Limit unnecessary expenses when travelling outside the country

Even though currency conversion fees and exchange rates are
inevitable, you can still plan ahead to avoid hassles and
excessive transaction fees.

Caroline Arbour | Journalist

Travelling can be expensive, but there are lots of needless expenses that can be avoided. Nathalie Grondin, youth representative at Caisse Desjardins de Boucherville, goes over some basic guidelines to help you prevent costly mistakes.

Even though currency conversion fees and exchange rates are inevitable, you can still plan ahead to avoid hassles and excessive transaction fees.

At least 10 days before you leave:

  • Check your debit and credit cards. You want to make sure they’re in your name, they’re valid and there’s a PIN on them.
  • Order a prepaid card if necessary. It’s kind of like a wallet that you can put up to $5,000 in. There are no withdrawal fees to use them, and they’re accepted everywhere credit cards are.
  • Sign up for preauthorized credit card payments to avoid potential late fees.
  • Register on your financial institution’s e-banking site to monitor transactions, transfer money between accounts or individuals, pay bills, etc.
  • Sign up for online account statements for easy monitoring of transactions and for security reasons—you don’t want these confidential documents piling up while you’re away.
  • Check the daily withdrawal limit on all your credit and debit cards and make sure it meets your needs.
  • Have a back-up debit card and keep it separate from your main one. You’ll avoid a lot of hassle if it’s lost or stolen.
  • Give someone you trust power of attorney over your bank accounts and credit cards; it could be helpful in some situations.
  • Buy a bit of American money. ATMs only distribute local currency, but the American dollar is accepted in most countries.
  • Buy some local currency so you’ll have a bit of cash on hand when you arrive in your destination country. It usually only takes a few days to get foreign currency.
  • Notify your credit card company of the dates you’ll be away, as well as your itinerary, to avoid your card potentially being blocked because of what looks like a suspicious transaction.
  • Leave your card numbers with someone you trust. It’s very helpful if your card is lost or stolen.

Useful tips when travelling outside the country

  • To limit transaction fees, avoid frequent withdrawals of small amounts of money.
  • Keep a small amount of cash on hand (about $150) for contingencies.
  • When using ATMs, look for the Interac sign in Canada (Cirrus in Europe and Plus everywhere else).
  • In the US, if your financial institution is a member of the NYCE’s SUM program, you can use any SUM ATM without incurring a surcharge.
  • Go online to see where you can find your financial institution in the area you’ll be visiting.
  • In Europe, Desjardins members can avoid service charges by using Crédit mutuel ATMs. The same goes for Desjardins Bank ATMs in Florida.
  • Limit the use of traveller’s cheques, as you’ll pay purchase fees and currency conversion fees on them. It can also be hard to find exchanges.

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