Using Debit Cards for Purchases

Old Sep 30th, 2014, 10:25 AM
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Using Debit Cards for Purchases

Hi there,

In planning for our trip to Greece this week, I am tossing whether or not I should use my debit card for major purchases (i.e. hotels, car and some food) to prevent so many transactions fees as my credit union has very low fees. Or should I just withdraw a large amount of cash in the airport for the entire trip (2 weeks). I'm not big on carrying a lot of cash in my pocket and when traveling around the US I have always just used my credit card for purchases, but not sure about Europe. I have heard different stories and at this point, I'm seeking advice from the professionals as I am leaving in 2 days.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much!
Makeithappen is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2014, 10:30 AM
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Ask your bank if you can use your debit card like a credit card, without a pin number. If yes, you can forego the need to carry a big wad of cash with you. Also, there are ATMs everywhere in Greece. Getting cash isn't an problem.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 10:37 AM
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I would ever ever use a debit card to rent a car. Even if you buy the offered insurance you can still be out a lot of money if there is a problem.

But otherwise, a debit card w/ a visa or mc logo works fine. But honestly, the fees charged by your cc's will amount to a teensy % of your expenses.

No matter what sort of card you use there is no need to carry massive amounts of cash.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 10:51 AM
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I think at this point you have to use your CC.
You are only looking at the normal fee angle. CC and Debit card provide vastly different fraud protections.
If your CC is compromised, you tell you bank to block the card. You are not out of pocket. You have one less card, but same amount of fund.
If your debit card is compromised, the money has already been taken out of you. You have to work to get them back, eventually. And then how do you get cash? Using usurious CC cash advance? If you have automatic payments out of your checking account connected to your debit card, your payments will be hit with NSF.
I would use debit cards only at reliable bank ATMs only.
Although it is too late now, doesn't your credit union offer a CC with low fees? My credit union has "0" fees associated with foreign transactions.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 10:57 AM
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I use a true credit card when abroad, but not one that is actually a debit card that also functions as a credit card. I don't want to use a card that is linked to my bank account in case it gets compromised in some way. While I might recover any funds taken from illegal use/theft, it's a hassle and I'd rather not expose myself to that risk. So, I use a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees for things like big purchases, hotel, car rentals, etc. Right now, my card of choice is the Barclays Arrival Plus Card. But we carry additonal creditd cards on top of that in case we run into any problems with a given card. For cash withdrawals, I use an ATM card that can only be used as an ATM card (not a debit card). It's linked to an account that doesn't have a huge amount of money in it and I have a per-day limit of (I think) $500.00. I leave my debit cards at home.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 11:08 AM
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My credit union gives the same rate for debit and credit cards. Are you saying that your credit union has a different foreign transaction fee for credit cards?

I would only use a credit card for car rentals.

Since you have a debit card why would you carry around a lot of cash; get cash as you need it from an ATM.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 11:38 AM
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You can probably only use a credit card for renting a car.

You will almost certainly need a Pin for your debit card to be able to use it in shops and restaurants.

As others have said your credit card is less of a risk for fraud. Use the debit card to get some cash and use a credit card as much as you can.
I'm the scheme of things the fees are a very small part of the expense of the trip, and better to pay a small fee than find your account wiped out.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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Thanks everyone for your prompt responses and giving me peace of mind. Our debit cards can be used as a credit card and we will not have it connected to our main accounts...thanks for that advice. Sounds like it's smart to use the debit card at a bank ATM and withdraw a small amount of cash and as needed. We will be using our credit card for all other purchases. I was getting a little confused with the foreign transaction fees and currency exchange fees, but I think I got it now. I think I have also read that Greece banks does not charge ATM withdrawals, so any fees incurred would come from my bank which would be the currency exchange fee...is that true?

Thanks again!
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 01:38 PM
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Your bank may also have a per-use charge for ATMs. Big Banks in the US often charge $5 per use plus 3% currency exchange. If you bank has a per use charge, it makes sense to make fewer transactions for more money each time.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 01:56 PM
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Yes, true. Any transaction fees will come from your bank.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 03:22 PM
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Please double-check with your credit union on foreign transaction fees, which may not be what you are accustomed to at home (and check with someone qualified to know, not always everyone in a small financial institution.) As Kathie says, withdrawing a substantial amount from your checking account spreads out flat-rate fees, reducing the cost per euro spent. Cash is quick and easy, and no more likely to be stolen than your credit card. Cash certainly will not invite identity theft.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 04:08 PM
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If your bank has a ATM per use charge of $5 plus an exchange rate of 3%, it makes sense to change banks. They're out to rip you off.
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 09:33 PM
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IF you plan to use credit card for "all other transactions," perhaps this will be good -- IF you have one of those upper-level Credit cards that have special amenities ("Sapphire" "Diamond" whatever) ... these credit cards do not charge a percentage of whatever you spend in Europe.

However, if you just have a plain ordinary credit card like the rest of us proletariat, beware. Yes, at home in the US, if you pay off your balance in full every month, you can use your credit card for virtually everything with no fees. By contrast, in Europe, all the "biggie banks" (Chase, bank of American, Wells Fargo etc) will charge you 3% of whatever. Thus, if you stay at a hotel for some time, and your lodging total is $1,000 ... you pay Chase/etc an additional $30. YOu may wail Why??? Because They Can.

A credit card from a Credit Union does NOT have this charge. just the Big GReed Banks. Yes, the same banks that brought us the almost-Crash of 2008. THose banks.
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