Holiday time is travel time. Especially when staying in non-euro countries, there are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to paying and withdrawing money. In order to avoid burdening the budget with additional costs, experts from the Sparkasse Group have summarised the most important money tips. First of all, a mix of cash, debit and credit cards is recommended.
TIP 1: Change money at your local bank before you leave
If you need foreign currency, you should get it before you go on holiday – preferably from your local bank. ‘Most foreign exchange offices at holiday destinations use a lower rate and charge high fees. You should also be well informed of the exchange rate and potential fluctuations before you leave,’ says Ertan Piskin, payment transactions expert at Erste Bank.
With their foreign exchange bot, Erste Bank und Sparkassen offer everyone the possibility to order the required valuables online in advance to the branch of their choice, where they can then be conveniently collected. If you cannot avoid exchanging money abroad, you should find out the current exchange rate beforehand and compare the fees of the exchange offices. The George app of Erste Bank und Sparkassen offers a currency converter for this purpose.
TIP 2: Take a bit of cash with you for small things
Cashless payment has become widespread in Austria since the pandemic. But not all countries have a comparable nationwide supply of payment terminals for credit and debit cards. ‘You should always carry sufficient cash for unplanned expenses such as taxi rides, snacks or entrance fees. Small notes are particularly advisable for this,’ says Piskin. Where possible, contactless payment by card is a good and safe alternative.
TIP 3: Beware of cash limits when abroad
In some EU countries, cash payments may only be made up to a certain amount. ‘Enquire about cash limits at your destination well in advance,’ advises Piskin. For example, in Greece only amounts up to 500 euros may be paid in cash, in Italy this limit is 1,000 euros. Those who do not comply with this must expect severe fines. In
Italy, for example, the minimum fine is 2,000 euros.
TIP 4: Pay in local currency when making card payments in non-euro countries
When in non-euro countries, you should always pay in local currency. The reason: payments in euros are usually accompanied by poor exchange rate settlements.
TIP 5: Check GeoControl and disable if necessary
GeoControl is automatically enabled for debit cards in destinations outside Europe. As such, withdrawing money at ATMs is automatically blocked for certain regions outside Europe. Piskin: ‘This measure is to prevent card misuse. GeoControl can, however, be suspended for the duration of your holiday to enable you to withdraw cash anywhere in the world.’ Erste Bank und Sparkassen enable you to disable GeoControl in the George internet banking, in the George app, by telephone or through a customer service agent.
TIP 6: Adjust payment limit for debit and credit cards
If you’re due to be travelling to a country with a high crime rate, you should check your card limits and adjust them if necessary.
The Sparkassen Group’s George app enables you to increase limits for all bank cards, or disable or enable payment types in real time.
Tip 7: Contactless payment and bank card backup
Basically, wherever possible, contactless payment by card is a good and secure alternative. In addition to the mix of payment methods mentioned at the beginning, a bank card backup is also advisable. Piskin: ‘For example, activate the bank card on the mobile phone or take a second card with you and store it separately. Our key fob with the debit micro card is also practical and inconspicuous. With it, you can make contactless payments everywhere and withdraw money from ATMs with contactless function.’
TIP 8: Withdraw cash using a debit card when outside the euro area
The cheapest way to withdraw money in holiday destinations outside the euro area is by debit card. But beware: ATM operators in some countries charge additional withdrawal fees – though you have to be advised of this before you make the withdrawal. Customers of Erste Bank und Sparkassen can withdraw money free of charge from all Group ATMs in countries where Erste Group is active.
TIP 9: Do not convert into Euros when withdrawing cash
Converting to local currency at ATMs in non-euro countries can result in high fees. ‘If you withdraw money outside the euro area, ATMs often offer a fixed exchange rate in euros. Do not accept this conversion, for it can get expensive. Instead have the debit transacted in the foreign currency,’ Piskin advises.
TIP 10: Avoid withdrawing cash using credit cards
Credit cards are not designed for cash withdrawals, and should thus only be used for this purpose in emergencies due to the relatively high fees involved. Credit cards are, however, advisable for their safety. If they get lost or stolen, the bank covers any damages resulting from misuse – insofar as the cardholder has not acted negligently.
TIP 11: Memorise bank-card codes
Personal codes for debit and credit cards should not be accessible to anyone. It is thus advisable to memorise these and not write them down. ‘If they do forget their code, our customers can have it retrieved at any time in George or the George app in a secure and uncomplicated way. For credit cards, there is also the option of pre-setting your preferred code,’ says Piskin.
TIP 12: Check travel insurance in credit-card contracts
Credit-card contracts often contain travel insurance. Travel-insurance policies offered by tour operators are sometimes not even necessary, for example, because lost luggage or travel accidents are already covered as part of the credit-card contract. ‘So find out about the extent of your travel insurance before heading off. It may save you unnecessary costs,’ says Piskin.
Holiday-money tips available online at www.sparkasse.at/reisetipps
Ertan Piskin, payment transactions expert at Erste Bank. ©Daniel Hinterramskogler