Banking on travel education
Fulton International Group offers helpful trip information on its website BY ERIC G. STARK, Travel Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Just as the travel season is heating up, this might be a good time to check out the revamped website by Fulton Bank's International Group.
Go to Fultonbank.com/international. On left side of the page, click on "travel resources."
The site has travel tips and interesting international insights. There is information for business travel, as well as personal trips. There is more than just financial tips about travel, but also practical information (the best adapters for hair dryers).
There are tips such as exchange money before your trip and be cautious with ATMs.
Categories like "country profiles" and "travel checklist'' continue to receive updates. More than 40 countries are profiled. There is a section for student travel, because several parents called Fulton International worried about their children traveling oversees.
When you cross the U.S. border you are not protected by the same jurisdiction, and you open yourself up to more risk than a lot of people realize, said Natalie Rose, international retail services manager for Fulton.
She said it is important to travel smart and make sure you understand the financial structure of the country that you are going into.
"Maybe you get your money before you leave, so you are not getting out your money overseas," she said, noting that international fraud has really increased.
"That was one of the biggest drivers for us to begin educating the consumers,'' Rose said. "We didn't want our customers to fall victim to scams, to fraud, to credit card numbers stolen when they travel.
She said her group took questions from emails or telephone calls and compiled a "most important list" of what travelers need to know. Many of the tips also apply to domestic travel.
"It is really understanding how to protect yourself financially," said Rose, whose department generates about $10 million in income a year.
Rose said she deals with two types of travelers -- those who are traveling overseas for the first time and those who are experienced but want to learn more about security, which is more critical than ever.
When customers order cash, a tip packet, which has a map with time differences (hours ahead or behind Lancaster's time zone) is included. Also included is a metric conversion chart.
Rose mentioned two keys for traveling internationally. From a practical standpoint, make sure to blend in as much as possible so you are not a target. Financially, understand that buying and selling currencies are at different rates.
When you buy your euros initially, it is going to be one rate. When you turn them in after your trip, it is going to be a lower rate. So you have to be careful to purchase only what you think you will use or else you are going to take a loss on the cash.
"This is how the international market works," Rose said. "That is not specific to Fulton, that's just the standard way of operating internationally. I don't know if a lot of customers get that. They see one rate on Wall Street Journal and think everything changes at that rate.
"Every bank sets its own rate. Every product has a different rate that is reviewed. So cash rates do not apply to online Wall Street Journal rates."
So, just get what you think you need converted so you don't lose money, correct?
"We hear that a lot," Rose said. "And the first question is, are you going on any sort of tours where many of your expenses are paid up front, where some of your meals are paid up front? If so, you don't need money for these trips or meals.
"I think the best way, after that, is set a budget in U.S. dollars of what you are willing to spend and then convert it back to the foreign currency. For example, if you are only going to spend $3,000 on meals and hotels, then you can convert backwards to euro, yen or wherever you are going."