Money Money

I’ve been getting used to the prices here in Taipei and also the exchange from US dollars to Taiwanese Dollars (which gets reduced to either TWD or NT). When I first got here I brought some money in foreign currency (USD) and then a hefty chunk in travelers cheques. Normally the cheques have the advantage of being used and accepted practically everywhere, but this is sort of a misnomer in my opinion. The traveler’s cheque works great for some of the more pricey digs you can visit, but most of the locals businesses here in Taipei don’t seem to take this as a legitimate form of currency. Your best bet is to go to a bank and get most of them exchanged for the local currency. I wouldn’t suggest you change the whole batch over because it is never safe to carry around large sums of money…people have a sixth sense for Americans roaming around aimlessly with cash. The advantage to a traveler’s cheque? If you happen to lose the cheque or it gets stolen, you have a receipt number that accompanies the cheques and acts as your account with whoever you got the cheques through. American Express tends to be the most popular from what I’ve heard. So, something happens and you can call in to American Express and declare the cheques stolen and get your money back. The problem with that system is that a whole market of “losing” checks has sprung around this system.

According to Lonely Planet, a very reliable traveler’s guide that serves a wide audience and has suggestions for almost every country and travel destination, travelers using debit/credit cards will have no problem in Taiwan. The fact is though that this statement should not just be accepted without checking with your personal bank. I myself cannot access my bank account with my check card. This came as a very serious and devastating realization, suddenly I was very much so disconnected to some of my major resources and funds while abroad. If you look at your card it will have some logos on it. For the states the normal ones are Visa and Plus. These two groups, Plus in particular, mean that the card has the capability to be used abroad. Plus for instance is a money network that functions globally. However, I have learned that sometimes a bank will issue a specific card that has the ability to be used abroad, or the card has to be activated to do that function. All of this is to say, don’t assume that your bank will provide you access to your funds while abroad. I didn’t bother to check out that information, because everything I read told me it would not be a problem. It never hurts to investigate for yourself. That type of behavior should be the default, check and re-check with your bank. Once you get it cleared, you can use your card just about anywhere, 7-11, higher end restaurants etc.

So how am I handling the issue? Well, I have been very thrifty since I came to Taiwan, for starters. Things here can be very cheap, depending on what you get. For instance, I went to a bakery and picked up a decent lunch meal for the equivalent of 2 USD. That’s not bad at all. But then again, I’m not the type of person that has an obsession to do touristy things. I just don’t find the guided view of a country to be enjoyable. The second thing I have done is check into using Western Union as a way of getting a hold of funds from abroad. I haven’t had to use it yet, but this seems like a highly acceptable alternative to direct access to my account. If that option works for you, then go for it, but having a card with access is always the better way to go. You simply have far more control than any other method available.

On the matter of exchanging money. Many banks charge a fee for the exchange. So it is normally recommended that you exchange large chunks rather than a series of smaller amounts. You’ll lose more money with the second method.

Alright, that’s it for my ranting! The bottom line is that you should always check and double check.

The Panda Has Mused.

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2 Responses to “Money Money”

  1. Reverend says:

    What are you writing—a travel guide? A hippie’s lonely planet? I thought hippies didn;t need money, do a street performance or two and you will be golden. More seriously, let me know if you run into trouble with money over there, I could always make a quick trip and fight in Blood Sport again as a kind of fund rasier, plus Van Damme has had it coming for a long time now.

  2. bakhtinjali says:

    I’ll be sure to let you know. I just want to know where the pictures from the first Blood Sport are? The Musings as a “hippie’s lonely planet”? It seemed to me that the book will never cover the full rung of information that you might need, and my own writings won’t do it either. Contributing to the conversation of suggestions and guidance is more what my aim is.