March 11, 2013

Passport, Visa, Debit Card

I am half way there with my packing. As in the first half are the essential time sensitive items I had to have to even start my short travel. And I got that done pretty early! A week prior! Yes! The second half will be done before I leave the airport, I swear.  

Passport Good to go! I have a few more years until it's expired.

Visa That pink slip is a loose leaf visa. In other words, I didn't want to mail in my passport and risk losing it, so I opted for this visa, which sadly will be taken away when I leave Vietnam. Since I didn't live near the embassy, I went through a travel agent. Since mine is a three month multiple visa, it was $160. I saved $10 because I was born in Vietnam. Who decided this?

My other option was to get a visa on arrival. You apply online at any reputable visa website, pay the fees, get a pre approval letter, and when you land at either Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, you will get a stamp. However, the process can take 15 minutes to hours. I couldn't risk that either because I had a connecting flight. The visa on arrival is about $30 dollars cheaper.

Debit Card I can't imagine carrying around thousands of dollars especially in humid weather. After researching, it was unanimous from expats and travelers loved the Charles Schwab platinum debit card.  There are no fees! This means I can use any ATM machine, and if it charges me, Charles Schwab will reimburse the fees within 24 hours. It works domestically and internationally. It's $5 or more every time you withdraw money, and that will obviously add up. I can get five bowls of pho instead!

Signing up for it wasn't as easy as other banks, which is good because it deters people from actually completing the process. Like most banks, you can apply online. During the application, they will also have you open a brokerage account. Do not be alarmed, there is no minimum requirement and you can just leave this empty. However, you won't receive your card until you deposit money into your checking account.

Because it's your first time, you can't simply transfer money from your other bank account. You have to mail in a form! I don't think many people even know how that is done. Luckily for me, I had a Charles Schwab bank near by so I went in there and had them do it for me. A few days later, you'll receive a lot of mail, like 5, from Charles Schwab and none of it will be your card! Just pamphlets and important information about your new account. Finally, in less than a week, you will receive a white envelope with no mentioning of Charles Schwab anywhere but you can already feel the card! I was overjoyed when it arrived, just in time for my trip.

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