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The Way the World Pays...
Member Name: new_found_glory
Date: 13/04/04, updated on 13/04/04 (7137 review reads)
Advantages: Anywhere, Anytime, Any Way
Disadvantages: Can be expensive
Anywhere, Anytime, Any Way. And Visa are probably right.
An often big misconception is that Visa is a credit card company. They're not. Visa is an organisation owned by over 21,000 member financial companies (banks, building societies, credit unions etc) from around the world - unlike its biggest competitor MasterCard which is a corporation. Visa doesn't issue cards, its member organisations do and Visa provides a worldwide payment system.
I have two Visa/Delta debit cards and a Visa credit card. The worldwide acceptance of Visa against MasterCard is pretty much the same, although Visa does have slightly more acceptance in some places around the world. The Visa debit card also has almost guaranteed worldwide acceptance, unlike Switch/Maestro debit card system which can be a problem when trying to buy things or get cash from a cashpoint, not so much of a problem in Europe, but can be especially if you are outside the EU. The reason for this is the Visa debit card is accepted everywhere Visa is, whereas Switch/Maestro is not accepted everywhere MasterCard is taken. Switch is even changing its name to Maestro, in a effort to try an increase its worldwide acceptance.
Many UK Switch-issuing banks are beginning to see the advantages of Visa debit over Switch, and are beginning to change the card types they issue. HBoS (Halifax/Bank of Scotland) are one such example, which are moving from Switch to Visa/Delta this year. Charges, interest rates and customer service are all down to the individual card-issuers, of which there are large number in the UK alone - and have nothing to do with Visa itself.
Verified by Visa is a service offered by Visa Internation
al which allows you password protect your cards online. For websites which use the Verified by Visa system, if your card is password protected you will first be required to enter the password in a pop-up window before being allowed to use the card details to make a purchase.
There are also many things your bank or card issuer would prefer you didn't know. Particularly the hidden charges which come with your card. Are you a person who thinks the terms and conditions of a credit card or current account are an optional read? Well if you do, you could be paying £100's in hidden bank changes and foreign commission - even on just a single trip abroad. Did you leave the UK this Easter and spend on your cards? If you did, how much did it REALLY cost you...? Well, read on...
New Found Glory's guide to everything you ever need know about Visa and worldwide payment (but probably don't!)
-- Rule number one, despite what you might think, there is no such thing as free banking - honest! What was that saying about free lunches again? :)
-- Expect to pay for convenience.
-- Buying things with a credit card or debit card will often offer the best foreign exchange rates available. This is because transactions can be processed all in one go once a day, and you get the wholesale exchange rate from Visa - not a tourist one. Do check with your card issuer, or in your card terms and conditions, that you get Visa wholesale rate and that your bank doesn't use an in-house rate.
-- Unless you are someone out there knows more than the rest of us, or somehow have insider knowledge of currency markets, you are no more likely to lose as you are to gain from constantly changing exchange r
ates. Unless you are abroad for a long time, stick to your plastic but make sure you have one that's right for you and what you want to use it for.
-- The Post Office no-commission foreign currency may look good from the outside, but its not as good as it sounds. What you save on the commission, they make up on giving you a poor deal on exchange rates - so ignore what the newspapers say and go elsewhere - many foreign exchange bureaux do this too, including high-street banks and the big 4. Solution, go to Marks & Spencer with no commission and good rates, or use the Travelex website and pick up your currency at the airport.
-- Beware hidden charges when buying foreign currency (cash or travellers cheques) by using a credit card or debit card at home here in the UK before you leave - yes, you did hear me right... there are charges!
-- Using a debit card to buy foreign currency will be processed through the Visa network and your bank will charge you for it - this can be the same even over the counter at your own bank! To avoid this one, it is far cheaper to go to any LINK cashpoint to draw out cash using your debit card for free, then buy the foreign currency with the cash instead of using the debit card itself, thus avoiding any processing through Visa - silly eh? - or get a current account from the Nationwide Building Society which is the only one which won't charge you for using your Visa debit card directly to buy currency. You would save yourself about £10 in hidden charges for every £500 you change into foreign cash or travellers cheques by doing either of these things.
-- A credit card purchase for foreign currency will be treated as a cash advance and will probably cost dear, and you will also be charged a fee and interest by your card issuer on it until you pay off your card balance in full. Avoid using cr
edit cards for buying currency at all costs!
-- Ask yourself what type of spender you are abroad. Do you make a lot of transactions for small amounts, or just a few transactions for larger amounts? Unlike credit card purchases, UK Banks usually add two charges for debit card transactions, a fee and foreign loading on top - both together will often total near 5% for every transaction you make. This varies, as some charges start at a minimum, some are capped at a maximum, some are both, some are neither, and some are a fixed amount for each transaction followed by additional percentage on top. Check which one is cheaper for you, and then find what the foreign charges are on your card(s).
-- As a general rule, its usually much much cheaper to buy things on a credit card abroad, than it is to buy things with a debit card, withdraw cash from a cashpoint using a debit card, or withdraw cash from a credit card. There are only very few exceptions to this, but a £500 spend on a credit card would set most people back about £14 on your bill back home in bank charges (about 2.75%), or a single £200 spend on a debit card to pay that hotel bill would probably cost you a rip-off £9 in charges alone (about 4.75%). Your bank will often hide these in the transaction or exchange rate, so you can't see them, and most of the big UK banks charge about the same. Withdrawing the same in cash would probably cost you more, as the machine owner might add a charge too (could be anything from 50p to £2 or more for every use).
-- Avoid where possible using cashpoints in all "convenient" locations - sometimes even in the UK! This goes for airports, petrol stations, theme parks, hotels and small grocery/convenience stores in particular. Not only is the machine owner likely to make bigger charges, there is a higher risk of fraud in some places as not all cashpoints are as genuine
as they look, especially in some countries of the world, and sometimes you really can't tell. You won't have a problem getting cash as pretty much all cashpoints will accept Visa, but stick to reputable large banks, or for lower or no charges try smaller community banks in the suburbs or credit unions (in the United States for example, where a credit union is usually the equilivant of a smallish UK Building Society).
-- Never go into a foreign bank, which is a member of Visa, and ask for cash off your Visa card over the counter. Even the most basic banking transactions (see rule number one) cost money in overseas countries.
-- Get a list of cashpoints from the Visa website for the area you are visiting before you leave - or ask your bank to give you a list before you go. It is more often that not, very useful.
-- The Nationwide Visa Credit Card, and the Nationwide Visa debit card are the two cheapest methods I know of for getting out cash or spending foreign currency from anywhere in the world. Any worldwide traveller should have one or both of these cards, as they are both free to use anywhere around the globe. If you don't travel much outside the EU, a Visa credit card issued by the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society, or a Visa card from Saga are also completely free to use in any EU country too, and are very cheap compared to pretty much all other cards out there for spending outside Europe.
-- Very frequent or travellers who spend longer periods of time overseas, should find out if Citibank offers a foreign currency account for their chosen country. This goes for US dollar and Euro accounts in particular, where exchange rates are favourable, and you can use your Citi Visa debit card free in that part of the worldv - and of course you
don't have to worry about exchange rates changing over longer periods of time.
-- *Deep breath* and finally... Never rely solely on plastic cards. You really could be stuck if you lose them, remember some countries won't take any form of plastic card as payment for things like petrol, and of course you need cash for road tolls. Unlike in the UK, always take ID (passport or driving license) with you incase you are asked to provide it when using your cards. Never ever take the risk and reply only on cards unless they carry the Visa or MasterCard logo. Acceptance of Visa Electron, Solo and even Switch/Maestro/Cirrus really can vary am awful lot.
Choose your plastic cards and bank careful and you not only stand to save yourself a small fortune - but have access to your money from anywhere in the world.
http://www.visa.com - Visa Global Gateway
http://www.visaeu.com - Visa Europe
http://www.visaeu.com/iusevisa/uk.html - Signup for Verified by Visa