Moolah – Part 2

9 May

Did you know that you can use a credit card to buy a soda… from a vending machine?  I saw one of these machines today and was a bit taken aback.  They make sense, more often than not I don’t carry cash.  If I wanted high fructose corn syrup and this was my only option I’d be greatly inconvenienced.  Still…  It’s mixing two things that are bad for you in one handy place.

Speaking of things that can be bad for you, let’s talk about your ATM card.  It’s often bad for me because it accompanies me to Thursday night shows at First Ave.  When I know that payday is only hours away sometimes I will press my luck.  Sometimes I will just flat out ignore luck and tempt fate.  When there is beer, a merch table and a functional ATM there is trouble.  And by that I mean, I’m trouble and my bank lo-o-o-o-o-oves it.

I'm guessing this thing has a card reader, too.

Travel and My Beloved ATM Card

Anyway, what about taking your ATM card with you overseas?  I think it’s a great idea.  That’s not sarcasm either.  I think that it has a lot of benefits.  If you get cash you are not paying interest on it or borrowing from anyone, as you would with a credit card.  It is coming directly from your bank account.  The exchange rate will be charged but you’re going to pay that no matter where you get your money.  There, of course, some big things to remember.

Where to Use Your Check Card

Only use your check card during banking hours outside of a bank.  This way if your card gets eaten you can waltz (or prance) into the bank and ask for help, preferably while your lovable travel companion stands guard.  Before using the ATM check to make sure that there isn’t a fake card slot.  Yes, really.  Thanks to the internet I know some scammers have put a plastic device inside the card slot so when you stick your card in, you don’t get it back but they can watch you enter your PIN and grab the card when you leave.  Nothing to be scared about, just check the machine first and cover the PIN pad when you enter your number.

Using Your Card

European ATMs accept 4-6 digit PINs.  I’d suggest changing yours to 4 before you head overseas as you can’t change it once you’re there.  Better than searching for a machine that takes your 6 digit pin.  And I’m going to assume that you’re wearing a money belt because I love you.  So instead of digging into the sucker in a crowded place, duck into the loo and grab it.  Once you have your cash visit the loo again and stash your cash and card.  Let ‘em think you have a bladder problem.  I once left my card inside of an ATM in Puerto Rico.  By the time I realized it, it was too late.  My bank kinda, sorta, maybe, totally didn’t care.  Thankfully, I was traveling with someone who also had an account with the same bank and I was able to transfer money to their account so we could access it.  Not fun, but my trip wasn’t ruined.  Lesson learned, I know to guard my card like a hawk now.

Pickpockets

Yes, Europe has pickpockets.  Big cities are like that.  And it makes sense, if you think about it.  If you steal from a tourist there’s little chance that they are going to stick around and press charges.  Taking a few precautions will make the pickpockets seem interesting and not scary.  Rick Steves sells a great money belt.  Just about every travel site I read recommends that you travel with one.  It’s your life but I personally think I’d rather be a hair uncomfortable then a bunch pissed off.

Where Not to Use Your Check Card

Do not use your check card as a credit card.  In other words, don’t make purchases with it.  First off, if you are charged the wrong amount you are pretty much stuck with it.  The money is already gone directly from your account.  With credit cards there is a chance that you can question the charge.  If someone gets your card information, as I mentioned in my credit card post, they will not be spending the credit card company’s money – they will be spending yours.  Credit card companies work around the clock to prevent fraud.  Banks work around the clock to charge ATM fees (feels like it, anyway).  Also, never use your check card to reserve hotel rooms.  They will hold the price of the room plus incidentals for days, even weeks, until it falls off and the money is available again.  It’s good that the money isn’t actually gone but if you can’t get to it when you need it that’s almost as bad.

Check the Fees

Different banks offer different deals.  Some will charge a per ATM fee, some charge a percentage and some charge both.  This site can help you look over your options for both credit cards and debit cards.  Most banks charge ATM fees.  If yours does then either limit your visits to ATMs by taking out the max (typically $600 a day, but ask) or if it’s really bad… switch banks.  Most banks offer free checking and many don’t even need you to be in the same state to get a good deal.  I guess it depends on if you’d rather deal with paying a bit extra here and there to not have to deal with the hassle.

I hope that some of this was helpful.  Or entertaining.  Or a good way to kill time before you head home to watch Glee.

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