I am having problems deciding how to carry my money in South America. I can get travellers cheques, American express, but from reading if your'e in any area away from any main city then you cannot change them.
I could bring a credit card, but will have to apply to get one, (at 22 I havent yet!) and put money on to this?? If it gets stolen then am I in real trouble if someone decides to rinse the card before I can alert anyone?
I have my normal debit card, with Meistro and Cirrus, but can you use these??
Please advise the best way to do this as I will have a substantial amount that I want to be able to travel with.
So far in large and small towns in Argentina and Uruguay, I've found adequate access to cash machines (cajeros) that I can take out enough money using my US checking account debit card to last a few days. I am planning on traveling to throughout the rest of S. American and will plan accordingly when I get to less connected areas.
Travelers checks, in my opinion are an expensive nuisance. Many places charge an extra 3 percent to use your Visa credit card (or debit for that matter). In sum, I've decided to use my debit card exclusively and keep very close track of it.
A final thought if you're worried about having your account cleaned out should the card get stolen. I'm traveling for 13 months and have a rough monthly budget to live on. So I've set up a savings account with all my money and a checking account that receives monthly deposits. I can travel knowing the most someone could steal from me is one month, it's not a pleasant thought but I call it risk control. Hope that helps.
How about opening a bank account once in South America
AMEX has a card called "travel fund". It's a reloadable credit/debit card. I have one, and it's better than traveler's checks. Best part is...it is not connected to your bank account, so keep your main credit card in a safe. Plus it's backed by amex. So... lost or stolen, it will be replaced and funds u had on the previous card will be transfered over. Check the website.
It is all about options mate. I am currently in Buenos Aires (only got here 3 days ago) and have had no problems accessing cash through the plus card system. You can access plus ATM locations via the internet (google search) and I have do doubt you can do the same for your card. In fact, not all of the locations were on the website. I did get some travellers cheques, but only as a backup. I recommend you carry US dollars as they are easily exchanged and you can hide a lot of cash in just a few notes. Although there is then the risk of loosing a lot of cash in 1 robbery. When it comes down to it, the more options you have, the less chance you have of being stuck in another land with no money. Credit, Debit, Cheques, Cash, anything you can think of.
after some research and advice from people here i think nationwide is the best place to go with. they don't charge u when u withdraw cash from a machine using your visa card (check the actual machine u use tho, as some might...) this account is the flex account and it is linked to an online accout where u can keep most of your money and trasfer it onto your visa whenever u want! so if your visa gets nicked, u won't lose too much money as most would be in the online account (which gives 5% interest by the way!)
erm... just read it back and no i don't work for them but i was impressed by what they offered!!
There are many options to carry money in South America. If your traveling to Brazil(where I live) you can either bring traveller's checks or credit or debit cards. While many people like travellers checks I find them a problem here because in some cities or areas you can only cash them at Banco do Brasil. This is the national bank and you will ALWAYS wait in lines up to 2 hours waiting to cash the travellers checks. If you are going to bring a credit card bring Visa or Mastercard. Both are used at almost any place. I see Visa a little more than Mastercard though. You may also use a debit card or traveling card, such as the Visa passport, which allows you to put money in it before you leave than withdraw it at ATM machines. I cannot speak for the others, but with the Visa passport a relative or friend in your home country can put more cash into your card if you run out of it in SA. You should be able to find ATM cash machines in most cities in hotels, gas stations or malls.
Finally remember before you leave to seperate your money. Never put it all in your carry-on or in your wallet. Also make sure you carry money in an internationally acceptable currency, such as dollars or euros. Once when I needed to pay a hotel bill and found I had no more reais, I was able to pay the hotel in dollars(not being ripped off-be aware of exchange rates). When you arrive in South America exchange some of your cash into the local currency, just in case you need it for taxis or food. Sorry for the long posting. Good luck. Boas Viagens!!!
ATMs were plentiful in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia in the cities. Just plan ahead and take enough out to cover you. The website to look up locations on the CIRRUS network (as mentioned above) is MASTERCARD ATM LOCATIONS.
Credit cards are decent for large purchases (plane tickets and the like), but smaller merchants don't like taking them, and often charge a premium to use them. Be aware that I even had a situation in Buenos Aires where a travel agent told me an airline wouldn't take a credit card for a plane ticket, and I had to provide money (Lloyd Bolivia was the airline, for those who care). Instead of putting money on it, just use it as a normal credit card, and pay it off on the road. On-line banking is a god send for travellers!
Travellers Cheques are not worthwhile. Require you to stand in line to cash, if possible. The travel funds card (mentioned above) is a decent option to using TCs, but I figure if you can just use your ATM card, why bother with the travel cards? You still have to pay the ATM fees on withdrawing. (Note that these types of cards are also offered by VISA, and I am sure, Mastercard)
The AMEX and VISA logo Credit or Debit Cards are the most widely accepted in Latin America, however Cirrus(Mastercard) machines (cajeros) are plentiful in major cities and large towns, in the electronic age the Travellers Checks have become a hassle and means finding a bank that will cash them and waiting in line. Use ATMs in public places with guards during day such as Shopping Malls, Luxury Hotels and machines are ever present in Central America at the 24 hour Gas Stations on main highways, never use cajeros that are on the street outside the bank alone, or late at night as at home. Once withdrawing any large amount of money, take taxi to your room or hotel and never flash money. Often in tourist areas friendly "street kids" will offer to assist and guide you, but usually they work for adult theives..2 months ago in Granada, Nicaragua they took some trusting French-Canadians for over $4,000 Cash. The kids got new bikes, the bosses most of the money. Minors really cannot be prosecuted much here for non violent crime and the adults must be caught in the act...weak judicial system and corrupt. It is nice to be nice..but be careful. In Costa Rica especially stay away from the friendly English speaking youths who may offer to sell you an illegal type of merchandise..in leauge usually with local police and often having duplicate keys to "backpacker" style lodgings..look around when typing in your "PIN" number, if there are a couple of people hanging around the machine near you, take caution. And try not to walk around with dreadlocks and Backpacks and unwashed in the cities and bus stations..you just bring too much attention on!
I definately reckon you should take money in as many different 'forms' as possible, without having too much cash on you at one time. That way you should be prepared for lots of different circumstances. Spread it over cash (dollars and local currency), travellers cheques and credit card. Making decent sized withdrawls from your card is best, otherwise the service charges will add up.
Saying that i havent actually been travelling yet, but am going to South America this month and have read that this is the best way to take your money! cheers