I somehow got on the distribution list for Magellan's newsletter—Magellan's is a catalogue and online seller of travel-related items—and (surprise!) find that its travel advice is often useful. If you're planning a charter outside the U.S., take note of these suggestions for using ATMs rather than traveler's checks (this seems to be the way things are going). www.magellans.com
1. Some providers may freeze your account when unusual foreign charges appear. Inform your provider(s) of your travel plans before you go.
2. Find out how much your card providers charge for foreign transactions. Visa and Mastercard charge a 1 percent fee; many banks add an additional 2 percent service fee. Try Capital One (no fee) or Wachovia (1 percent only).
3. Prepaid debit cards are costly, but they ensure the safety of your checking account.
4. Make purchases in the local currency. Merchants who offer to convert your purchases into U.S. dollars do not typically offer good exchange rates.
5. Converting foreign currency back into U.S. dollars can be very expensive. Don't exchange more than you need. Amy Ullrich
Posted: October 23, 2007