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Janice France-Pettit: Traveling around the world with money

Union Bank

Posted: October 1, 2010 6:07 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Are you planning to travel abroad in 2010? If so, it may be wise to research the currency of the country you are planning to visit. Learning about the safest way to carry money when traveling can help you be more prepared.
The following tips and information may help you manage your finances when traveling abroad.

Foreign exchange rates
Before traveling abroad, you should research the current exchange rates to determine how the U.S. dollar is valued against the currency in the country you plan to visit. There are several online calculators, such as and, that calculate foreign exchange rates. Knowing the exchange rate may help you decide how much currency you will need. Refer to your banker or financial advisor to obtain currency information.

Debit cards
Generally, it is recommended that when traveling you carry only $75-$100 cash, so consider using your ATM/debit card for purchases during your trip. Before traveling, you should determine if your debit-card provider has a world ATM-locator map so you can identify where the closest ATMs will be. Also, be aware that many banks charge a fee — sometimes as high as $5 — for using an ATM in a foreign country. Some charge a foreign-currency conversion fee, as well. Many banks have established relationships with foreign banks so customer ATM fees will be waived when abroad. You should contact your bank customer-service department to let them know the dates you will be traveling.

Some travelers are now using prepaid debit cards while traveling as the cards can be replaced or canceled if lost or stolen. Visa TravelMoney and the TravelEx Master Cash Passport cards are some of the most popular prepaid debit cards. Purchase prepaid debit cards at banks, online or other financial institutions. Most prepaid cards charge fees. 

Credit cards
Before you travel, confirm that your card is accepted worldwide and get fee information for foreign transactions. Also, you should inform your credit-card company about your travel plans so that they are aware of unusual charges made to your account.

Travelers’ checks
Travelers’ checks can be used like money for purchases or you can exchange them for the local currency. In the event the checks are lost or stolen, you will usually receive a refund. Travelers’ checks come in different currencies and can be purchased at most banks, credit unions and American Express offices. Be aware that many financial institutions will only issue traveler’s checks to their own customers.

Emergency Funds
If you are traveling and need emergency funds, you can request assistance from the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate (visit to find embassy locations). You can also call the State Department for Overseas Citizens Services at (888) 407-4747 for assistance. These offices help travelers make arrangements to have needed funds transferred or wired.

Taking steps to ensure you are financially prepared to travel abroad can help make your trip a fun and safe experience.

Janice France-Pettit is a senior vice president and regional manager for Union Bank, overseeing the Simi Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, San Fernando Valley and Antelope Valley region. The foregoing article is intended to provide general information about financing choices for home improvements and is not considered financial or tax advice from Union Bank. Please consult your financial or tax advisor. Ms. France-Pettit’s column represents her own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Visit for more information.


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