How To Handle Banking While Travelling

Last modified on October 3rd, 2013

Photo by Ryan Hyde

I did a post a while ago detailing my plans to finally give up my no-fee bank account at PC Financial and move to a full service bank in preparation for my trip. How come, you ask?

First, the idea of having a no-frills bank while in another country just seems far too risky. If I hit a snag, I definitely want to be able to pick up the phone and call someone for help. While PC Financial does offer phone service, in my experience very basic things like obtaining certified cheques or doing wire transfers are often a pain. While PC Financial is a subsidiary of CIBC, it’s still a small arm of it, so who knows how many foreign bank machines will accept a PC Financial card.

Second, since I do all my business banking at TD Financial, it just seemed to make sense to go there. The only plan they offer that appealed to me is their Select Service plan that offers unlimited transactions as well as no-fee international transactions as well. I imagine there will be a local fee for withdrawing money, but at least I won’t be dinged a second time back home.

The only catch is that I have to leave $5,000 in my bank account at all times. I normally don’t leave that much cash lying around, but figure I probably should have a decent sized safety buffer available in case I get into a bind. My goal is to have at least $10,000 in my account before flying out for any emergencies, and also as a discretionary travel fund in case something cool comes up.

Truth be told, last month was a bit dicey since I had to leave a pile of cash in my old account to handle previously written cheques as well as a pile of money in my new account. Thankfully all my cheques in my old account have now cleared, which means I can move everything from my old account over to my new one.

So, my banking has officially all been moved over to TD and I’m ready, at least in terms of finances, for the big adventure. If you’re looking at doing your banking while travelling, I highly recommend using a full service bank account, even if they have a monthly fee – if you get into trouble, it’s always nice to be able to pick up the phone and get help from a real person.

3 responses to “How To Handle Banking While Travelling”

  1. Jen says:

    Good call. The answer for how many foreign machines will take the PC card? Zero. I used to be a PC financial customer. Their debit cards are only on the Interac network, so only work in Canada (not even the USA).

  2. I would just suggest you make sure you have a back up account with a secondary bank. I use Vancity and Royal. And while I normally use my Vancity while traveling every once in a while I can’t find an ATM that accepts one of the two (I could only use my RBC ATM card in Rio). Of course, most places accept Visa and Mastercard so usually it won’t be an issue. Also, I recall a few years back Royal went completely down for like a week… if that happened to TD and you had no backup it could cause some serious issues when traveling.

  3. Duane Storey says:

    I still have PC Financial, it’s just not my main account. So I guess it’ll be my secondary if I get into a bind. Worse case I can always do a cash advance on my VISA as well (I have a TD, Royal Bank and Capital One MC), so I’m not too worried.

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