The first time I ever flew to
Those little charges had a way of adding up. Consider the charges at an ATM machine. Two or three dollars per transaction doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you get your statement at the end of the month and you see that you spent $20 for the privilege of using an automated teller, it does seem a bit high. Now, consider the same fees overseas. The ATM may charge you a fee (like the two dollar service fee) from the local bank, but when you get home you’ll find more fees from your domestic bank here. One connection fee for giving you the privilege of having a bank that can connect to a foreign bank’s accounting system, and another percentage fee that is charged to you for the bank’s computer so it can convert the currency to U.S. dollars. When it’s all said and done, you can easily spend $5 to $7 pulling money out of your account. Similar fees apply to getting cash advances out of a credit card account.
Actually, I don’t mind paying the fees if my company allows me to expense them. There’s the rub; some companies allow it, some don’t. I can see the argument for both sides. It’s certainly safer to not carry a bunch of cash around with you, but then going to the ATM to make a lot of withdrawals can be unnecessarily expensive.
One last point, ATMs in foreign countries don’t always have English translation on the buttons or on the touch-screen. Imagine, instead of withdrawing one hundred Euros, you transfer all of your money to some useless account or something, just because you don’t understand the buttons!
Personally, I work out the budget ahead of time; before I ever leave my home city. When I have a solid feeling about how much cash I’ll need, I’ll add 15% for “unforeseen circumstances” and I’ll head to the bank to get that cash converted to local currency traveler’s checks. I’ve used traveler’s checks in British Pounds, Euros, and Yen. I never have a problem cashing them (in hotels, etc) and they can be easily replaced from local banks if they’re ever stolen. When I get home, I can run the extra checks back to the bank and they exchange them for cash and credit it to my account. In any case, be sure to keep all of the receipts. You may have to correct some mistakes or get some credit from the bank after it’s all said and done.
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please send an email! Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.