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ATM's, credit cards, cash, & phones

Laurie

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Several inquiries recently, so I wanted to post what has worked best so far for us.

We use the Cap One credit card whenever possible for charges - never for cash - no fees, no pin # usually needed. The only place this was a problem so far was in Denmark, where a pin # was required for a direct charge. We don't ever use this to withdraw cash, because we pay in full every month. For cash advances beware, the finance charges go on forever. Though miles needed for awwards keep going up, I like them for car rentals and general good customer service on travel issues.

ATM's: Debit cards seem to be least expensive. I don't belong to a credit union, but the paypal debit card charges $1 US per transaction, while paying a decent percentage on your cash balance. I think anyone who has a paypal acct can get their debit card. ATM machines are almost everywhere, but I haven't yet mastered which ATM machines are cheapest, except occasionally we'll see a sign that says "no transaction/bank fees". I don't worry about the fees at an airport on a small withdrawal, if we're arriving cashless we might get a bit there and go on. We don't ever get cash before leaving the states, unless we have something left over from a previous trip.

Phones: if we don't have mobile, usually a phone card is cheapest. The very worst: credit card. Last spring in UK, I needed to make a phone call our first day, after flying all night and driving a few hours we were exhausted, jet-lagged, and couldn't think too well. The place we stopped only had phones that took cards, no coins. The convenience store didn't sell cards, and the phone booth said you could use MC/Visa - so I did. OMG! A 10-minute call was over $50!! "They" (it's a satellite service) ended up giving me a partial credit but it was still $30-something. So beware.
 
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Carol C

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Laurie, you are always such a great help on all things Europe. Thanks for posting these ideas and tips! :clap:
 

scotlass

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Our preferences

For our trips to Europe (mostly to the UK) we also use Captial One for charges. Yesterday we put a UK charge on it and the rate for the GBP was $1.75! I knew the rate had gone down, but on xe.com this morning it's $1.77 so we got a very good rate.

We use BankDirect for ATM withdrawls as we get 4 free a month. This online bank has been very good for us. For a minimum balance of $2500, we get 10% of our balance in AA miles each month and a bonus for signing up as well as the free ATMs.

For a phone, we use the mobal one (mobal.com) or a phone card. The phone card is cheaper but the mobal is great for quick calls and it has voicemail. At $1.50 a minute, we don't talk long!

Update this PM: GBP rate is up to $1.79!! Whomever said it was tied to the price of oil was quite right. With the hurricane in the Gulf, oil prices are rising.
 
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Carolinian

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Cap One has now set up an internet bank where ATM transactions are fee-free.

There is no comprehensive source that I am aware of that lists local ATM usage fees. It seems to vary by country. In Greece, all banks have them, you just have to try to find the lowest. In the UK, many banks do not. I guess that lack of transparency may be the grist for the next class action against the banks. There really should be full disclosure of these fees.

If I really need small amounts of cash at the airport, I make a small purchase at an airport merchant, give him dollars and get change in local currency. A newspaper from a newstand or a drink from McDonald's are my usual transactions. A few weeks ago, I needed Czech crowns for the bus into Prague from the airport, so I went to McDonalds, ordered a drink and gave them a US $20 bill. I asked the exchange rate and it wasn't bad, and of course there was no ''commission'''
 

MaryH

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If you have an unlocked GSM phone, UK the best mobile is Orange and you want the Camel plan which is 5-6 p a minute to Canada and US. Sometime you can also get a phone free or for very little i.e. 10-20 GBP with equivalent in talk credits.
 

mfan

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ATM's: ... I don't worry about the fees at an airport on a small withdrawal, if we're arriving cashless we might get a bit there and go on ...

Just a thought... From my experience, the ATM machines typically charge a fixed fee regardless of how much you withdraw. So, since you're paying it anyway, you should always take as much cash as you may need or allowed to minimize the fee per dollar.

For us, our Schwab Bank ATM card offers free ATM usage, and they'll even refund the ATM fees charged by the banks/machines, up to 3 per month (I think). So, we're usually not concerned with which ATM to use... :D
 

Carolinian

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Just a thought... From my experience, the ATM machines typically charge a fixed fee regardless of how much you withdraw. So, since you're paying it anyway, you should always take as much cash as you may need or allowed to minimize the fee per dollar.

For us, our Schwab Bank ATM card offers free ATM usage, and they'll even refund the ATM fees charged by the banks/machines, up to 3 per month (I think). So, we're usually not concerned with which ATM to use... :D

Sounds like a good ATM card.

There are actually TWO fees charged by one's own bank to be concerned about, a ''foreign transaction'' fee (now often charged on even US dollar transactions abroad) which is a percentage from 1 to 3% PLUS an ATM usage outside of network charge which is a fixed dollar amount from $0.50 to $10.00.

There is a link to a table of the foreign ATM and cc charges by various US banks posted on the Links Directory (under Website Navigatoin) at www.timeshareforums.com
 

elaine

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just got back--used telestial.com phone--great

I got the passporter lite phone for $39 and loved it. This was the only prepaid phone I could find (mobalphones require a CC to cover calls). I loaded $20 onto it and used 1 minute ($.99) to call home and have home call me back using an international phone card ($.07 minute). Incoming calls to the phone in UK, Spain, France, Italy were free--so we talked at length for $.07 a minute each day. When I needed more minutes, I called from the cell phone for free to customer service and had them add in increments of $10 or more to the phone--very quick and easy.
The best part was no worries about losing or having cell stolen and getting stuck with cell phone theft bill (which does happen).
RE- CC. we had a microchip "blink" CC card--others in a party did not. We had no problems getting train tickets via machines, others without it could not.
 
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