Before you travel out of the country, here are some tips for handling funds abroad.

Before you leave:

  • If you plan to use your debit or a credit card, check the expiration date before you leave. Cards expire on the last day of the month indicated. If your card will expire while you’re away, call the State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) or other card issuer and ask for a replacement card early so you’ll receive it before you leave. Your new card may require activation by calling an 800 number; a debit card may require an ATM transaction or both. These must be done while you’re still in the United States. You can get a new debit card on the spot at any SDFCU branch location.
  • Traveler’s checks can be purchased in euros and in other foreign currencies, which eliminates the need for merchants to calculate the conversion rate and may increase acceptance.
  • Carry enough foreign currency in cash to get you out of the airport. Airport exchange rates are high. It is recommended that you exchange U.S. dollars for foreign currency before you travel by utilizing SDFCU’s Foreign currency exchange service.
  • Create a list of the contents of your wallet: debit, ATM, credit card numbers, and anything else you might need to replace if your wallet is lost or stolen. Always include the overseas lost or stolen numbers for your cards.
  • If you’re relying on an ATM card for cash withdrawals while traveling, it must be connected to your checking account. Foreign ATMs cannot access your savings account.

While you’re traveling:

  • Have a variety of payment methods available, such as credit cards, debit card, local currency, and traveler’s checks, so that something unforeseen, such as an ATM attendant strike or a network interruption, doesn’t leave you in a pinch.
  • Take advantage of local ATMs – they withdraw from your checking account and dispense funds in local currency. A small exchange fee may apply, but it is usually less than at a bank.
  • Most ATMs offer a choice of languages; the British flag is used to represent English.
  • Inform SDFCU and any other financial institutions that you anticipate transactions from outside the country. Fraud monitoring systems finding atypical transactions could trigger a fraud alert. If that happens and SDFCU is unable to contact you, you could find yourself in a foreign country with your credit or debit card frozen.
  • With a little planning and forethought, you can save your vacation from becoming a nightmare. Have a safe and happy trip!

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