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Old 25-07-2011, 00:05   #1
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Banking While Cruising

Know this can't be the first time this is asked, but did a search and found nothing. Maybe i need to work on my search engine skills... Anyway, My wife and i are making preparations to become full time cruisers and my question is this: Should I open a bank account in the Caribbean? We will be mainly cruising in the Caribbean so I wondered if were best to open an account there. Also, do most pay with debit/credit cards and keep little cash on hand or what? This is an area I have found nothing on in the books I have read. Also with the current problems in the U.S. with debt ceiling etc. I wonder if it would be wise to have part of my money off shore anyway. we are Texas residents and will maintain an address her at our daughter's and have her screen our mail for important mail such as Soc Sec notices etc. We will maintain an account here where Soc Sec is deposited but could set up automatic transfers to an off shore account if that is best. Please let me know what way most cruisers handle this aspect of things.

Thanks
Mark
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Old 25-07-2011, 03:48   #2
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Re: banking while cruising

An international bank like HSBC or CitiBank with branch around the world is your best bet. I've been using HSBC for several years now and they've been great. I use their Premier MasterCard whenever I can for the added protection of being able to dispute a charge later if there is a problem. Also, they don't charge a foreign transaction fee which can really add up.
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Old 25-07-2011, 04:00   #3
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Re: banking while cruising

Some more threads on the subject here ...banking - CF
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Old 25-07-2011, 04:04   #4
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Although we do not cruise....yet. Check with Schwab they have a banking division that rebates ATM fees. When we were in Europe we got most if the fees rebated and good exchange rates. If the Internet is dodgey they will do phone transfers to keep you in cash
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Old 25-07-2011, 05:28   #5
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Re: Banking While Cruising

We've been cruising the Eastern Caribbean full time for going on 8 years. We've had no need for a local bank in that time. We use our ATM card to get local currency all over the islands, and pay with cash as a preference, although we do use credit cards for the occasional purchase. Most merchants prefer cash, and you frequently can get a small discount by asking. They are mostly small businesses, and quite conscious of the cost of accepting credit cards. On line banking is easy and safe, and our bank pays us back for any "other bank" charges for using our ATM card. We've never had a problem.
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Old 25-07-2011, 05:30   #6
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Re: Banking While Cruising

There are ATMs all over the West Indies, so getting cash in the local currency isn't a problem. If your US bank has an Internet banking and bill-paying option, and virtually all do these days, you can handle your banking affairs over secure, encrypted access from an Internet cafe, or WiFi hotspot which you can find just about everywhere, too.

US credits cards (VISA and Mastercard) are accepted most places, and you can avoid the customary 3% currency exchange fees that many card providers charge by picking a card from CapitalOne or a few more banks. Put your card on the auto-pay option so you don't need to worry about the monthly payment. You'll be able to get your statements and check on recent activity via the Internet. Get a VISA and a Mastercard account in case one card is compromised. It can take a while to get a new card by mail down here.

We've been doing it for seven years now. It's all quite easy and safe.
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Old 25-07-2011, 06:08   #7
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Re: Banking While Cruising

I recommend Schwab. Their on line banking is great. ATM fees are all rebated. You can use an ATM anywhere. I would rethink using a debit card heavily inasmuch as banks have announced their intentions to gouge consumers with new fees and charges for using these cards. Best to use a credit card, pay it off on line, don't keep a balance. Although American Express is the best card to have as far as resovling problems is concerned, a lot of places in the carribean won't take that card, so I wold stick with a VISA card that has reasonable terms.
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Old 25-07-2011, 06:46   #8
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Re: Banking While Cruising

And there are places without ATMs, we needed almost more cash than we had for clearing in, fueland water in South Caicos. Another time I had to pay for something with the laundry quarters.
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Old 25-07-2011, 07:40   #9
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Re: Banking While Cruising

DON'T use an internet cafe for your banking unless you've brought your OWN computer & plugged it into their network (or WiFi). MANY cyber-cafe computers have keystroke loggers on them to snag passwords & such. They may have been put on by the guy just before you, or the guy a month ago, or even the owner. Use your own computer & keep the anti-virus up to date (we use MSFT Security Essentials, which is free).

We use a 3G modem (stick about the size of your finger with a USB connection) for our internet access. You get secure internet anywhere you've got a cell-phone signal, right out to the comfort of your own boat. You'll need a SIM for each new country, but they're usually cheap & easy (well, outside Europe). Pre-paid plans are usually less than $1/day & contracts even less.

That said, we just use the ubiquitous ATMs, pay cash, & never bothered with a local bank acct over the 7 years we were in the Caribbean (& 9 years outside the Carib). The Caribbean seems to like the Brit banking system, where the banks CHARGE you to "keep your money safe" instead of the US model where the banks want your money so they can use it to make more money, so they provide incentives like toasters to get you to open an acct.
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Old 25-07-2011, 08:57   #10
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Re: Banking While Cruising

We have been using Banks such as Schwab for a couple of decades. No need to move money offshore. At first we carried lots of cash and if you plan to cruise in a lot of remote areas you will still need to do that. But our Visa card will cover most all of our expenses and we can simply have the funds transfered to pay the balance each month. We have two Visa cards in case there is a problem with either and we are off the grid. One is tied to our bank account and can be used as a credit or debit card. We have been able to get cash advances at the bank in Fronteras, Quatemala if we needed to. We now carry very little cash. Our other credit card pays cash rewards so almost every purchase is through the card and at the end of the year we get back hundreds of dollars in cash rewards. The only place our U.S. credit cards are not accepted is in Cuba. Do some research and see what cruisers that are actually out there in the places you plan to cruise are doing. Chuck
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Old 25-07-2011, 10:35   #11
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Re: Banking While Cruising

Thank you to everyone that replied. Lots of good information from experienced cruisers! Couldn't have gotten this knowledge any other way but the hard way and I have to learn enough that way! Thanks again.
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Old 25-07-2011, 10:42   #12
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Re: Banking While Cruising

We also are full time cruisers and use Bank of America. ATM's are available and painless. We use our bank card for larger purchases and cash for smaller ones.
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Old 26-07-2011, 03:23   #13
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Re: Banking While Cruising

Whatever bank you choose we would suggest making an agreement with a bank rep to allow you to make requests by email as well. Even with online banking there might be times that you need to do a transaction over and above what your bank website or credit card allows. We've found that being able to contact a bank rep via email over the years has been extremly helpful.

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Old 26-07-2011, 16:06   #14
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Re: Banking While Cruising

I started looking at which bank cards and credit cards to use when we begin cruising this fall.

A good article is:
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/deals/inside/2009-05-21-best-overseas-credit-card_N.htm

I think Capital One and USAA have some of the best ATM fees for a checking account.
Capital one is $2 per transaction and 0% fee (plus whatever the bank that owns the ATM charges). USAA charges zero per transaction, refunds $15 of foreign atm fees, but charges a 1% fee of the amount.

The better one will depend on how much you take out and how often.

Bank of America seems to have 0 fee and no percent rate for partner ATMs. Scotiabank is a part of the Bank of America network, and it seems to be in a lot of countries in the Caribbean.

As far as credit cards, I think USAA and Capital one are also among the best deals.
Capital One charges zero percent on purchases, and actually gives you at least 1% back on all purchases. USAA charges 1% on purchases but gives you money back as well depending on the amount you spend.
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Old 29-04-2013, 10:27   #15
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Re: Banking While Cruising

I'm bumping up this old thread with a new issue on banking.

We are Canadians and have been off for a few years. We just noticed that our Visa cards have passed their expiry date and we haven't received new ones. So I called Visa to be told that our cards had been closed! Even though we do not owe them any money (in fact they owe us) and we continue to receive statements. When I asked why I was told because we are living abroad.

Doesn't matter that we have a Canadian bank account with cash in the account or investments. Or that we have a Canadian address where all our mail goes. Nope I was told that we need to return to Canada and reapply for a card.

Robyn
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