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Access to currency when traveling abroad
4

Access to currency when traveling abroad

Access to currency when traveling abroad

(OP)
I was recently traveling in China.
I didn't give much thought to currency before leaving; not enough it turned out. I planned to stop at a currency exchange desk once landing at the airport, get some Reminbi's, and pick up a SIM card for my phone. I also had loaded Wechat app on my phone, and located a couple of banks in the vicinity of my lodgings (Changsha city).
The plan started to break down when the price for the SIM card turned out to be rather inflated at the airport, however I needed the phone to work to get in touch with my ride from the airport. So that used up most of the RMB cash supply I had just changed. I didn't take this too seriously, expecting to top up at a bank or an ATM, once I got settled.

No luck. Among the things attempted, which failed:
  • Accessing my bank at either the China Bank of Communications or Bank of China branches,
  • Accessing my bank at any ATM,
  • Accessing my credit card using an ATM,
  • Phoning my credit card company (in the middle of the night),
  • Transferring money from my credit card into Wechat (but I could enter the card data),
  • Using credit cards at point-of-sale
The only solution that finally worked was to have a friend transfer money to me, and that money already had to be RMB.
I could guess that anti-laundering laws would prevent currency conversion in the Wechat phone app, so I didn't even bother asking my friends with north american currency to transfer money to me, because it would also be a dead end.

So now that I'm back and I've paid back all my friends, clearly I need to think that through much better next time. Any recommendations?
This kind of travel may become more frequent for me and my co-workers, so I'm thinking of asking the company to open a bank account in China for us to use. Settling the balance when several of us are using the account at once will not be easy, but I've already noticed that they are all pretty diligent with receipts. Anyone expect any problems with that idea?

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

One service I use is a company called TransferWise. They exchange over 50 currencies. The way they work is a bit like the old western union wire service. Somebody wires money to you via Western union. You go to their office with the telegram authorizing payment, the clerk pulls the money out of the drawer and gives it to you. They work in a similar way, however you do need a bank account where you are going to receive the money. So you set up a program with them. you set up a bank ,say for example, in China, your sender sends the money to you in US dollars, TransferWise takes your dollars and pays somebody who is Chinese who wants US dollars in the USA with your money. They then pull Chinese currency out of that persons local account and give it to you. The respective currencies never leave their own country. You also get a much better exchange rate.
In Europe when Chip and PIN first came in a lot of stores would not accept credit cards without them. I had a local bank account in the UK with a chip and PIN card which was accepted all over Europe where American credit cards were not.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

My standard rule of thumb when traveling is to be prepared ahead of time. I usually take the equivalent of a few hundred dollars cash split between local and American currency, enough to comfortably last a few days at least. For phone service I often will have a local contact mail me a burner phone ahead of time, but in either case my phone generally isn't used for communication overseas as a security precaution.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

On my first trip to Brazil I was in the same pickle. My company card was useless, as they forbid cash advances. And, my CU debit card would not produce any Reals in the ATM either. Back home I learned Brazil is blacklisted by my CU. Before the next trip I called my CU and had the blacklist removed for me from date of entry to date of departure, inclusive. Problem solved.

Good luck,
Latexman

To a ChE, the glass is always full - 1/2 air and 1/2 water.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Well, the internet says that you should not have found it so difficult to use your ATM card in China.

I've never been to mainland China, but colleagues have. They bitch about the food, about the pollution, about the internet restrictions... But I've never heard them bitch about not being able to get cash.

I'd recommend going to your bank and ask them to review the records of your attempted transactions to see if they can determine why they failed. Assuming that a transaction was actually attempted by the ATM, and it didn't simply reject your card on its own initiative.

If that doesn't pan out, then ask your bank exactly what you need to do to have ATM access in China. Same with your credit card.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

I traveled from Shanghai to Shenzhen this year. No issues with credit card or ATM. I did tell the banks before I left I would be in China.

My phone also was set to work there before I left. Little trouble with Verizon for voice or data. I used Wechat or Skype on hotel Wifi to call home. I also used Wechat for talking with coworkers from China while there. Google does not work well.

Wechat pay only works with credit cards from China.

If you stay at an "international" hotel they should be able to help with exchanging or getting cash. I could even choose to pay the bill in RMB or USD with the credit card.

Getting a little foreign currency from your bank or at the airport before you leave is safer.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

I find that ATM's and even credit cards can be hit or miss, depending on where you are. Cash is king, in my opinion, and like CWB1, I try to carry a couple hundred dollars worth of US and the local stuff. While in mainland China, I have never used anything except a bank to exchange USD for RMB, the rate is the current exact exchange rate and is always the same at every bank, by law. I always keep a stash of Euro, RMB, and Taiwan Dollars for the next trip, and make sure that I replenish it right before coming back home. Many of the larger Wells Fargo main branches in the US keep foreign currencies on hand and have somewhat OK exchange rates. Most any bank has the ability to order any currency, but rates can be atrocious depending on which service they're dealing with.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

(OP)
Everyone is right, of course, that my neglect in exchanging some dollars for RMB before leaving was my biggest mistake.
I'm not sure how I overlooked it; done it before going to Europe and the USA, which are hardly as foreign as China, so why did I forget this time?
There was a Hampton Inn within walking distance of my quarters. Maybe somebody there could have helped me out of my pickle sooner.
In my searching about, I did discover "swapsy" (called USYNO, now) but it only works between USD and CNY. My home currency is CAD, not USD, incurring yet another conversion if I tried to use that. TransferWise looks much more versatile.

"Bing" was my search engine of choice while in China. Bing Translate on a desktop web browser is actually easier to use than Google Translate.

Also, Eng-Tips was sometimes blocked, and frequently throttled to the point of uselessness, while in China.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

I would have a chat with your banks to make sure they've opened up the access to foreign currency withdrawals before travelling (I guess you have, but just a general comment).

Honestly for China, the easiest is just to withdraw a stack of RMB before you get there, and make sure work will reimburse you your home country amount that you withdrew.

I live in Shanghai at the moment, and just went through this issue with family visiting - we told them that withdrawing from these travel money cards pre-loaded with currency does not work great all the time, and they're not accepted everywhere, so it can be an issue. As much as everything is digital through Wechat now (I don't carry a wallet with me day to day anymore), it only really works with local cards, very hard to set up properly with foreign cards.

I know lots of travellers that don't have an issue withdrawing cash from banks here, as long as the bank knows you're doing this beforehand. But, it can be an issue in smaller cities, that's for sure.

The better banks to use in China to withdraw from foreign cards would be ICBC, Bank of China, China Merchant's Bank - I haven't had an issue with those when I'd needed to do that.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Hi SparWeb,

I see many ICBC banks here in Canada, BC. Richmond, BC is mostly population of Chinese origin. Probably there have some banks in other provinces as well (not sure). Maybe you could walk by one of their desk and ask what they would recommend as most effective option?

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

(OP)
There's one ICBC in Calgary... does not inspire confidence.
But now that you mention it, I have done business with the HSBC in the past. In this context, they probably would have had more options for me.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

IRstuff
I was once told by accounting to get one receipt for a relay bad exchange rate and use that for the entire expense report. Could get you a small benefit on a big trip.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

I do not know if HSBC still does it, since I do not do business with them any more, But they used to have a " Non standard currency handling fee.", which they would hit you with, after, they had done the currency exchange. It would generally be 4% of the transaction.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

In the US federally chartered banks will sell you foreign currency, but usually the branches have to order it from the 'mother office' and it takes a few days. I run downtown Milwaukee when I am preparing for a trip.
ProEpro, I use that trick. I have a large amount of RMB that I got a better rate, then exchange just $50 at the airport to establish the rate for my expense report.
And when you take cash the $50's and $100's must be of the latest versions. And don't take a pack of $100's, there are some series that are difficult to exchange because they have been counterfeited so much, take a mixed batch. I have stood at a counter sorting $100's looking for ones that they would take.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy, Plymouth Tube

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

When I was in China (granted it was 5, 17, and 20 years ago) we did all the currency exchanges at the hotel front desk. On the last trip, I saw lots of ATMs, and oddly enough HSBC was my bank at the time, but I never tried to use one.

One thing to note about international travel and ATMs: some areas have restrictions on PIN numbers; when my daughters went to Europe, they were told by the bank to make sure their PINs were only 4 digits.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

(OP)
While I don't think the PIN was a problem (4 digits, here) I'm starting to wonder if it simply wasn't worth their time.
I can see why every Bank of China branch needs to do business with USD, but how often does any branch have to connect to a bank from Canada?
Canucks like me are pretty rare, especially in China's medium-sized cities.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

As an American living in Australia, it hadn't occurred to me that other countries have difficulty with foreign exchange. The foreign exchange kiosk in my neighbourhood shopping centre can give me a reasonable amount of cash in most world currencies, including all the major ones, at a better rate than the banks. But then, it is a whole different world. The shopping centre, a 10 minute walk from my home, has branches of about 8 banks, and 3 large travel agencies which all have money exchanges. Aussies travel a lot, perhaps because they are so far removed from the rest of the world.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Sparweb

However, there are lots of Chinese in Canada (at least Vancouver)...

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

(OP)
Yes, the flow has been 99% one-way for about 200 years.

This reminds me of an interesting conversation I had with one of my Chinese friends:
Since Canada has had immigration from China for such a long time, there are many Canadians who claim Chinese heritage, but they are born 3rd- or 4th-generation from the original families who immigrated long ago. (The next part needed to be explained in excruciating detail...) These 3rd/4th gen's do not speak Chinese, and they do not feel any need to learn it (Mandarin/Cantonese/etc.) My friend was dumbfounded by this.
If you think about it, it's for similar reasons that I do not speak Gaelic/Celtic.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

At the 3rd/4th generations, learning Chinese is as hard as it would be for a non-Asian. Without any reinforcement at home it's doubly hard. Everything I learned in summer Chinese school evaporated within about a year after it ended.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Just out of curiosity, not that I will have to deal with this any time soon,

Do other countries have civil forfeiture laws like the US? If you are stopped for even a minor infraction, the police can take your cash, especially if it is a large sum, and assume that you have a large sum of money on you for nefarious reasons.

Link

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Cass, not sure about other countries, but in the US there doesn't even need to be an infraction. All they (authorities) have to do is to suspect that the cash is for/from nefarious purposes, and they can seize it. No due process at all, and not limited to only cash.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

"All they (authorities) have to do is to suspect "

That might actually be generous. A single officer, SAYING that he suspects, is all that's needed. Many examples exist of poor schmucks carrying cash for relatively innocent purposes having spent months/years trying to recover their property.



TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

You are correct IRstuff. A plurality is not needed.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Another time I agree with you; it seems pretty obvious that this has to be unconstitutional, but there have been no test cases that have passed muster to get to SCOTUS.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

(OP)
"unconstitutional"
In your example, are you talking about an individual peace officer, apprehending and seizing the property of a foreign national, or any citizen of the US?
Sounds like a shakedown to me.

AFAIK, only the courts can do this in Canada - and not all provinces allow the courts to do this.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

In Britain the guidelines are : Statement

This policy sets out the Merseyside Police Force procedure for the seizure of cash under Section 294 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). A police officer has the power to search for, seize and seek further detention and forfeiture of cash that is, or represents, property obtained through unlawful conduct or is intended to be used in unlawful conduct. The amount must not be less than the minimum amount specified in an order made by the Secretary of State (currently £1,000). The search provisions should normally only be exercised with prior approval and are covered by the Codes of Practice that have been distributed to all police stations in Merseyside.
So it would appear that in the UK the answer is yes.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

I think most western countries, and probably a lot of others, have legislation dealing with seizing of proceeds of crime. This typically requires a warrant, or if the proceeds are found in perhaps a vehicle being lawfully searched for some reason, then a court would have to follow up with a seizure order.

This thread has strayed a long way from SparWeb's problem. Another related issue is the amount of cash allowed to be transported through Customs. This varies from country to country, and usually you are allowed to bring in more than you can take out.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

It's ANY person, in the US, citizen or not. Someone seizes your property and simply fills out a form saying they suspected criminal activity. No burden or proof, no appeals, no nothing.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Surely that is hyperbole, IRstuff. Do you have any case studies to back that up? Not just something from Huffington Post, please.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

(OP)
Point well taken hokie66, thank you, it is off topic, though it is also interesting.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

No hokie66, IRstuff is absolutely correct. It's a very insidious tool of the remnants of the war on drugs. It doesn't happen with alarming frequency, but there are many cases well known of it happening. An absolute nightmare for the innocent party to get their cash or belongings back.

Really not so off-topic. Traveling with cash always carries a risk, as does traveling without it.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

My brother (who is much more political than I am) and my accountant warned me about carrying large sums of cash. And it's really not off topic. I have been thinking about this kind of thing because there is the very real possibility that I will be traveling abroad for work looking at structures damaged in earthquake, Hurricanes or Typhoons and sometimes fires.

here is another actual story about civil forfeiture in the US
Link

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

I don't have much sympathy with people who carry a large amount of cash around with them, or conceal it in their home. That's what banks are for. Why ask for trouble? All sorts of criminals, but outlaw motorcycle gangs and other drug dealers in particular, need this sort of attention from the police.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Most used vehicle purchases between individuals involve significant amounts of cash. Could be $5,000, could be $40,000 or more. I've done this myself. Typically involves Craig's list, well lit parking lots, 3rd parties packing heat and a lot of posturing. Just like a drug deal except for the lighting and lack of contraband. Any passerby could mistake the whole thing and confiscate the cash and the vehicle.

----------------------------------------

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RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

"Any passerby"? I suppose you mean any armed robber.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

"people who carry a large amount of cash around with them, or conceal it in their home. That's what banks are for. Why ask for trouble? All sorts of criminals, but outlaw motorcycle gangs and other drug dealers in particular, need this sort of attention from the police.

It's irrelevant why they do it; there's still no excuse for the police to confiscate your property without due process, particularly if there isn't an iota of proof of malfeasance. There are even restaurants that won't accept anything but cash. Likewise, there are sellers that don't want the carrying costs of credit cards or cashing checks, for whatever reason, likely to skirt taxes, but that's their problem, not the buyer's.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

We'll just have to agree to disagree, IRstuff. I would prefer for the police to have appropriate powers to maintain the status quo at least until their suspicions are confirmed or not. But I am not talking about walking around cash, but rather large amounts. By and large, I respect and trust police, but perhaps you have reasons not to do so.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

"Surely that is hyperbole, IRstuff. Do you have any case studies to back that up? Not just something from Huffington Post, please. "

There was a case in New Brunswick Canada of a guy having his cash seized because the RCMP decided he must have been committing a crime, no charges were ever laid, and the courts ruled the Province could keep the money.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/attor...

So, no, it's not hyperbole.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Back to the China money topic: when I was in China the first time, which was for an adoption, we had to bring cash, US funds, in $20 and $50 bills. It was several thousand dollars. We had ours in a money belt; in fact, we had two money belts, each with enough cash, in case one got lost or stolen. One morning at breakfast, I suddenly realized I had left my money belt on the bed when we went down to eat; I panicked, and ran up to the room; housekeeping had already been in there. There was my money belt, carefully placed on the pillow of the freshly made bed, with nothing missing at all.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

The case TenPenny linked, in my opinion, is a good example of why we should have this type of law. It was decided in court that the appropriate penalty was forfeiture of the money. That's a good deterrent. And I still think IRstuff's statement was hyperbole.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

(OP)
I was all prepared to write in defense of the "presumption of innocence", but I read the article first. Now I'm more on the side of the judge's ruling not to return the cash. It would help if the Mounties had tracked down the supposed friend selling the house, and the casino where some of the cash came from, to attempt to establish any truth to Gorman's story. However that evidence isn't there (or wasn't admitted - not likely to be credible evidence) or maybe the journalist just didn't bother to include this part of the testimony.

Anyway...
I never would want to carry more than about 1000 USD (or equivalent in any other currency) at any time, whether traveling or not. The age of cash is nearly over, and it's gone so far that paying cash can undermine you credibility, not bolster it. If I'm buying a car, I will bring a bank draft so that the seller can trust the money. If the seller can't cope with a bank, it's not a seller I want to do business with. I probably bring this attitude with me if I travel, whether it suits the environment or not, but I think it does, as long as I adapt to the technology in use. There are ATM's everywhere in China, but most look pretty sketchy. I noticed a non-verbal "code" most people use when they pay for things using the WeChat barcode on their mobile phones, and endeavored to use it correctly myself. Doing business has non-verbal and unsaid components in any transaction, in any culture. Bending the rules can easily make the other party uneasy. Opening a fat wad of bills is DEFINITELY NOT an image I want to project at any time.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Not sure where you think there was hyperbole: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/0...

No conviction is required, because the burden of proof is pretty much on hearsay, aside from the dubious use of drug and explosive sniffing dogs, since it's well known that almost all US currency has trace amounts of both. Note that this is the only case where you have to PROVE YOUR INNOCENCE, rather than the government proving the opposite, which flies in the face of two centuries of presumption of innocence.

Given that all police departments at any level are strapped for cash, there's a huge conflict of interest in having the same people decide whether to seize assets. Note that it's not limited to money; if you have a shiny new car, etc., you could still potentially get it seized.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

"Someone seizes your property and simply fills out a form..." Sounds like alarmism, exaggeration, hyperbole, whatever you want to call it. Is "someone" a law enforcement officer, a civilian, or who?

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

Does that even matter, even if it is a LEO? Our constitution was written to provide specific guarantees against arbitrary search and seizure. Moreover, we have literally dozens of different LEO organizations in the government, anything from the Forest Service, to the IRS, to the city beat cops, all with armed officers.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

"The case TenPenny linked, in my opinion, is a good example of why we should have this type of law. It was decided in court that the appropriate penalty was forfeiture of the money. That's a good deterrent. And I still think IRstuff's statement was hyperbole. "

The appropriate penalty for what, exactly? There were no charges.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

3
Blatant violation of 4th amendment. I don't know that there is even room for argument of this. Civil forfeiture laws as they are currently configured offer little to no due process, and presumes guilt instead of innocence. It's just flat out wrong. The scary part is that legislation that allowed this was even passed in the first place, and then allowed to stand and remain in force for as long as it has. It does not bode well for other rights, liberties, and freedoms, whether or not you agree with them or not.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

As with most laws, it started out with good intentions. It was promoted as an anti drug law. "Take the pushers fancy cars and money, that'll show them! And we'll give the money to the police to find more of these creeps!" But of course, it couldn't be written as strictly an anti drug law, so it bled into other violations.
It's really hard to believe that the cases that are used as examples of abuse are as cut and dried as he "defendant" says, but if they are, the police should be shamed into giving back the money. Isn't there a basic sense of fairness with these people?

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

I think Jed has hit on the key issue. The reported cases have been "reported".

RE: Access to currency when traveling abroad

This is being fought in the Supreme Court right now. It is a big deal even if you think it's a non-issue.

The Supreme Court could limit the travesty of civil asset forfeiture

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