3 MUSTS before traveling outside the United States

Traveling is the thing I love to do.  Not sure if it was because I was born in the UK (the British can be found traveling all over the planet) or because I simply cant sit still.  Exploring the world for me has always been new and exciting.  A couple years ago I opened a foreign currency exchange, much like the ones you find at the airports except i provide my customers with extra tips on traveling.  Here are three things I have learned and wanted to share with first time travelers or experienced one.  Hope this helps.


Exchanging Money and Banking

So many times people tell me they want to exchange $1000+ for foreign currency before they leave the US.  My question is usually WHY? Why wander around with $1000 in your pocket, you wouldn’t do that in the US, why do it while traveling. If you have an ATM Card you should be in good shape.  Here are a couple extra tips on how to use it:

  • I realize many people are not big fans of the big banks but when you’re traveling, these cards are GOLD!
  • If you have a Chase, they are essentially JP Morgan and JPM has ATM all over the world. Before you leave check the CHASE website to see where the ATM is before you go there to save yourself time hunting for one. This will allow you to stay in network, have minimal transaction fees and a better exchange rate. Lastly, you can apply ONLINE and they will get you the card quickly.
  • Bank of America has “Partner Banks” all over the world and if you want to use your BofA card check this link  to find out WHO are their banking partners. This will allow you to stay in network.  Also, here are some additional tips from BofA .
  • If you don’t use one of these banks you can still take your ATM/DEBIT card just make sure you use the major banks in the country and NEVER use a 3rd party ATM. You wouldn’t walk into a Circle K in the United States and use an ATM, do the same when traveling, if it looks like a small ATM it probably is and you want to stay away from it as they charge heavy transaction fees and the rate is terrible.


Credit Cards

This is one thing I cannot emphasize enough, check your credit cards to see if you ALREADY have one that has NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES.  This will be the best exchange rate you can get.  I want to repeat, THIS WILL BE THE BEST EXCHANGE RATE YOU CAN GET!  If you don’t have one get one, go online and find one either with the banks you already have a relationship with or simply search Google for “credit cards with no foreign transaction fees”.  You will find lots of options and the one you will see the most of is CAPITAL ONE.  Find one that works for you and use this card to purchase EVERYTHING.  Then pay it off when you get back.

Cell Phones

Before you leave contact your mobile phone carrier to see what they have regarding “Internationals Rate Plans”. You will want to get this taken care of BEFORE you leave so its in place when you land.  If you are like me its nice to have communication and maps at your finger tips so your spending time exploring that’s fun vs getting lost and frustrated.

  • ATT has “International Day Pass” and its good in 210 countries. In most cases its $10 a day.  https://www.att.com/international/day-pass/
  • Verizon has “Travel Passhttps://www.verizon.com/support/travelpass-faqs/ check out this link for more information
  • T-Mobile has a website where you can get more info at https://www.t-mobile.com/coverage/roaming
  • Check with other service providers for their rates
  • Rent a “WiFi HOT SPOT”.  There are lots of options, they work pretty well, you can use WiFi Calling on them (instead of Cellular Service which can be expensive if you don’t educate yourself before you leave) and you can have MULTIPLE devices connect to them.  You can get one before you leave the U.S. or in many cases you can pick up when you get to your destination. All the major mobile services can provide them and they are relatively inexpensive when you rent them for 30 days.  Google “International Mobile Hotspots” for a search of options.

Hope these tips help.  Travel safe, have fun, explore and enjoy.


Mark Parton

Scratch Exchange is a foreign currency exchange in Scottsdale, AZ. Visit us at www.ScratchExchange.com


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