I'm from the UK and am going to South America a little later in the year. Someone advised me that if you bank with Citibank they have lots of ATMs and they don't charge commission to withdraw cash. Is this correct and are there other banks that do similar?
My personal experience with using a US ATM card in South America couldn't have been better.
My ATM card is a cash card, pulling money out of a checking (current) account. It has the VISA, Cirrus and PULSE logos on it. With that, all I had to do was use an ATM that also had one of these logos in it (that's about 99% of machines I ran into in South America) to pull money directly out of my account in local currency.
I bank with a credit union (similar to a bank) that doesn't charge me to use any ATM anywhere in the world. That said, VISA charges a one percent fee to convert from your bank's currency to local currency. I never minded paying this because it was usually better than local banks, I was pretty sure I got good money (not counterfeit, which is a major problem in S. America) and VISA gets the best exchange rate of the day.
BONUS Some cash machines will even let you withdraw money in USD, which is helpful in tourist places where the businesses prefer, and in some cases, give you a better price, if you pay in USD. I found these machines mostly in Argentina, but I found machines in other countries as well. And don't forget that Ecuador uses the USD as its currency, so all those machines dispense USD.
ABOUT CREDIT CARDS
Credit cards are not accepted in many places where I spent money (budget tourist services, hostals, cheap restaurants). Higher end businesses will take them, but often charge a three percent surcharge to use them. I carried one with me just in case (like an emergency plane ticket or something) but never used it.
Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions.
The Nationwide FlexAccount doesn't charge for overseas withdrawals. We go to South America in Sept and have opened one of these for that exact purpose. I gather also that their cash cards are accepted in most machines etc. It seems to be that alot of people have opened one of these for worldwide travel.
This was the only account I had heard of with this so not sure about the Citibank account.
Thanks for that information, I'll try Nationwide.