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Old 20-03-2013, 20:54   #1
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Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

We are uprooting ourselves the second week of April here in Canada and heading to the Med for a season or two before sailing to the Caribbean. What are most of you doing for banking? Are you able to open bank accounts there? How does this work when you have no base and just covering ground? Do you take a wad of Euros with you? What kind of spread are you paying if you used your Canadian Bank Card? Any and all ideas would be welcome. Cheers
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Old 20-03-2013, 21:05   #2
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

Last time I was in the Med, I used my stateside bank, credit/debit cards and American Express travelers cheques (for emergencies).

Took care of the banking via the internet.
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Old 20-03-2013, 22:22   #3
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

Couple of thoughts from my experience.

Get a Capital One Visa card. They don't charge an "international access fee" like most other Visa or MasterCard issuers when you're abroad. That in itself will save you large quantities of the cruising kitty.

Use the Global Alliance Global ATM Alliance - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia to save on the ATM/ABM cost of going out-of-network. They have pretty much world-wide ATM coverage.

ScotiaBank and BankofAmerica ATM/Debit cards have worked for us in well over 37 countries now. Rarely - but it happens, like in Russia some years back - we've used AmEx at non-affiliated non-GlobalAlliance ATMs.

ScotiaBank Automated Banking Machines (ABM) | Scotiabank

Global Alliance Network

Bank Name................ Coverage Area

Bank of America..........United States

Barclays....................United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales,
...............................Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands) Plus Spain, France, Netherland Antilles (St. Maarten), Bahamas and Seychelles; and 370 ATMs throughout parts of Africa (Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe).

BNP Paribas................France, Plus: 1,400 Urksibbank ATMs in the Ukraine, and 2,000 BNL ATMs across Italy

BNL D'Italia.................Italy
Deutsche Bank............Germany, Poland, India, Spain

Scotiabank.................Canada and the Caribbean. Caribbean countries include: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles (St. Maarten), St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Westpac Bank.............Australia and New Zealand (Plus many of the South Pacific Islands - Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, Cook Island, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands).

Now you owe me a beer for all that research & copy/paste!
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Old 20-03-2013, 22:24   #4
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

Thanks for the work, the beer will be there but you have to come and get it!
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Old 20-03-2013, 22:30   #5
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

Great! Might takes a little while though.... We're in American Samoa for the while. Keep one cold for me -- We'll get there (again) someday....
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Old 20-03-2013, 23:01   #6
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

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Couple of thoughts from my experience.

Get a Capital One Visa card. They don't charge an "international access fee" like most other Visa or MasterCard issuers when you're abroad. That in itself will save you large quantities of the cruising kitty.
Chase Sapphire Preferred is another card charging no foreign transaction fee.... and you get 40,000 bonus points for signing up and spending so much in the first few months... just saying...
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Old 20-03-2013, 23:30   #7
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

The most successful retail bank in the world.
HSBC - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


'HSBC Premier[80] is the group's premium financial services product, comparable to the Centurion service of American Express. The exact benefits and qualification criteria vary depending on country. Customers have a dedicated Premier Relationship Manager, global 24-hour access to call centres, free banking services and preferential rates. A HSBC Premier customer receives the HSBC Premier services in all countries that offer HSBC Premier, without having to meet that country's qualifying criteria.'
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Old 21-03-2013, 00:33   #8
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

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Originally Posted by robert sailor View Post
We are uprooting ourselves the second week of April here in Canada and heading to the Med for a season or two before sailing to the Caribbean. What are most of you doing for banking? Are you able to open bank accounts there? How does this work when you have no base and just covering ground? Do you take a wad of Euros with you? What kind of spread are you paying if you used your Canadian Bank Card? Any and all ideas would be welcome. Cheers
I am an Aussie, but my info may still be useful.
My main experience has been only in Italy and Greece, so keep that in mind .

Few places I have come across accept credit card (exceptions have been large marinas and huge supermarkets). I frequently waited without success for a credit card to be processed and eventually gave up using this. My main card now lies dormant except for internet purchases.

It took a while to work out the best way to access cash. I now have a separate credit card I keep topped up with credit (via internet banking) and I withdraw cash from an ATM in that manner. There is 600€ per day withdrawal limit. It is less expensive doing this than using the card to access funds from a bank account linked to the credit card.

I have opened both Italian and Greek bank accounts fairly easily. Just a "tax number" is needed and this is an over the counter thing at a tax office. Here is Greece tax offices can be found all over the place. Both accounts have not been required for several years and are unnecessary unless you need to withdraw a large amount of money in a hurry (needed this for work done in an Italian marina) or if you are receiving a transfer payment in euros and want to avoid conversion fees.
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Old 21-03-2013, 01:02   #9
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

We've been cruising the Med since last August and have hit just about every country since then. We have used our normal debit cards to get cash in just about every port. Credit cards are also widely accepted. And many placed will accept US and Euros in addition to the local currency. John
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Old 21-03-2013, 01:59   #10
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

Take with you American Express traveler's checks in $100 and $20 USD denominations. They are accepted in "Hell and in Heaven" - everywhere; in 40+ countries that I've visited, not one refused AMEX. Some stores will even give you a bonus premium for using AMEX traveler's checks for your purchases; 5-10% discount. The only limitation that you might encounter is the max amount that you can carry legally while entering some countries; $10,000 USD is the max. I prefer NOT to use any credit/debit cards while traveling; very difficult to challenge an un-authorized charge in a foreign country, not to mention the processing fees incurred. Another benefit with AMEX traveler's checks, replacement is easy if you lose them or are stolen. (Not affiliated with AMEX.) Mauritz
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Old 21-03-2013, 02:37   #11
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

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Take with you American Express traveler's checks in $100 and $20 USD denominations. They are accepted in "Hell and in Heaven" - everywhere; in 40+ countries that I've visited, not one refused AMEX. Some stores will even give you a bonus premium for using AMEX traveler's checks for your purchases; 5-10% discount. The only limitation that you might encounter is the max amount that you can carry legally while entering some countries; $10,000 USD is the max. I prefer NOT to use any credit/debit cards while traveling; very difficult to challenge an un-authorized charge in a foreign country, not to mention the processing fees incurred. Another benefit with AMEX traveler's checks, replacement is easy if you lose them or are stolen. (Not affiliated with AMEX.) Mauritz
I disagree completely based on my experiences here. Banks in Sicily don't accept them readily. I sat for 2-3 hours in Sicilian banks on each occasion I need to convert AMEX travellers cheques (made out in euros) and they would only hand over 500 euros at a time.

I have had no experience in stores. Maybe at places where big cruise ships pull in or in big cities AMEX travellers cheques are accepted at stores, but they would not get you far here on the smaller less populated Greek islands.

The yard at the marina in Portorosa Sicily only accepted euros when we were there - no credit cards, no travellers cheques. The bank (an hour's walk) would only convert travellers cheques in small amounts. The ATM would only spit out 600 euros per day. With around 8000 € of work being done it was a real problem! Hence opening an Italian bank account was the easiest way to access the required cash.
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Old 21-03-2013, 07:37   #12
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

I would agree with SeaWorthy, Travellers cheques in the Med are a waste of time, they were great 30 years ago , but not now, often you are forced to go to banks etc.

Credit cards and Debit cards, preferably both VISA and MasterCard, Ive had one accepted an the other not. forget AMEX credit cards or other esoteric types, few accepted

Its also getting difficult to verify card transactions without Chip and PIN in some places now. If you can get a Chip and PIN card so much the better. contactless is also appearing now as well for small value transactions

Ive been to most Med countries, I bring little cash and virtually just use my "plastic" , ATMs are common and convenient, even out of the way places take plastic, Some cash is necessary from time to time of course. ( small cafes, some marinas , small stores etc, or some have a small limit , ie under 10 euros etc)

Again as Seaworthy points out dollars and other currencies are NOT widely accepted in particularly Euro area countries, you will loose too much in the conversion, if they are accepted at all. Certainly dont proffer dollars to pay directly for goods.

for larger amounts you can either open bank accounts locally or do international Bank Transfer to the recipients accounts ( though this seems to be awkward for US peeps)


if you are going to spend a long time in the Euro Area, you could look into Euro credit cards if thats possible, this saves multiple conversion costs and commissions. You could as SWL has done open a EUro bank account in a major port and transfer funds into it and get a Debit card from that. ( it can be complicated).

European Money laundering provisions can apply on the transfer of large sums

Dave
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Old 21-03-2013, 15:17   #13
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

There's a lot of advice up above - some from actual experiences. We've been to many different countries so here's my thoughts. This memo got longer and longer as I thought about things. Sorry!

You wouldn't walk into a restaurant in Vancouver or Seattle and expect a hassle-free time when attempting to pay for dinner with Euros, would you? So 'tis with other countries, and the prudent mariner plans ahead.

Traveler's Cheques are tucked away for major expenses. This might entail talking with a bank manager for cashing a large quantity of funds. A shipyard estimate helps, as it shows the funds will stay in the local community and you're not buying drugs. Also, divide them between two people so each has signature authority on half your stash in case one is hospitalized.

ATM/ABM using GLobal Alliance banks (as noted in my comment on page one). Many ATMs limit the daily amount. In Austria we could get the equivalent of approx 20,000 USD (yes, thousands) at an AmEx ATM while in American Samoa it is only USD 200 with the BofA ATM/Debit card. Depending on the length of time anticipated in a certain currency area we might hit the ATM on an almost daily basis (while heading to the pub, etc.) to build a fund.

Be careful which ATM you use and who might be watching - and yes, you look like a tourist. Can you sit with a cup of coffee or a beer while keeping an eye on the ATM? Do it before you use it. Lots of users means it's probably safe.

When possible, use an ATM outside an actual bank during business hours. It's probably serviced more frequently. And if the ATM swallows your card you've a fighting chance to correct the situation the same day.

If you're going into town anyway then pull the max from an ATM even if you don't "need" it. Build up that boat stockpile. Some ATMs allow multiple withdrawals so check it out. The limit might be USD 200 per transaction but 1000 USD daily.

Local Bank Accounts. When planning to stay longer than six months in a certain currency area (like Euro zone) we'll open a local account. Either deposit of paper cheques (and wait out the approx two-week hold) or do electronic transfers (and accept the outbound xfer fees from "home" bank).

Wire Transfers. Check with your home bank before it's needed to avoid hassles. Since each xfer costs you money, plan ahead.

Example: BofA limits international transfers (to another bank account, like the shipyard or sailmaker will have) to USD 1000 unless first setting up SafePass. Easy to do online from overseas IF you've a cellphone AND the local provider will process text messages. Better: plan ahead, and get their pre-printed card of one-time codes.

Identification. Note that with the USA pushing about money laundering and tax evasion many countries have tightened up their "know-your customer" rules. Don't be surprised if you'll need not only a passport, but also a photo ID like drivers License AND a birth certificate. (And yes, get that international Drivers License even though it doesn't have a photo. Makes it easier to get a "local" one WITH a photo. Strange but true. You DO NOT want only your home-country DL should the local cop pull over your rental car. Hey... you think that small-town Spanish or Italian cop reads English? )

Visa/MasterCard/AmEx (etc.) Some places take them, some don't. Most places that accept them have a lower limit. Ask. (My experience: only in the USA have I seen some clown using a Visa card for an 'effing cup of coffee.) We carry Visa and MC (both debit and credit cards) plus AmEx - some from US banks and some from European banks. If you have the chance to open an Euro account do so. As a non-citizen you might be limited to only a debit card but hey... that's not such a bad thing!

International Transaction Fees. Ouch. Avoid them by getting a CapitalOne Visa card (which eats the expense). Apparently there are others that don't charge this fee - check it out. Plan ahead. Those fees really add up.

Cash is King. We stockpile USD and Euros. (Our experience was that GB Pounds Sterling were more trouble than worth. Sorry lads!) Hidey-hole on the boat; money belts; cloth neck-bags; split the daily-needed funds in different pockets and between people: all are useful. The more paper cash in your wallet - the more chance of an unfortunate incident.

And for cheese sakes make photo copies of the passports and, and, and... Many times just showing the photo copy will suffice!

Okay... I need another cup of coffee. Hope this helps somebody!

James
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Old 21-03-2013, 15:42   #14
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

Stay away from banks in Cyprus! HSBC sounds like a safer international bet. You can open an account and transfer US$ into it from your home account electronically (may be some limits). Depending on what shakes out of this whole ECB mess over the weekend, you may find banking transactions in the med and southern Europe a problem so keep a good amount of Euros stashed aboard or in a PO box close to where you are... got a bad feeling about how this whole thing is going to unfold. James, post #13 has some sound advice. The US is not immune, either. Phil
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Old 21-03-2013, 16:00   #15
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Re: Banking questions for Canadians/Americans in the Med

Quote:
Originally Posted by svmariane View Post
There's a lot of advice up above - some from actual experiences. We've been to many different countries so here's my thoughts. This memo got longer and longer as I thought about things. Sorry!

You wouldn't walk into a restaurant in Vancouver or Seattle and expect a hassle-free time when attempting to pay for dinner with Euros, would you? So 'tis with other countries, and the prudent mariner plans ahead.

Traveler's Cheques are tucked away for major expenses. This might entail talking with a bank manager for cashing a large quantity of funds. A shipyard estimate helps, as it shows the funds will stay in the local community and you're not buying drugs. Also, divide them between two people so each has signature authority on half your stash in case one is hospitalized.

ATM/ABM using GLobal Alliance banks (as noted in my comment on page one). Many ATMs limit the daily amount. In Austria we could get the equivalent of approx 20,000 USD (yes, thousands) at an AmEx ATM while in American Samoa it is only USD 200 with the BofA ATM/Debit card. Depending on the length of time anticipated in a certain currency area we might hit the ATM on an almost daily basis (while heading to the pub, etc.) to build a fund.

Be careful which ATM you use and who might be watching - and yes, you look like a tourist. Can you sit with a cup of coffee or a beer while keeping an eye on the ATM? Do it before you use it. Lots of users means it's probably safe.

When possible, use an ATM outside an actual bank during business hours. It's probably serviced more frequently. And if the ATM swallows your card you've a fighting chance to correct the situation the same day.

If you're going into town anyway then pull the max from an ATM even if you don't "need" it. Build up that boat stockpile. Some ATMs allow multiple withdrawals so check it out. The limit might be USD 200 per transaction but 1000 USD daily.

Local Bank Accounts. When planning to stay longer than six months in a certain currency area (like Euro zone) we'll open a local account. Either deposit of paper cheques (and wait out the approx two-week hold) or do electronic transfers (and accept the outbound xfer fees from "home" bank).

Wire Transfers. Check with your home bank before it's needed to avoid hassles. Since each xfer costs you money, plan ahead.

Example: BofA limits international transfers (to another bank account, like the shipyard or sailmaker will have) to USD 1000 unless first setting up SafePass. Easy to do online from overseas IF you've a cellphone AND the local provider will process text messages. Better: plan ahead, and get their pre-printed card of one-time codes.

Identification. Note that with the USA pushing about money laundering and tax evasion many countries have tightened up their "know-your customer" rules. Don't be surprised if you'll need not only a passport, but also a photo ID like drivers License AND a birth certificate. (And yes, get that international Drivers License even though it doesn't have a photo. Makes it easier to get a "local" one WITH a photo. Strange but true. You DO NOT want only your home-country DL should the local cop pull over your rental car. Hey... you think that small-town Spanish or Italian cop reads English? )

Visa/MasterCard/AmEx (etc.) Some places take them, some don't. Most places that accept them have a lower limit. Ask. (My experience: only in the USA have I seen some clown using a Visa card for an 'effing cup of coffee.) We carry Visa and MC (both debit and credit cards) plus AmEx - some from US banks and some from European banks. If you have the chance to open an Euro account do so. As a non-citizen you might be limited to only a debit card but hey... that's not such a bad thing!

International Transaction Fees. Ouch. Avoid them by getting a CapitalOne Visa card (which eats the expense). Apparently there are others that don't charge this fee - check it out. Plan ahead. Those fees really add up.

Cash is King. We stockpile USD and Euros. (Our experience was that GB Pounds Sterling were more trouble than worth. Sorry lads!) Hidey-hole on the boat; money belts; cloth neck-bags; split the daily-needed funds in different pockets and between people: all are useful. The more paper cash in your wallet - the more chance of an unfortunate incident.

And for cheese sakes make photo copies of the passports and, and, and... Many times just showing the photo copy will suffice!

Okay... I need another cup of coffee. Hope this helps somebody!

James
Yup. Pretty much my experience.

Also a really good idea to tell your card company you will be out of the country and where you will be and when you will be there (if know).

Had a MasterCard transaction refused in the Netherlands for a night on the town. They didn't like the fact I hadn't been in Europe for over two years, then a charge hit without warning.
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