Controlling costs and foreign transaction fees
Foreign travel: it's a great way to break up your routine, have an adventure and discover new lands. To ensure your trip runs smoothly, it's important to plan your finances to make sure your expenses are covered. So before you pack your sunscreen for a vacation, or move overseas for school or work, make smart choices about how to pay both at home and abroad.
Before you go:
- Make sure you've paid all your bills and your accounts are up to date. If you're leaving for a more than a month, use Online Banking to set up recurring payments for regular bills. When the bill is due, the money will be withdrawn from your account, avoiding late charges that could pile up in your absence.
- Inform your bank that you're traveling. If they see a bunch of charges to a Caribbean resort, they may suspect fraud and freeze your card, so keep them in the loop on your travel plans.
- As a precaution, have at least two forms of payment when traveling, such as a debit card and a credit card, in case one of them is not accepted as payment where you are traveling.
- Check your health coverage. If your health plan does not cover costs incurred while traveling, purchase a comprehensive travel health insurance policy. Accidents and illnesses would put enough of a damper on your vacation fun without adding the extra strain of medical bills.
Traveling Tip #1
Leave a record of your card numbers and passport with a friend back home. If your belongings are lost or stolen, you can call your friend to get your key information.
While you're traveling:
- Foreign ATMs may charge both ATM fees and currency conversion/international transaction fees for withdrawals. Find out if you can reduce your bank fees when traveling. For example, Bank of America waives ATM fees for banks in the Global ATM Alliance. If you cannot find a partner bank, limit how often you use ATMs by always withdrawing as much cash as you feel comfortable carrying.
- Pay in the local currency. Even if merchants accept foreign currency, they may charge a high exchange rate. Familiarize yourself with the current exchange rate so you can recognize whether the rates you are offered are competitive.
- Avoid credit cards and debit cards for small purchases. The foreign transaction fee/conversion fee for purchases may be higher than for foreign cash withdrawals. Since you may not want to carry large amounts of cash, use credit or debit for more expensive purchases, such as jewelry, and pay with local currency for meals, snacks, and souvenirs.
- Keep a written record of your card numbers, and their overseas emergency telephone numbers, apart from the cards themselves. This way if you lose your wallet or have other problems, you will be able to contact your bank and credit card companies quickly.
- Consider bringing traveler's checks. They can be replaced within 24 hours if they're stolen, and they may also help you save money if you purchase them before your trip with a favorable exchange rate. Be aware that not all merchants accept them, meaning you may have to exchange them at a bank or currency exchange office.
What's next? Track your banking accounts with payment alerts
Some accounts and services, and the fees that apply to them, vary from state to state. Please review the information for your state in the Personal Schedule of Fees (at www.bankofamerica.com/feesataglance or at your local Banking Center) and in the Online Banking Service Agreement at www.bankofamerica.com/serviceagreement.