As I’ve mentioned in the past, I find that Charles Schwab offers the best checking account for frequent travelers, due to their wide acceptance at ATMs all over the world, no foreign transaction or withdrawal fees, and excellent customer service. But there are times when even they cannot get the job done.
Yesterday in Jordan I needed to fill up my car with gas, and I was out of local currency and most gas stations there don’t accept credit cards. I tried to make a withdrawal with my Schwab card at an ATM and received an error message. I called the international collect number on the back of my card, and they told me that they had not received any request to withdraw funds. I then tried to make a withdrawal with my Capital One backup card, and had the same issue; apparently this particular ATM doesn’t like US debit cards.
Thankfully, I then inserted one of my credit cards, entered the pin I had set up for it, and processed a cash advance for just enough money to get me by. Now, I of course don’t normally recommend cash advances, as the fees on them can often be in the 20-25% range (and no, you don’t earn points on them and they don’t count toward your minimum spending requirement to earn a bonus). But in a pinch, especially when traveling in countries with less developed banking systems, it can be critical.
How to set this up varies by issuer, but you’ll generally either be prompted to set one up when activating a card, or be mailed one separately when you set up a card.
Note that this is different from chip + PIN technology, which is an obviously beneficial anti-fraud technology widely used throughout Europe that requires the user to enter a pin when making a credit card purchase. Alas, the US lags behind in this, having only implemented regular chip technology last year. If you are interested in having this though (as it can be useful at gas stations and ticket machines in Europe which only allow chip + PIN purchases), many credit cards from Barclaycard have this.