When budgeting for your next trip or vacation the focus is typically on the road ahead. Yet there are many expenses back home like bank fees that can add up and others like fraud protection that can be tough to do anything about when you’re out traveling the world. Before you set off on your next international trip be sure to check up on few key points with your bank and come up with your own financial protection strategy.

piggy bank

Start With What You’ve Got

You’ve mostly likely got a checking account with at least one bank so begin by finding out what they offer. You want to get these key points – which you can probably find online – but since you have easy access to a phone or the local branch, try calling or stopping by. Don’t waste your time hunting through legal jargon or confusing policies, talk to someone at the bank directly.

  • ATM Fees – They vary and you should find out the exact fees overseas. Some banks will also reimburse you for some of the fees you incur, be sure to ask.
  • Service (or Foreign Transaction) Charges – Creepy little fees that can appear on your statement when you use your debit or credit card abroad. There are a few accounts at various banks that don’t charge these so make this a part of your comparison shopping.
  • Transfer Fees – It’s not a good idea to travel with a single bank account on hand because if that account it compromised or locked by the bank (due to suspicious activity like being used overseas!) you could wind up in a heap of anxiety and trouble. There are plenty of banks that won’t charge for the first few hundred, or any transactions for that matter.
  • Time-Based Fees – Monthly, annual, or otherwise you don’t want time-based fees with your bank account.

Now you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re working with and what areas need improvement in terms of fees and charges for your simple travel budget.

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Shop Around

on the lookoutIdeally you don’t want to pay any bank fees when you’re traveling so shop around. You might not be able to find a bank that reimburses you for all ATM fees, doesn’t have a foreign transaction charge, and allows unlimited transfers but you can mix and match.

  • Look Big – International banks give you more flexibility overseas and have arrangements with other banks that often mean less ATM fees.
  • Online Banks – Banks like ING Direct don’t have physical branches and all transactions are done online. While it’s tough to deposit a check it’s very easy to just about everything else through a web browser.
  • Earn Interest – ING Direct checking accounts earn a competitive interest rate as do their savings accounts. The same goes for HSBC, and with both banks transfers from your savings to checking are instant, which is good if you happen to go over budget. They also offer a small bonus (around $25) when your friends sign up.
  • Hours of Operation – Changing timezones (keep track with FoxClocks) and finding free wi-fi can make calling difficult, keep this in mind.

When you’re calling around, but sure to let the person on the phone know that you’ll be traveling and how much – especially if you’re taking an RTW. Get set up with two solid checking accounts in case one becomes unavailable for any reason and don’t keep all of your eggs money in one basket.

Plan Ahead – Test The Accounts

It’s frustrating to see a little fee appear that wasn’t supposed to when you’re at home, but it’s much more so when you’re traveling. Set up your accounts early and test them out with one or two transactions on your next international trip. It’s also a good idea to let the bank know ahead of time you’ll be traveling – they might decide to lock your account if the card is suddenly used in another country.

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What Services, Banks, Or Money Hacks Do You Use?

The biggest obstacle to choosing the right bank, or banks, for your travels is the hassle upfront of calling and digging through information about the fees, restrictions, and everything else. It’s a good idea to connect with other travelers to find out what they’ve learned and share some of your own favorite accounts and bank offerings. Leave your favorites and best advice in the comments below – what banks, credit cards, and financial services do you use?

[photos by: alancleaver_2000 (piggy bank), genvessel (woman on lookout) , AJU_Photography (20 dollar bills)]