I agree in general with many of the readers’ “Money Matters” comments in the December ’05 and January ’06 (pg. 92) issues.

I’ve found that American Express cards are essentially useless outside of the USA as well as at a number of places within the USA. The most universal card to use is Visa, although a number of places outside the USA will accept MasterCard.

We have found that airports and train stations now almost universally have ATMs, thus you can get the local currency immediately upon arrival. My wife and I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, in June ’05. Before we left, I went to the Cirrus webpage www.mastercard.com/atmlocator/index.jsp, entered the specific address of the hotel we would be staying at and found the locations of more than one ATM within easy walking distance of the hotel as well as one in the lobby! (Before we found that website, we used to look for someone “talking to a wall.”)

However, even after locating an ATM using the website, you still have to check that one of the symbols displayed on the ATM matches one on your card; the bank may not support the system your ATM card is on. (For those with a Visa card, on the back of which may be the “PLUS” icon, the website to visit is www.visa.com.)

Speaking of ATMs, I marvel at an ATM in Cuzco, Peru, that can dispense either U.S. dollars or Peruvian currency and also at ATMs in other countries that can give out two denominations of currency, whereas all we get from machines in the USA are 20-dollar bills.

If you can get into a credit union, then do so — keep a comfortable balance in your checking account and draw on that with an ATM card when you are out of the country. (My retirement check and Social Security check are both electronically deposited from the sender; this makes my membership free.) Until just this past year, the most my credit union charged me per transaction for withdrawing funds was 75¢. Other credit unions may have different requirements; nonetheless, it is worthwhile to investigate the savings. (Be advised that the foreign bank supporting the credit debit may charge more than the international exchange rate; regardless, the savings should negate using money exchangers’.)

Yes, your ATM PIN should be four, and no more than four, numbers and of course something easy to remember.

By all means, notify your credit card and ATM card providers as to the dates you will be out traveling and the countries where you will be using the cards. In fact, it is wise to get each card issuer’s overseas phone number and call them from abroad just to remind them where you are.

You also may want to learn what daily maximum credit draw allowances your carrier may have, such as $200 or $300 a day on ATMs.

If you have some leftover foreign money, well, that offers an opportunity to acquire a souvenir or two. Or, if you liked the country, save it for next time. We maintain at home a small stash of pounds and euros to use upon our arrival overseas. It’s great fun to use euros gathered in France the following year in Ireland.

Garden Grove, CA