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Managing Your Money When Traveling Abroad

Even seasoned travelers can’t anticipate every financial need, so it’s important to pack a combination of financial products for your trip abroad, including foreign currency and credit, debit, and ATM cards. It is recommended that you carry at least two of these means of payment and have small denominations of foreign cash to pay for taxi fares, tips, and meals. Here are 10 financial tips to consider for managing your money needs when traveling abroad.

10 financial tips for traveling abroad

  1. Before you go, call your card companies to let them know your travel plans*. Transactions in another country could be declined as suspicious if your card company isn’t aware of your travel plans. *Wells Fargo cards cannot be used in Cuba at this time. Please call the phone number on the back of your Wells Fargo card to learn about other options for making purchases if you plan to travel to Cuba.
  2. Ask your card companies about foreign transaction fees, fees for withdrawals at an international ATM, and your daily card limits to make sure they will fit your needs.
  3. Make a list of the important international phone numbers for reporting lost or stolen cards.
  4. Make sure your ATM PIN is in the proper format. Four-digit numeric PINs are standard in most countries.
  5. When using ATMs, keep your cash out of sight and only use ATMs in safe locations.
  6. Store your passport, airline tickets, extra foreign currency, and other must-haves in a secure place.
  7. Carry only the cash you need for each day’s outing.
  8. Keep your exchange receipts until you get home, in case you’re asked to show them while traveling.
  9. Keep photocopies of your key documents separate from the originals — they can sometimes help speed up the replacement process.
  10. Talk to your bank before you leave about how to send a wire when you’re abroad. Some banks require you to enroll prior to going abroad.

Local currency is indispensable for tips, transportation needs, small meals, and other casual purchases. Avoid exchange line hassles, high fees, and unfavorable exchange rates (typically offered in airports, hotels, and restaurants) by purchasing foreign currency before leaving the United States. Traveler feedback suggests taking the equivalent of $50 to $100 USD worth of foreign currency per person, per day, to meet incidental expenses.

Wells Fargo offers currency for over 100 countries at over 1,000 Wells Fargo locations in the U.S. These branches carry a selection of foreign currencies on site, and have specially trained international tellers available to assist customers.

Wells Fargo offers:

  • Competitive exchange rates, updated daily
  • Wells Fargo customers are not charged a service fee for currency purchases (delivery fees may apply for certain currency orders)
  • When you return, we can often buy back your unused paper foreign currency cash

Order currency through a Wells Fargo banking location, over the phone, or through Wells Fargo Online and receive the more common foreign currencies within a few business days (shipping and handling may apply).

Cards are good for large transactions and generally provide a competitive rate, which makes them a good complement to cash. In some countries, merchants will set their own exchange rate, which may be less favorable than the rate that would be set by the issuer of the card. Merchants might also include hidden fees or surcharges for the foreign exchange conversion.

You’ll often get a favorable conversion rate using a card for purchases and ATM cash withdrawals. While many card service providers charge a small fee for each purchase, the rates still are relatively competitive and make these cards a convenient travel option.

Cash at foreign ATMs is dispensed in the local currency and debited from your account in U.S. dollars. Fees are usually associated with each transaction (generally fees from your home bank as well as the ATM’s bank). Most international ATMs do not permit transactions involving multiple accounts, so your transaction will be routed to your primary account.

Wells Fargo’s international wire transfer service makes sending and receiving one-time and recurring overseas payments simple and efficient. Wire transfers are one of the fastest ways to transmit money to or from individuals or businesses. By sending an international wire in foreign currency, you can convert and lock in the exchange rate upfront and know how much foreign currency your beneficiary will receive, as well as potentially benefit by negotiating prices in an overseas vendor’s currency. 

You can send wires around the globe with Wells Fargo Online® Wires. To get started, sign on to Wells Fargo Online, select Transfer and Pay, and then select Wire Money. To learn more about sending a wire, visit Wells Fargo Online Wires. You can also send wires in person at any Wells Fargo branch in the U.S. or over the phone at 1-877-593-2468.

Please note: Outside of the U.S., Wells Fargo does not have offices that provide service to retail or small business customers. For assistance with personal accounts when traveling internationally, call us toll-free from outside the U.S. or visit our International Travel Resource Center for additional information.