I'll be visiting the US. I have several questions about money and card use in the US, the grand scheme is somewhat: What is my best strategy for paying stuff there?

  • I suppose that I can pay larger amounts by credit (debit) card - for which amounts do I need cash in daily life, with how much cash should I run around?
  • How trustworthy are people with cards? If I pay a waiter with card and he takes my debit card and goes to the counter, is that considered rude or normal? Is there sufficiently much abuse going on that it's not rude from me to want to always see my credit cards? Does this maybe only apply to certain places?
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    Your first and third questions are probably on-topic here, but should be asked as separate questions. Your second question is obviously off-topic here, and should be asked on Expatriates instead. – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 12:27
  • You can't "open a US account" if you're a visitor or tourist. It's totally inconceivable, and has been utterly impossible for, what, 20? years. You might as well say "Hey, I want to carry a machine gun on a plane in the US!" Note that some companies in OTHER countries (e.g., in England - caxton) specifically offer cards, denominated in US dollars, for you in that country. PS you did not state what country you are in so it's confusing and hard to answer – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 13:12
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    @JoeBlow: Your information is almost completely incorrect. See here. – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 13:20
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    Don't quite understand why the question was closed. The second part is perhaps “borderline” but the OP's purpose is visiting and not settling in another country. If opening a bank account is useless or somehow impossible in this situation that could be part of an answer. – Relaxed Aug 25 '14 at 15:22
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    Indeed, the question linked by @Flimzy actually is from a tourist (aka traveler) wants to open a US bank account. So it's unclear to me how off-topic this is. I'd understand too broad, but then again, David posted a great answer that covers all three points in 8 lines. – FooBar Aug 25 '14 at 15:33

In most cases, you can use a debit card, even for small payments. Carrying about $20 with you would help in instances where debit cards are not accepted.

You can easily transfer monies to your USA bank account via wire transfer. Make sure that your bank abroad allows you to wire transfer without being physically present.

Waiters will be very surprised if you decide to follow them with your card. This is not the custom. They could use a skimmer at the point of sale and there have been some instance of credit card fraud where company systems where hacked.

Fraud exists but is infrequent and the bank will protect you. They will reimburse you immediately in case of fraud. In case of fraud, you will need to replace your card. In my 15 years in the USA, I was the victim of credit card fraud four or five times and never lost a cent.

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    (+1) The last bit sounds scary to me. Being reimbursed by the bank is good but being victimized four or five times in 15 years? Sounds a lot more frequent than in Europe… – Relaxed Aug 25 '14 at 13:05
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    In three of those instances, the bank called me about irregular transactions. I simply had to refuse the transactions over the phone. In one instance, my card was used to withdraw cash at an ATM right after I did. All in all, I feel that it was a minor annoyance easily handled. – David Segonds Aug 25 '14 at 13:07
  • It's no more or less frequent than in Europe. America's really big and they have plenty of eg. computers, telephones etc. – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 13:11
  • About that fraud on cards, I think credit cards are well protected but I am not sure the same applies to debit cards, do you know more about it? Also, some places would charge a fee for the use of a credit card (typically gas station may charge an extra 10 cents per gallon) – Vince Aug 25 '14 at 15:48
  • IMHO, being the victim of CC fraud 4-5 times in 15 years sounds like someone was very careless with their CC info. But I don't want to sound to harsh without knowing the person's actual experience. So lets just say YMMV, and I have not had that experience at all. I've had multiple Credit and Debit cards over the last ~20 years, and I don't think I've ever experienced fraud (unless you count the time a vendor refused to refund a returned order--and the CC company jumped in to my rescue even then). – Flimzy Aug 25 '14 at 16:15

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