I’ve spent the vast majority of the last two years living overseas. I’ve been all over Vietnam and I’ve just started living in Taiwan. What’s one thing we can’t live without when living or travelling overseas? Money!
In this post I’m going to tell you about things you might not have even thought of regarding spending your money, using your bank cards and doing electronic banking while overseas.
1. Travel money cards: What are they good for?
When living in Vietnam I used my Commonwealth Bank travel money card until I opened a Vietnamese bank account. A travel money card is a pre-paid credit card that you can use to make purchases that accepts cards, and withdraw money from ATM’s.
I’ve talked in detail about how Travel Money cards work in my post about what you need to know about spending money in another country.
What didn’t you know?
Travel money cards might not work with EVERYThing online
This includes Uber, UberEats, Grab, Taxi App’s, Booking.com, AirBnB, plane tickets and any other app or website that requires some sort of billing info.
What this means is you’ll have to use your regular credit or debit card, and if the payment is in the currency of the country you’re in, you’ll be charged a currency conversion fee. Sometimes my travel money card has worked, but it’s never been reliable.
What’s the reason for this?
It’s because a travel money card is a pre-paid credit card, and some companies won’t accept this form of payment, because if you haven’t topped up your card the transaction won’t get processed, and the company will be out of pocket.
Trust me I have tried with every app and website mentioned above and each one rejected me at some stage or another, and all for the same reason “we cannot accept prepaid credit cards”.
Some app’s and websites will allow you to select a ‘cash payment’ option, so dig around in the settings or site for this. You’ll still need to enter your normal credit card details, you just won’t pay with your card.
Aside from that you’ll just need to know that the travel money card is really only good for withdrawing money, and using in stores, so be prepared for some conversion fees every now and then. Try your card, but it’s never guaranteed.
2. Online banking security codes
We all bank online, whether it’s buying stuff or transferring money from one account to another.
What didn’t you realise?
If you’re transferring money to a new person (for a rental deposit, or other bank transfer), your bank will most likely ask you to enter a security code. Where does it send this code? To your mobile phone.
Oh shit, I’ve been in Tibet for 3 months, and now I have a local SIM as I lost my phone with my original SIM in it. Or maybe you didn’t lose you phone but you bought a new SIM as you wanted to avoid tremendously large data charges.
the security code gets lost in the ether and you can’t do the transaction
There’s three ways you can deal with this: 1) Yell and scream at your computer and bank for not letting you use your own money, and for having no online chat to sort out the issue. 2) Wait until it’s during your banks business hours, try and find a phone you can use for free and call your bank to tell them your new phone number. 3) Keep your original SIM handy and put it in your phone whenever you need the net code. Make sure your original SIM works in the country you’re in.
I’ve done all of these options and they all sort of suck. There’s no way around getting the security code.
the only way to get the security code is to call your bank and tell them your new number
3. New IP addresses might cause you issues
An “IP” address is an Internet Provider address, and it’s very specific to your computer, in fact it’s unique. Your IP address will tell you what country you’re in, so naturally this can cause security issues with your bank.
What didn’t you know about IP addresses?
This one is a bit hit and miss, as sometimes I’ve done internet banking and had no issues, and other times it’s caused me grief. What you might not know is the more transactions you do, the more suspicious it looks.
You might be making a purchase on e-Bay, but as the ip address is different your bank might not allow it
What’s the harm in buying something from safe and secure sites like e-Bay or Amazon? Well according to your bank if the transactions are trying to be made out of India, or the Congo, or even Taiwan, a big red flag will go up. And guess what? Yep! The bank will literally not approve the transaction.
How can you fix this?
Fortunately it’s very easy: before you leave to go overseas, tell your bank where you’re going. This way any transactions coming from your destination country won’t be blocked. If you’re already in the country, you’ll need to ring the bank to tell them where you are.
The reason I mention IP addresses is that it can happen at seemingly random times. I’ve been using my card in Taiwan fine, then I wanted to buy a game from Steam. The game was about $4.99, but my bank didn’t allow it. Yes I made the rookie mistake of not telling my bank I was coming to Taiwan.
I’ll just use a VPN and I’ll be ok, right?
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a way to make a secure connection over a less secure connection, say – the internet. VPN’s are legal and extremely common, and are mostly used in countries that have firewalls, for example in China, so people use a VPN to access Facebook.
When you use a VPN you give the illusion that your computer is in a different country, so if someone from China uses a VPN, they can establish a connection with a server in New York, which gives them the impression they’re from New York and not China. Or if you’re watching a Netflix series back home, then you travel, you might find the series isn’t on Netflix anymore, so you could use a VPN to make it look like you’re back at home and the series will be on there.
VPN’s are touch and go when it comes to heavy security encryption such as online banking. It will depend on your bank and the VPN provider you use. I’ve seen instances where the bank will know a VPN is being used, and won’t allow the transaction to go ahead, as it looks even more suspicious.
You can’t rely on a VPN for online banking, it’s best to tell your bank where you are
I hope after reading this you’ll avoid any boobytraps or unexpected glitches when using your money overseas. And I hope it gives you more understanding of what can happen.