How do I access Money abroad?
You can change dollars at the airport when you arrive but the exchange rates are notoriously bad. To avoid the bad exchange rates many travelers prefer to withdraw money when they arrive abroad from an ATM machine at the airport. You might have to pay withdrawal fees, but with ATMs you’ll get a much better rate of exchange because your bank itself sets the rate. You can find up-to-date currency conversion rate information at http://www.xe.com/ucc/ .
Some additional tips:
- Students may find it difficult to open a UK bank account as their period of study in the UK is for less than 6 months. Students, in this situation, would be advised to investigate opening an account with a US bank ahead of time that has reciprocal agreement with a bank in the UK, e.g. Bank of America and Barclays. The advantages are that there should be lower commission rates on the cost of withdrawing money from UK ATM machines although this may still not be as cost efficient as obtaining a credit or debit card that has little or no fees. It is also worth contacting HSBC Bank (there are several branches in New York City) about the possibly of setting up an account called the ‘HSBC Passport Holder’ as HSBC has many branches in the UK.
- When you wish to obtain cash, use ATMs to retrieve local currency from your U.S. or home-based account. ATMs allow you to receive the most up-to-date exchange rates—and they can be found almost everywhere! If you take our advice and plan to use your ATM card abroad, here are a few things you should do ahead of time:
- Find out if your bank charges a fee for international withdrawals and check to see if they have partner banks abroad – that will help ensure that your ATM withdrawals are as inexpensive as possible.
- Inform your bank of your change in residence and the length of your stay abroad – to prevent them from blocking your purchases or placing a “hold” on your account.
- Set up online banking – you’re unlikely to find a branch of your bank abroad and will want to keep track of your spending and ensure that all your purchases are legitimate (unfortunately, fraud can happen anywhere).
- Make sure your debit/credit card has a 4-digit PIN number – other lengths of PINs often won’t work abroad.
- Visa and Mastercard are accepted quite widely throughout London and much of Europe; American Express less so.
- Photocopy all your cards (front and back) in case your card is lost or stolen and you need to cancel it; leave a copy with a friend or relative at home and somewhere safe while abroad (not in your purse or wallet – they might get stolen as well).
- Check your bank and credit card statements online regularly to help you identify any unusual activity.
- Beware of pickpockets!