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Monday, May 9, 2011


The past week and a half has flown by. It is amazing how much we had to do without even planning the trip.One of my focuses has been making sure our finances are in order at home and away.

Finances at Home
Checking and setting up every vendor for automated electronic bill payment and electronic invoicing should be easy enough, but there is always the straggler. I was happy to learn that the City of Biwabik now allows electronic bill payment
Finances on the Road
Credit and Cash will be the primary means of commerce and we expect to find ATM machines readily available in this part of the world so we haven't made plans to bring any substantial amount of cash. As many of you know banks have decided that they need to charge fees approaching 4% to change your currency despite the fact that it costs them next to nothing. I believe this started with the credit card companies and then migrated to ATM withdrawals because it worked so well. I wonder if this is where the bank trading desks came up with the idea of overcharging their pension fund customers for currency trades? At any rate, I have been a long-time customer of Capital One because of its no foreign transaction fee policy. I has happy to learn that Capital One has a new Venture Card that for a $59 fee (first year waived) not only has no foreign transaction fees, but it also credits 2 points per dollar spent and they matched the American Airlines miles on the Citibank card I cut up. When you use the points to book or reimburse you for travel, they are worth 1 cent each. This is effectively a 2% cash rebate in a world where 1% cash-back is the gold standard.
For the ATM, after learning on our recent trip to Mexico that the banks had joined the foreign transaction fee game, I investigated the various banks in the area and found that all of them thought this fee was a great way to improve their bottom line - from even their best customers. I learned that I could get a debit card from my brokerage account that would only charge a 1% fee. Since we are staying at some VRBO properties that have requested cash payment at check in, this fee improvement will add up.

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