we stayed at the airport hotel. Once we got settled in Thailand, we checked her credit card statement to see how much the hotel in Taiwan had cost — our plan was to leave exactly that much room on her card so that we would have enough money for the way home.
Our two weeks flew by, and before we knew it we were back in Taiwan checking into the airport hotel — only this time her credit card was declined. She made a frantic call to the credit card company only to discover that the exchange rate had changed and this new transaction put her over the card limit.
We were exhausted and stranded in a foreign country — with no access to money. We had spent every penny we’d brought with us.
I’d been abroad for just over a year at that point, and was very proud that I hadn’t had to call my parents to ask for money once — until that night.
Since then I’ve travelled to the US, Mexico, Dominican Republic, India, Thailand, Cambodia, France and Italy, and I have never again been stuck in a strange place without money. Here are some simple tips to help your vacation go smoothly when it comes to accessing your money outside Canada:
- Call your financial institution and any credit card companies you deal with to make them aware of your travel plans.
Card usage may be limited or blocked in certain countries — letting them know ensure you are able to use your card throughout your trip without issue. They can also make you aware of any fees that may be associated with international transactions.
- Make sure your debit card PIN is only 4 digits — If not, change it.
Some international ATMs will not accept a PIN (Personal Identification Number) that has more than 4 digits so just to be safe, make sure your debit card PIN is only 4 digits.
- Know your card limits — and remember to factor in exchange rates.
For security reasons, financial institutions set a maximum amount that you can withdraw at an ATM in a day. It is important to remember that these limits are set in Canadian funds, and don’t account for any exchange rates. So you won’t be able to withdraw more than the Canadian equivalent of the withdrawal plus any ATM fees that apply. You may not know the exact equivalent, so if you are having trouble making a withdrawal, try withdrawing a lower amount. For example — if you are in Italy and your daily limit is $400 Canadian, you probably won’t be able to withdraw to 400 euros. You will need to take into account the exchange rate on the euro and add on applicable fees.
- Have more than one way to access funds.
Even if it is only for an emergency. I usually bring my debit card and two credit cards, as well as enough cash to get through the first day or two, in case I have trouble finding an ATM. Ensure you have some breathing room on your credit card by paying it down before you go, or requesting an increase from your credit card company. You can always reduce the limit once you return home.
- Know which ATM networks you can use.
Look at the back of your cards — the symbols there need to match at least one of the symbols on the ATM or your card won’t work there and, in my experience, sometimes it still just doesn’t work. In Paris last summer I tried one ATM and it would not work, I went down the street to one with the same network symbols and was able to withdraw funds.
Here are a few bonus tips to help other areas of your travel go smoothly.
- Know what travel insurance your credit card offers. Some cards offer refunds or assistance with some typical travel issues such as delays. Learn more about which ACU MasterCard can help make your trip go smoothly.
- Visit CUMIS’ Travel Insurance Portal to buy travel insurance for your trip.
- Leave an itinerary, copies of your travel documents and a copy of your passport with a close friend or family member.
Now that you know how to get through your trip without worrying about accessing your money, there’s just one last thing to say…