If you travel for business or pleasure abroad, you likely want to be able to use your regular bank debit card and manage your finances while away from home, especially with the advent of easy online banking. It's unsafe and unwieldy to carry cash to cover your entire trip, but conducting bank transactions while overseas can also come with a certain amount of risk. Here are some tips to help you manage your United States bank account while spending time abroad.
Know If and How Your Account Will Function Overseas
If you plan to use a debit or credit card overseas, first you need to know if this is even possible. Some banks only allow transactions within the US, while others limit card use to point of sale (POS) only; ATM transactions to withdraw cash in foreign countries may be forbidden or may only be permitted in certain nations that are deemed to be at low risk for fraud.
Learn how your card will work in the country or countries you're traveling to. Try to find out the following in advance of your trip:
Inform Your Bank About Your Travel Plans
Be sure to tell your bank about your plans to use your account overseas, and ask to have a note added to it for the duration of your trip. This way, you reduce the chances of the bank's fraud department thinking your account has been hacked or your card has been stolen and is being used abroad.
Even if you flag your account for foreign use, you may run into trouble accessing it online. The bank will see a foreign IP (Internet provider) address and may forbid access or even freeze your account. Never apply for loans, new accounts, mortgage refinancing, and the like from a foreign location; it's best to wait until you return home to do this. Before logging in from any foreign IP address, call your bank's branch manager to remind them that you are using your account from a foreign country.
Always carry a phone number for your bank with you, so you can call to clear up any misunderstandings. It's also a good idea to have an emergency international prepaid debit card with you to use temporarily if you have difficulties during hours your bank at home is closed.
Take Security Seriously
Always be on the defensive when using your debit or credit card abroad. Some ATM machines may have card readers that can steal your card and security information; only use ATMs at reputable banks while traveling, instead of machines in bars or mini markets.
If you need to login to your bank account, do it from a personal wifi address, like a friend's house, not from an Internet cafe or free wifi at a restaurant. Know your bank's policy on identity theft and fraudulent card use, and always check your statements after a trip to make sure no one is using your account from information they stole while you were abroad.
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