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Old 09-02-2010, 07:17   #46
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Most USA banks are international banks and gaining access to your funds is very easy via the internet. As far as plastic cards there are three versions: ATM only; ATM/Debit; Credit.
- - ATM only can only be used in an ATM machine that honors your system (Honor, Maestro, etc.) and cannot be used to purchase anything in a store. ATM machines are everywhere in the world - about as prolific as T-shirt shops. Of course you need to go to U-tube and google ATM scams and educate yourself as to how to spot an altered machine. After you have that knowledge, ATM machines are perfectly safe.
- - ATM/Debit can be a problem for USA citizens as they are not covered under the US Fed Law protecting credit cards and purchases from credit cards although many banks will voluntarily make good on bad purchases.
- - Credit cards are the least secure form as they are the prime target for thieves. The thieves even has computerized number generators clicking through all the numbers found on your credit card looking for a "hit" on an active card. Then they quickly charge things from obscure parts of the world. The Banks take the hit (if they want to on International charges) and normally they will shut down your card instantly upon seeing a big charge from an obscure location. Then you have the hassle of contacting the bank and straightening everything out.
- - Asking the bank to suspend your credit card - stop honoring it is now mostly obsolete and not possible. They simply cancel the account and you have to have a new credit card mailed/delivered to you. That can take months. Having two different credit card accounts (or more) is important as when one card gets shut down you can still use the other card until the replacement arrives.
- - But all in all, banking by internet is a great convenience that makes international cruising much more simple and enjoyable. True you have to learn some new things to "defend" yourself against financial theft but they are simple and not difficult.
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:21   #47
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Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
- - Asking the bank to suspend your credit card - stop honoring it is now mostly obsolete and not possible. They simply cancel the account and you have to have a new credit card mailed/delivered to you. That can take months. Having two different credit card accounts (or more) is important as when one card gets shut down you can still use the other card until the replacement arrives.
This was the way that I handled my credit card until I stopped cruising in June of 2009. I called them several times from different countries, no problem.
New rules may apply, but call their help desk and ask.
It was much easier for me to maintain a US address for my credit cards and banking transactions. My trusted mail service provider would scan and send me the statements and credit card replacements, as I moved from place to place.
Activating a new card or resolving any issues was always a challange as the provider has your old telephone number on file. When you call, their caller-id will not match the phone that you are calling from. Avoid the confusion, ask for their supervisior.
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:37   #48

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There's one more gotcha for using plastic overseas: The PIN numbers. For ATM or debit cards, some banks require a 4-digit PIN, other 6-digit. And apparently some customers who use a PIN in the US, require "the other length" PIN in places overseas. I don't recall if that's both ways or just one way, but do recall the problem. Be prepared, call your bank and make sure your PIN is the right length to use on the network you'll be visiting.

Oddly enough, merchants pay different amounts when you use a debit versus a credit card. But, at least in the US, their networks will take either card either way. Apparently no one wants to program the authentication networks to recognize the cards (the first four digits tell them the card type and issuer) so a debit card can, at least in the US, always be used as a credit card with no PIN required. I don't know if the networks overseas are all equally dumb, I'm told this has been "allowed" to happen because the merchants pay more for the credit card mode, and the folks who run the networks earn more money that way.
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Old 09-02-2010, 10:48   #49
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I dunno too much about social security, but I'm pretty sure if you are a US citizen, worked all or most of your life and paid into social security, you're eligible to collect regardless where you live (several exception like Cuba exist). No need to return to the US, etc. If you are not a US citizen, or are collecting benefits for taking care of a disabled child, etc, there are probably different rules. It is probably quicker and easier to have it direct deposited, and this probably requires the bank has a routing ID from the federal reserve (i.e. at least some operations in the US).

I'm not sure what advantages there would be to having gold coins instead of cash. US currency tends to either be taken or easily exchanged in most places. Travelers checks would be smart, can be guaranteed against loss or theft, but might not be accepted for whoever your trying to pay. I personally can't imagine trying to barter for something with gold, and wouldn't know how to prove it's gold even to myself if someone else was attempting to sell it to me. In fact, if someone in some remote pacific anchorage tried to sell me some gold, or exchange some for fuel, etc, I would be highly skeptical about getting ripped off. And I would assume many customs agents would find them odd and feel the need to make there was nothing else questionable about a boat with a large amount of gold coins on it. But I guess civilization could collapse and the US dollar become worthless.

Credit cards offer the most protection against fraud. But might be more expensive with exchange rate and foreign transaction fees, especially with multiple small purchases. Maybe anything over $100 or so is smart with a credit card. The ATM is also generally going to hit you with a fee of some sort, and usually the max your going to get out of it is equivalent to $300. (you might be able to get your bank to raise that, but do you really want to have that risk?). Even with this fraud protection, getting ripped off can be time consuming and annoying (spend an hour on hold, getting a letter from the bank to sign and return stating you didn't make the charges, etc).

ATMs will give you local currency generally at a favorable exchange rate. If you take your ATM card and look at the back you'll see a bunch of logos, Visa, Star, Interlink, Plus, etc. These are the "networks" that connect the ATM to the bank, match the logo on the card with the logo on the ATM. Internationally, it'll commonly be Visa. And assuming that you've got Visa or MasterCard ATM card, it's also a debit and will work anywhere that a Visa or MasterCard credit card will. But, it generally does not offer the same fraud protections and might have a different rate.

Best advice I can give is to get two checking accounts with different banks with ATM cards. Talk to the bank (go in and talk to the branch manager) and make sure that if the accounts are overdrawn, it's refused. Often banks will cover the charge, and then give you a fee and make them pay you back, but if the card is stolen and they get your pin, they can steal money you don't have. Keep the money in a separate account and transfer it to the checking on an as needed basis. Of course, this makes things difficult waiting for transfers to plan your drinking and such, so generally keep the checking balance to as small an amount as convenient. And make sure the bank doesn't charge you $20 for each transfer.

And most US banks are not international. There is a strict definition of International in US banking laws, and most do not meet this. They still work with international networks like SWIFT and the ATM networks and it's easy to get your money from them in foreign countries.

(I've spent the last 5 years working at a bank on the back end network technology. I don't know much about banking policy or regulation, but I have learned whose computers are connected to what and have some general ideas about what information is sent / received.)
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Old 10-02-2010, 09:56   #50
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Social Security

I just applied for an Direct Express card; it's a debit ca.rd good at ATM's and any bank. I don't know how to leave a link, but you can Google Direct Express Card for info. Best Wishes, Woody
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Old 10-02-2010, 18:37   #51
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Direct Express card is run out of Comerica Bank of Dallas Texas. The fee structure is rather high with 90 cents per ATM withdrawal in excess of one per month. And a $3 plus 3% fee on any international ATM usage. That is as bad as Western Union.
- - The idea of Cruising is to travel and visit new places and new countries. To have un-hassled ability to travel by sea and air you need a credit record and credit cards. This means having an established bank or brokerage bank to handle and provide you with savings and banking accounts along with credit should you need to make a short term large payment - say to a marina or boatyard, etc.
- - Ex-pats living in a country that is not their home country are quite will covered on Expat Forums. I believe this forum has something to do with traveling by sea to visit other places in the world and what is commonly needed or advised to have to accomplish that goal.
- - Movement between countries/nations is not long free and unfettered. It is controlled with degrees of complicated-ness ranging from minor to highly annoying. There are very few places of interest to cruisers that you can enter without some form of proof of financial means in order for the country to be assured that you will leave again when your visit is over - so that you will not be an undesirable "immigrant."
- - Having your Social Security payment direct deposited in an internet accessible and "name" bank goes a long way to easing the problems/hassles of cross border traveling.
- - Multiple credit cards is necessary to protect your access should one card by compromised by thieves. ATM/Debit cards must be carefully used and protected as overdrawing your accounts - either yourself or by theft will cause your Credit Report Score to plummet cutting off access to new credit or even worse triggering very high interest rates and fees on existing credit cards. There is a common practice that any late or overdrawn account will trigger maximum rates on credit cards you have not even associated with the late or overdrawn account.
In the realm of international travel having credit cards is one of those necessary evils.
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