Subject: Re: ATM debit versus credit cards
Hello Spenders:

We rarely travel with more cash than is necessary to pay a taxi fare and tip the driver. ATM's are so prevalent today that they can be found nearly everywhere. Even five years ago when we drove across the Amazon we were rarely far from an ATM. The only time we had a problem was while were in Barcelona, but it could have been anywhere. Our friend, Punkin, was denied access to her account at an ATM. I tried and experienced the same rejection. As it turned out, the satellite which services the international ATM system had failed. Within three hours the backup satellite came online and ATM access to our funds was restored.

As for credit cards, I primarily use a MasterCard issued by a bank that charges the Interbank rate for currency conversions and no conversion charge. That saves a few dollars and protects one from the hidden charges that some of the well known issuers charge. We rarely use American Express unless we want to annoy the establishment. AMEX charges higher fees than MC or VISA and the merchants will let you know it if they spot the alternatives in your wallet. Travelers Cheques are virtually useless; no merchant likes them. However, if I want to hide a small cache of funds for an emergency I used to use travelers cheques. Today, I tend to use either Dollars or Euros which are easier to use, but obviously less convenient to replace if stolen.

I like the idea of a single purpose MC or Visa card for a particular trip. I may try that on the next trip. I have a Citibank AA card for the mileage. On our last trip, Citibank called our home to report that it suddenly noticed charges in Andorra and it wanted to make sure that the use was authorized. I spoke with a Citibank representative and was told that their programs automatically spot unusual patterns and report it to a real person. I do not often use the Citibank card because it tends to be more expensive, but its service regarding unusual patterns of use was well appreciated.

Tom in Carlisle