Money IQ: International Banking Services

Money IQ

International Banking Services

The weather is warming up, summer is just around the corner, and the kids are wrapping up another school year.

It’s travel time. Whether you are planning a vacation or traveling on business abroad, let your financial institution assist in making your travel easier.

Why exchange currency here rather than in the country you are traveling to? Why not exchange currency at the airport? Will my debit/ATM card work in foreign countries? What is my backup plan? All good questions and in this week’s edition of Money IQ you will find a few tips about Foreign Currency Exchanges.

With the foreign exchange market constantly changing, finding the best rate is often difficult to do. Some financial institutions carry the most common foreign currencies on hand and if not, they can usually get it in a timely manner. Banks use a major correspondent bank that usually has all foreign currencies in stock and can accommodate your needs at a very competitive rate. 

Of course, when dealing with these institutions, it is wise to contact a representative to find out:

  • if that financial institution deals with foreign currency;
  • what the fees associated with the transaction will be; and
  • if you aren’t a customer, make sure they will accept non-customer transactions. 

Most banks will accommodate non-customer transactions; however, the fees will be slightly higher in that case. Exchanging foreign currency before you leave gives you peace of mind when you arrive in the country of travel. You will not have to worry about finding a bank or ATM in that country that will convert your U.S. funds into that particular currency, you will have something to start out with, and if planned correctly, you could avoid high fees from foreign banks and ATM fees, making your vacation or time in that country more enjoyable.

Are you planning on exchanging your U.S. funds at the airport before you board your plane? While most International Airports carry foreign currency on hand, their rates tend to be higher than the current rate and fees tend to be higher as well. Furthermore, there are certain limits that can be sold for each currency. When trying to exchange large amounts of foreign currency at an airport you are also asked to provide information on why you want such a large amount.

Airports can order currency for your trip if they do not have what you need, but there will be an additional order fee, as well as a transaction fee for your purchase. If you plan to exchange your currency at the airport, it is advised that you call ahead and find out what fees will be charged. Also ask if the currency you need is on hand and if not, how far in advance you need to order it to assure it will be there for your trip.

Are you planning on using your ATM/debit card for your travel needs? While most financial institutions’ cards can be used out of the country, it is wise to call your bank and speak to a representative about what fees you will encounter and if your card can indeed be used internationally. Most debit cards are issued through Visa and it will be accepted wherever Visa is accepted. Most cards can be used at foreign ATM’s as long as the ATM has a corresponding symbol on it listed on the back of your card. Again, before traveling with your card it is recommended that you inform your financial institution where you will be traveling and how long you will be out of the country.

What is your backup plan? If you do plan on using your card out of the country, ask your bank for a back-up card in the event that your card gets lost, stolen, or doesn’t work. Most institutions will issue an ATM card that will allow you to withdraw funds from your account but only one debit card can be issued per account. A credit card is also a great back-up option, but be sure to inform your credit card company that you will be using your card abroad.

So stop in at your local bank, ask about the international travel options they have, and enjoy your vacation or time abroad.

Editor’s Note: Jose Sanchez is the Assistant Teller Supervisor and has been with Los Alamos National Bank for 10 years. Before this position, Sanchez was the Head International Teller and ran the International Service Department at LANB for six years. He continues to oversee the International Service Department on the Teller Line at LANB’s Los Alamos Office.

  • Look for the Money IQ column periodically in the Los Alamos Daily Post.


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