Travel Perks That Banks Should – But Don’t – Provide


Travel blogger Jim Bruene has a great list of services that banks should be offering overseas travelers, but haven’t ... yet. His list includes the ability to purchase foreign currency online and the ability to establish withdrawal limits while traveling. Hopefully it will be some food for thought for fee-hungry bankers back here in the U.S.

Bruene’s point is a compelling one. He argues that banks could provide a valuable service while creating a tidy profit center culled from the bank accounts of wanderlust travelers.

Here’s a good list of online services that banks could offer overseas travelers:

A Web-based form to input travel itinerary
– A pre-planning blueprint that stores all the key travel info in one place– preferably transferable to a Blackberry or an iPhone.

Update the itinerary when changes occur
– Hey, things happen overseas, especially in Amsterdam or Bangkok. If banks could create a Web application that leaves room for sudden shifts in destination, Bruene says that travelers would pay for it.

Ordering foreign currency – Travelers who hit multiple international hotspots often have the need to get their hands on the local currency – and fast. Banks could expedite that process by arranging for foreign currency services at the click of a mouse on the bank’s Web site.

Switching e-mail alerts to text-message alerts while traveling – Many people who travel overseas aren’t making the trip for fun and games. For business travelers, a text-message alert can keep them apprised of critical information while in foreign bourses.

Buying trip insurance – Banks could provide travelers a key service by helping them buy trip insurance online – thus saving customers an extra step in an already hectic process.

Ordering prepaid travel cards – A no-brainer. Consumers love prepaid travel cards because they’re handy and most are accepted worldwide. Banks should offer prepaid cards to customers online for a nominal fee.

View exchange rates and have them automatically forwarded to customers while abroad – Confusion can reign on a trip abroad without the right information. And currency exchange rates are at the top of the list. Banks could help customers by providing a dynamic, freshly-updated list of countries’ exchange rates.

What to do if a bank card is lost or stolen – Losing your debit card, or having it stolen is an overseas travel nightmare. Banks should list step-by-step instructions on what to do – preferably on their Web sites – when a bank card is compromised.

ATM/bank maps at destinations – Think Googlemaps for foreign bank ATMs. Directions and addresses could be listed on the bank’s Web site.

Bruene also advocates having banks hold off on canceling debit or credit cards (which they routinely do if the card has been linked to a fraud situation, or otherwise compromised). A notice to the bank that you’ll be traveling on certain dates should do the trick. If you do lose a card, then a call to your bank is mandatory.

What should banks charge for overseas travel financial services? Bruene says a one-time fee of up $20, or a monthly “frequent traveler” service fee of $4.95 would work too.

Will banks bite? Not if the demand isn’t there. In a brutal economy where people are traveling less and businesses are increasingly turning to video conferencing and conference calls instead of face-to-face meetings, banks may not heed the call for overseas travel services.

But if and when they do, the blueprint for such services are already there.

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