Overseas Card Usage Tips
If you will be traveling out of the country, here are a few tips for using your debit and credit cards while traveling:
Notify Card Issuers
Notify your card issuer of the dates when you will be traveling and the country or countries you plan to visit.
When using your card for payment at a hotel, restaurant or other merchant, you may be offered to have the amount settled in U.S. dollars rather than the local currency of the country you are visiting. While on the surface this may appear to be convenient, it almost always will result in you paying a higher amount for the same services or goods, because the merchant will tack on a fee known as a "dynamic currency conversion", usually an additional 2 to 3 percent of the amount being charged. Visa and MasterCard both charge a currency conversion fee of 1 percent on all cross-border credit or debit transactions, but this fee is disclosed and listed separately on your statement. Credit and debit card issuers also may charge an additional amount for currency conversion (Capitol Federal® does not charge any additional fee we only pass through the 1 percent fee from Visa), and this may be as much as an additional 2 percent over the Visa/MasterCard fee. American Express charges 2.7 percent. However, these issuer-charged fees are disclosed in your account agreement and will be shown on your statement. The dynamic currency conversion fee offered by the merchant at the time of the transaction normally is not disclosed and rarely is separated from the cost of the goods or services, so the consumer is not aware that the fee was added into the amount of the charge. We recommend that you decline having the bill settled in U.S. dollars and use the local currency to avoid the additional fees.
Magnetic Stripe Cards
In locations outside of the main tourist areas, you may encounter merchants that have difficulty processing debit or credit cards with just a magnetic stripe, as many areas of the world already have converted to the newer chip card technology. Whereas our magnetic stripe cards are "swiped" through the machines to read the data, chip cards are inserted and held in the machine during the transaction. At this time, over 99 percent of all merchant terminals worldwide still retain the magnetic card processing ability. The hand-held devices commonly used by small merchants in central and eastern Europe and Asia typically have a slot on the underside of the machine that will process the card using the magnetic stripe. In South America, the most common terminals also provide a magnetic stripe reader, but on the side of the machine whereas the local chip cards are inserted into the top of the machine. Most of the terminals that do not accept the magnetic stripe cards are at fully automated locations such as train or bus stations and unmanned toll booths on highways. Capitol Federal® and other US card issuers will begin issuing the new chip cards in 2015 as US merchants begin to install the chip card readers at their locations.
When using an ATM, there usually is an option for the transaction to be conducted in English. If not, however, many of the older style ATMs are very much in use in other countries and may have limited graphics. The processing sequence for a withdrawal generally will be the same as on a US ATM: insert or swipe card, enter your PIN, indicate checking or savings account, indicate withdrawal and the amount (in the local currency). Remember that there are daily limits on ATM withdrawals, so be sure when converting your withdrawal amount to the local currency that you consider the equivalent U.S. dollar amount, as that is how your transaction will post against your account. Also, please note that while you will not be charged a "surcharge" fee by the ATM owner for international transactions, your Capitol Federal® debit cards will be charged the 1 percent Visa currency transaction fee and the $2.00 ATM fee for a withdrawal from a non-Capitol Federal® ATM.
Be Aware of Surroundings
Just as in the US, be aware of your surroundings at an ATM and don't rely upon any local "good Samaritan" to assist you or you may find yourself the victim of fraudulent transactions. While you are protected against financial loss, you don't want to waste your vacation time dealing with the fraud to recover your funds for use during your trip.