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Peru and Ecuador credit card questions
Old 04-02-2016, 07:45 AM   #1
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Peru and Ecuador credit card questions

I have a high fee true chip and pin card, will I need it in Peru and Ecuador?

I have previewed a bunch of veggie restaurants on the web and lots of them take Discover 5% this quarter. Is it worth taking along, no foreign transaction fees?

My main card will be CapOne chip and sign, and another card. Any thoughts about your experiences.

For me experiences are not good or bad, just different
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Old 04-02-2016, 08:40 AM   #2
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General suggestions derived from much travel in the developing world as well as living for 3+ years in Mexico:

1. Have a credit card with a high limit with you but use only in case of emergency (e.g. hospitalization, where it could be a life saver) or for things like the odd expensive big city hotel splurge or in-country airfares. Cash is king in the developing world - exactly the inverse of the U.S.

2. Have two no foreign transaction fee debit cards - and ideally one of them should be from Schwab Bank, which reimburses ATM fees worldwide. And again, make sure to let your banks know you are traveling overseas. Plan on paying cash for everything, make sure you know your daily cash withdrawal limit (and make sure it's not more than $500-1000 depending on your comfort level, thereby limiting your financial exposure in the event of robbery at an ATM). Debit and credit card skimming is epidemic throughout the third world, so make sure to check any machine you use carefully for signs of tampering, cover your hand when enterinng your PIN, and try to only use ATMs at actual banks during banking hours so you have some recourse in the event of your card being eaten or no money or an incorrect amount being dispensed. Check the Wikitravel info on each country for most frequently counterfeited bill sizes and be vigilant.

I suggest keeping a day's worth of local currency and a photocopy of the first two pages of your passport in a "disposable" wallet in a front pants pocket. Debit and credit cards and the actual passport as well as the bulk of your cash should be in a money belt when traveling and a well-hidden PacSafe or in-room safe (when available - not often) during times you've got a temporary home base from which to explore.

Hope this helps!

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Old 04-02-2016, 08:40 AM   #3
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Doesn't Ecuador use US dollars? So don't have to worry about foreign transactions fees there?

Otherwise I don't know answers to your questions.
Well, I thought I was retired. But it seems that now I'm working as a travel agent instead!
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Old 04-02-2016, 08:46 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by audreyh1 View Post
Doesn't Ecuador use US dollars? So don't have to worry about foreign transactions fees there?

Otherwise I don't know answers to your questions.
Its been about 5 years, but as I recall there were ATM transaction fees, but not currency conversion fees. I also took a wad of US money in clean undamaged bills.
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Old 04-02-2016, 08:54 AM   #5
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Yes, USD in Ecuador but soles in Peru and I should have been more specific that that's where one has to be especially vigilant about counterfeit bills. For Ecuador having a supply of US fives through twenties is very useful, making sure the bills are in great shape.

I should also have added that I'm assuming the OP wants to experience the culture and get maxiumum value for money. On a shorter or more luxurious trip limited to big cities using a credit card for international-standard hotels and restaurants would make much more sense.
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Old 04-02-2016, 02:27 PM   #6
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I spent a month in Ecuador last September, also lived there for several years in the past, so do have some current information about money there (haven't been to Peru in quite a few years, however, so don't know the situation there now). Anyway, for Ecuador:

* As someone noted, Ecuador is 'dollarized' now, so no foreign transaction fees.
* Most ATMs do charge a fee for withdrawing funds, which as I recall was typically $6, regardless of the amount withdrawn (so if you are going to use a high fee card, take out larger rather than smaller amounts). Every once in a while I'd hit an ATM that didn't charge anything, but don't remember if it was always the same bank -- it definitely was the exception not the rule. To avoid fees altogether, I used my Schwab Bank debit card at ATMs, since they reimburse all ATM fees without question (also foreign transaction fees, if needed).
* Many businesses in mid-large sized Ecuadorian towns take credit cards, even for smaller more dive-y hotels. A chip card was never required, and I don't even remember seeing chip machines in most places, but that might be changing.
* Among credit cards, I'm not sure how common it is for Discover to be accepted. Like their deal in China, Discover has a relationship with Diners, which traditionally was one of the most common credit cards in Ecuador - but honestly I don't recall seeing/hearing that Discover is used very much (maybe I just wasn't tuned in to it....). I personally used both CapOne (Visa) and a Barclaycard (MC) no foreign transaction fee cards (the latter giving double points for all travel-related expenses (e.g., hotels)). Never had a problem with either being accepted. On the off chance that you get extra points on Discover this quarter, why not take it, though -- what have you got to lose?
* Despite diligently notifying Schwab about my travel plans, at least once in every country (developing ones, at least) I end up at problems at some ATM, and have to call the 800 number to verify that it's me. This is very annoying, but I was told by Schwab that it's because there are actually two layers where a withdrawal can be rejected -- one is the Bank who issues the card (in this case Schwab), but the other is the underlying credit card company, i.e., Visa, MC, Amex, etc. Apparently there is an additional action that needs to be taken to make sure the credit company backs off as well (you can't do it directly -- the bank has to do it).
* I didn't have any problems with card skimming or fraud using credit or debit cards in Ecuador, thankfully. No counterfeit bills either.
* I drew from ATMs but also brought a lot of cash with me from the US (most of that was intended to be used primarily in other countries but I still had a bunch left by the time I got to Ecuador). All were clean bills, in multiple denominations. There is a chronic problem of no small change/bills in Ecuador (and a lot of developing countries!), so actually ones and fives are always pretty useful. I had everything from ones to $100s with me.
* Ditto on the advice above about money belts, hiding stashes in various places, and using PacSafe. Ecuador does have a bad problem with robberies, luggage theft, etc., so be vigilant (nothing happened while I was there, traveling all over the country, using public buses, etc., but you never know.).

Hope this helps.

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