Protect your money when traveling overseas

What you need to know about foreign currency before traveling abroad this summer

Summer is the busiest time of year for travel and many people - whether going abroad for business or pleasure. Even seasoned travelers can't anticipate every financial need, so it's important to consider all your options and select a combination of financial products for your trip abroad. These include foreign currency, traveler's checks and credit/ATM debit cards. It's generally a good idea to carry at least two of these.

So before you pack your suitcase, here are nine key facts that might be helpful to know about using these products:

Foreign Currency

1) You can avoid exchange line hassles, high fees and unfavorable exchange rates (typically offered in airports, hotels, restaurants and foreign banks) by purchasing foreign currency before leaving the United States. It's helpful to have small denominations to pay for taxi fares, tips and meals.

2) There are several ways to buy foreign currency before you leave. Most banks can sell foreign currency with a few days' notice. A number of banks have foreign currency on hand and tellers with expertise in international currency exchange.

Traveler's Checks

3) Foreign currency traveler's checks are also available for purchase. It's best to buy traveler's checks in the currency of your destination so you don't have to worry about calculating exchange rates when making purchases. Your bank might need a few days' notice to fill an order for foreign currency traveler's checks.

4) If you need to cash U.S. dollar traveler's checks abroad, you are more likely to receive the best rate at a bank. Also, many banks and exchange houses charge a fee for each U.S. dollar traveler's check converted. It can be to your advantage to use checks in higher denominations.

Credit/ATM Debit Cards

5) Cash at foreign ATMs is dispensed in the local currency and debited from your account in U.S. dollars. Most international ATMs do not permit transactions involving multiple accounts, so your transaction will be routed to your primary account.

6) You'll often get a favorable conversion rate from credit card purchases and ATM cash withdrawals because card issuers use an exchange rate that is usually closer to wholesale to process transactions. While many card service providers charge a small fee for each purchase, the rates still are relatively competitive and make these cards a convenient travel option.

7) If you plan to use an ATM in another country, ask your bank if your Personal Identification Number (PIN) is in the proper format for the countries you will visit. Four-digit numeric PINs are standard in most countries. If you have an alphabetic PIN, change it to numbers before leaving home.

8) Find out your daily withdrawal limit before you leave. If you think it's necessary, ask your bank to increase it.


9) Since adopting the euro in 2002, most merchants in those 18 European countries comprising the euro zone no longer accept their previous "legacy" currencies. Euro currency and euro traveler's checks are available for purchase in the U.S. If you have older currency, ask your local bank if it can exchange it into euros.

Heading Home

Keep your exchange receipts until you get home. Some countries require visitors to produce an exchange receipt if they wish to convert local currency when they depart.

You can exchange your leftover paper currency where you purchased it. However, use up all your foreign coins before you return because most U.S. banks won't buy them. Some airlines and airports collect these coins for donations to local charities.

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, with a little planning to consider your travel money needs, you can save valuable time and focus on the true purpose of your trip.

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About Joanne Schultz, Regional Banking President for Wells Fargo & Company in San Francisco:

Joanne Schultz is Regional President for Wells Fargo's San Francisco District. Her responsibilities include the management of nearly 500 team members in 23 banking stores with deposits of $3.9 billion.

An 18-year veteran of the company, Joanne assumed her current role in 2003. Previously, she was the Market Area Manager in the Central Peninsula. Joanne began her career with Wells Fargo in 1989 as a Management Trainee. Since then she has held a number of positions including Customer Service Manager, Region Sales and Service Coordinator and Market Support Analyst.

Joanne serves on the Board of Directors with San Francisco's Foundation of the City College and sits on the Leadership Council for Women's Initiative for Self-Employment. Joanne also serves on the Advisory Board for StreetSmart and the American Heart Association Go Red For Women Luncheon.

Joanne graduated from University California Los Angeles where she earned her B.A. degree in Economics.

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