Ok, traveler; you are on holiday away from your home country and you need cash. Perhaps, you just didn't take enough; you've spent like a wild fool; you lost your wallet; or, you got robbed. How do you get funds?
My first experience travelling finding myself without money was many years ago when some traveler's cheques fell out of my pocket and I had insufficient cash to pay for a hotel for the night. The local police were very helpful and had my wife and I put up at a local hotel, with a promise of paying the next day after a visit to the American Express office. The room was filthy, blackening our feet as we made our way from the bathroom to the bed; and, I'm sure we had the company of miniature creatures with us through the night. When I went to get new cheques issued the next day, my wife had to remain at the hotel as collateral.
In later years, when travelling outside Canada or the USA, I discovered that, despite bank machines being covered with notices of all the network affiliations that they were connected to, I could not always access my funds. In the case of European banks, if Visa didn't work, Master Card did, and vice versa - again, despite connections to both being advertised. Connection directly to my chequing account in Canada or the USA was hit and miss.
Hidden Charges - When a bank machine, to my delight, connects to my account in North America, it announces that it will cost me between $0.50 and $ 1.50 for the transaction. With Banks located here in Ecuador, it is usually $ 0.50. It is the North American banks that charge more. Recently, I examined my Canadian bank statement, something I rarely do, and discovered a $ 40 service charge. I called the bank and was told that I had drawn money from a foreign bank 8 times that month, each triggering a $ 5 charge. Outrageous !
Over the years, I've established banking in more than one country. I suggest that, if you regularly spend time in a second country, open an account there to assure some local access to funds when the electronic transfer world fails you.
All is not roses in dealing with our North American Banking system, which I see as inefficient and consisting of authorized robbers of the common person.
I recently asked my accountant to cash a cheque for $ 5,000, that I had left with her; and, send the money to my bank account in the USA. Even though it was drawn on another Canadian bank, she was told there would be a hold on releasing the funds for about 10 days. Despite the funds being taken from my account three days later, her bank held onto my money for their own use, for another week. A transfer via Pay Pal was no better; advising that the transfer would take between 7 to 10 days.
When it came to transferring the money to my USA bank, she was told that could take 2 to 3 days,- faster than cashing a cheque within Canada. Historically, whenever I, personally, sent money from my Canadian account to my American account, it was there within several hours or over night. Today is the next day and the money has not arrived.
The costs of transferring money is also something that one should bare in mind. To transfer money from a bank in Canada to a bank in the USA, I recently paid about $ 30 ( Cdn and USA $ are about equal). To send money from Canada to Europe just cost me about $ 65. Be alert to the fact that what you pay at the source bank may not be all the charges. Depending on your source bank's affiliation with a transiting bank or receiving bank, those institutions may skim off a service charge along the way as well.
A tip for Canadians who winter in the USA, usually Florida or Arizona, - Join The Canadian Snowbirds Association. I have an automatic transfer of a fixed, monthly amount via their services; for not $ 30 but for $ 2 each time, a huge saving. For the Association to collect members funds and transfer one huge amount and a better dollar exchange rate than your personal bank transfer would get, expect it will take 5 business days to accomplish.
Ecuadorian banks are hit and miss with regard to accessing funds outside the country. Again, despite all the stickers on the bank machine, sometimes they work and other times they don't. Accessing funds from outside Ecuador, into Ecuador, is most reliably done via foreign banks with a local presence here . I opened a bank account with the Territorial bank, one of the oldest Ecuadorian banks, a couple years ago and it just collapsed. Fortunately, I only had a small, emergency stash, in it that I was able to recover.
I haven't carried travelers cheques for decades and I don't use Western Union because it is expensive. However, these have the benefit of enabling the quick acquisition of cash; Western Union giving you money sent to you on your giving a code word established my your sender.
In this modern, small, integrated world, one would expect better, faster, cheaper, banking services. This is not my experience.
Banks are taking every opportunity to exploit customers with service charges and the dragging of feet between accessing your money and depositing it where you want it. Canadian banks continue to show historically increased profits and American banks are capturing every penny they can get as they strive to recover from their own self-inflicted financial crises.
Readers should take note and plan their travel funding accordingly. Also, protest when you can.
( Link to the Canadian Snow Birds Association http://www.snowbirds.org/home )
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