Using Visa and Mastercard abroad

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When preparing for a trip, many have the question of how to deal with money for daily expenses. Taking the full amount in cash can be unsafe. But can you take your bank card with you abroad? Will she work there? Do I need to create a separate account for the currency? How not to lose money on conversions? We will try to answer these questions and tell you about all the details of using cards abroad

What cards can I use abroad?

Bank cards by the type of payment system are divided into international and local. The latter can most often only be used within the same country in which they were released. These include, for example, the national payment system “Mir”. Cards belonging to international payment systems can be used abroad. The two most common international payment systems – Visa and Mastercard – are represented in all countries of the world. However, where national payment systems are a priority – Japan or China, for example, there will be few terminals for withdrawing cash using Visa and Mastercard, although you can almost always pay by non-cash. When choosing a payment instrument for use abroad, be sure to pay attention to which payment system it belongs to.

What are the differences between Visa and Mastercard?

The main differences when using ruble Visa and Mastercard in Russia are in the package of privileges and services available to holders. Depending on the bank and card level, you can get discounts, cashback, transfer or withdraw money without commissions. The maximum set of additional services is available to premium card holders.

If the card is in foreign currency and you use it abroad, the difference can be felt when traveling in Asia. Visa and Mastercard are American payment systems, the priority unit of account for the first is the dollar, and for the second, payments in euros and dollars are possible. In those countries where the dollar is the cross currency, it is the USA, Asia, it is more profitable to pay with Visa cards, in the European Union – Mastercard.

What does the payment system currency affect?

If you have a ruble card, you can use it for payments abroad. At the same time, for any payment, the bank converts the funds from your card into the national currency of the host country through the dollar or euro – it depends on the country and the bank’s agreements with the payment system.

Visa converts through the dollar, so if you are in a country where the calculated currency of conversion is euros, rubles from your card will first be converted into dollars, then into euros, and only then into the national currency of the host country. Triple conversion – triple losses: banks, as a rule, do not have commissions for operations, but there is a fixed conversion rate, which differs from the market one and increases the amount charged to the card. But if you pay for purchases in Europe using Mastercard, the money will be converted directly from rubles to euros, the commission will be less.

What to do in countries where payments are not made in dollars or euros?

If you are heading to a country where the dollar or euro is not the main currency, there may be a double conversion. If the card is in rubles, rubles will first be converted into one of the two main currencies, and only then into the national host country. But if the bank settles with the payment system in rubles, there will be no double conversion.

It is desirable to have currency cards, but it is impossible to guarantee settlements on them with minimal losses: the total amount debited depends on the bank’s commissions for operations, on the conversion rate and the settlement rate between banks. Moreover, if abroad you are offered to pay in national currency – agree, even if your card is in dollars or euros. When paying, there will be one conversion into the national currency and that is all, while for debiting funds in foreign currency there may be additional commissions of the receiving bank .

Can I withdraw cash from a foreign ATM?

Technically, this possibility is always there. However, you need to understand that for withdrawing cash from ATMs of third-party banks, a commission is almost always assumed. Usually it is a few percent of the withdrawal amount, but not less than a certain fixed value.

In addition, the commission can be withdrawn not only by your bank, but also by the bank that owns the ATM. Sometimes the ATM warns about the amount of such a commission immediately before withdrawing, and sometimes it simply includes it in the general account and automatically withdraws it from the card. As a result, using a foreign ATM, you pay double commission for cash withdrawals.

How can you avoid this?

  • Use only ATMs of banks known to you – with them you will have less chances of getting to the hidden commission.
  • Try to use ATMs less often during your trip – it is better to pay the commission once, withdrawing a large enough amount, than to overpay several times for small transactions.
  • If possible, pay online. For example, you can pay for a purchase on the website and receive it in a specific store or order delivery, use the QR code to pay for tickets to events.
  • Apply for a premium package of services – as a rule, you can withdraw cash in the currency of the card abroad with privileged cards without commission.

Why does the bank block the card abroad?

One of the main tasks of the bank is to protect the clients’ money entrusted to it. Therefore, if the bank has even the slightest suspicion that the card is not being used by its owner, but by  someone outside, it is easiest for him to block all operations. This is for the safety of the client.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you live in Yekaterinburg. You issued a bank card here, and you constantly use it in this territory too, sometimes leaving for Moscow or another city on a business trip. In such a situation, the bank knows for sure that if card transactions are performed in your usual region and even in the country, you are doing them. Therefore, there is no reason to block the card.

If the card is debited at the same time in the issuing region and abroad, the bank may block it, as it may consider that fraudsters have taken possession of the card or its data.

What to do to prevent the bank from blocking the card?

In order to be guaranteed not to run into a blockage, you must notify the bank about the trip. Although today banks are using different technologies, which allows you to protect the data of cardholders and not cause inconvenience while traveling. For example, paying with a card at the airport for coffee or a surcharge for a seat in the cabin is a kind of exit signal. In addition, for cards with a preferred package of services, the ability to settle worldwide is set by default.

But if you are worried – write to the operator in the chat in the mobile application or call the bank’s hotline and inform the date and region of the trip.

What if the card is stolen?

If you lose your card abroad, you need to do the same as in Russia. First, you need to block it – use a mobile application or call the bank. Some banks at premium rates in case of theft or loss of the card provide the opportunity to urgently receive a certain amount of cash abroad and order the delivery of a reissued card by DHL. If you have this option enabled, the bank manager will tell you how to get these funds by phone or in the application. If there is no such option, but you or your companions have another card with you, you can transfer money to it – this can be done in the mobile application, since access to the account is not closed, only the card is blocked.

Checklist : how to use the card abroad

  • Check the amount of your bank’s commission for converting rubles into foreign currency and for withdrawing cash from ATMs of other companies.
  • To protect yourself from fraudsters, use only those ATMs that are in bank offices, large hotels or large shopping centers. Try not to interact with devices that are on the street – they may be equipped with fraudulent equipment.
  • If you have a choice of payment in national currency, dollars or euros, choose the national one – this way you will avoid double conversion.
  • Write down the call center number of your financial institution so that you can quickly call there if the card is still blocked. In an emergency, the call center staff will explain what to do to save your money.
  • Connect a mobile bank to immediately track suspicious transactions on your card and, if necessary, inform the bank about it.
  • Take several different cards and some cash with you on your trip  to insure yourself in a critical situation.

Raiffeisenbank credit and debit cards belong to the international payment systems Visa and Mastercard, so they can be used abroad as well. Raiffeisenbank also offers premium cards with additional options for travelers – free insurance for the whole family, discounts on hotels, transfers and car rental.


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