Before I left for my long-term trip, I subscribed to an international debit card that I could use anywhere in the world without any fees. A year later, to my dismay, I realized my bank was applying its own exchange rate and that I was giving around 5% of my money to the bank.
After looking around for other options, that would allow me to get cash when I travel without having to pay so much, I discovered all the ways to do so. Here’s what I found:
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MoneyGram is the service I use the most, it’s the easiest and fastest option. It works like WesternUnion, you just send money online to a physical location near you and you go pick it up. The only difference between both services is that MoneyGram is way cheaper.
Fees vary depending on what country you’re sending money to, but for most countries, it’s only 1 USD and the exchange rate they give you is really close to the market one. For each 100 USD you send, you lose around 50 cents.
MoneyGram is widely spread so you won’t have any trouble finding a place to withdraw the money, I’ve never had any. Of course, it might be harder to find one if you’re in the middle of nowhere, so don’t wait until you have no money to do the transfer.
The transfer is super fast, it only takes a few minutes to receive the money. Just keep in mind that if you send a large amount of money at once, it might be harder to find a place that has enough cash. If you send more than 100 USD, go to a bank that does MoneyGram.
Transferwise is similar to MoneyGram, it’s a money transfer service. They also apply a great exchange rate but the fees are slightly higher.
What is great about TransferWise is that they allow you to store different currencies thanks to their borderless account. It’s free to sign up and you’ll get an Australian, American, British and a Union European bank account all in one, without having to pay any fees, and they’ll use the current exchange rate when you transfer or receive money from any of these currencies. You can also hold 40 other currencies in your wallet and convert them at the exact exchange rate for only a small fee.
They now also offer a debit Mastercard in the UK and EU, and you can join the waitlist for the US. Their offer is specially made for people who travel and for freelancers and businesses that offer their services worldwide. They are no fixed fees only a small conversion fee. And you can withdraw up to 250 USD each month for free. It works in combination with their borderless account, so if you have the currency in your wallet you can pay with the card for free.
N26 is an online bank getting bigger and bigger in Europe and that will be launching very soon in the US (you can already register). The basic debit card is free, but it’s not practical if you travel. The N26 black card is the one you should get, it’s €10 a month and you can use it anywhere in the word for free. With both cards, you can pay in any currency for free, at the exact exchange rate. With the Black card, you also get free withdrawals (at the mid-market exchange rate) and a travel insurance (for the first 90 days of your trip).
N26 was built for the smartphone generation, their mobile-banking app is one of the greatest on the market. You can freely manage your account, from setting your withdrawal limit to blocking your card in case of loss. It’s one of the first banks that’s not charging hefty fees or applying bad exchange rates. You pay the monthly fee and that’s it, nothing else.
What about you? How do you deal with getting money when you’re traveling?
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