Banking Overseas - Tips and Tricks
Confirming unfettered access to your money (particularly your emergency fund) is one of your most important priorities on Day One. As well as locating a banking facility that is close to the hotel (or preferably in the hotel) with concealed ATM access there are a number of other factors that you need to take into consideration:
If you intend to be overseas for a long period, it is recommended that you keep your local bank account open to enable easy management of your money back home - and to maintain your credit history from becoming dormant.
If you choose to open an offshore account, choose an international bank that has a strong presence in your home country. It will reduce the credit and ATM fees that you will pay whilst you are overseas and as international banks have partnerships with local, country specific banks, you will receive increased ATM coverage.
Maintain more than one way to access cash when you travel. A combination of cash, cards, cheques will ensure you will not be limited to access.
Banks are another location that are observed by petty thieves and criminals. They will generally be observing from a distance so as not to be immediately obvious to either yourself or bank security.
A common modus operandi is to observe foreigners who are departing a bank who stand out as an easy target (expensive watch, camera, single female) and follow the target until they are in a location that makes it easy for them to assault or threaten (alleyways, quiet locations, parks, public toilets).
You can mitigate this threat by maintaining your situational awareness as discussed.
Opening and Closing Hours
Don't make the assumption that opening and closing hours will be the same as you are accustomed to at home. In many countries all businesses shut down in the "siesta" period - between 12 - 2.00 pm. Your research should have confirmed if this is the case for your situation, however it is always wise to check first hand.
Likewise, you should have a list of public, national and regional pubic holidays / religious holidays that may affect your access to cash.
In some countries ATMs and banks suffer cash shortages on local pay days and on Fridays. In these environments it is advisable to withdraw cash on a Thursday or after noon on Monday. Find out when the local pay day is (ie: in Manila it is mid-month) and withdraw cash prior to then.
If you have been unable to withdraw cash from your hotel, either:
Draw only as much cash as you need for that day, or
Draw as much cash as you need for your trip and return immediately to the hotel (preferably by "trusted" vehicle) and secure the cash in your / the hotel's safe)
Automatic Teller Machines
Mastercard and Visa have web-based ATM finding services.
International banks will utilise ATMs that will provide you with different language choices to ensure you know what you are doing! If not, be prepared to use your phrase book / dictionary.
Try to use your ATM card during business hours when possible - so if the machine "eats" your card you can immediately rectify the situation with the bank.
Some countries use 6-digit ATMs. In those countries try preceding or following your PIN number with two zeros.
Withdraw slightly less than the default amounts so you receive lower denomination notes.
Skimming Devices and PIN Capture
You need to know what these devices look like and should inspect all ATMs before use for anything that looks different or out of place.
A skimming device is a method used by criminals to capture data from the magnetic stripe on the back of an ATM card. The devices used are smaller than a deck of cards and are often fastened in close proximity to or over the top of an ATM's factory- installed card reader.
Pin Capturing refers to a method of strategically attaching cameras and various other imaging devices to ATMs; in order to fraudulently capture the ATM user's PIN.