Five Dollars: Free with Every Banana. Unorthodox Californian Banking Practices

Withdrawing money abroad can cost a lot in banking fees.  I solved this problem in California by strategically buying Flip Flops and Bananas.  You can, too. 

I suppose  title youthe above title may mislead some readers into believing that the State of California has incentivized banks to pay people to eat bananas in an effort to encourage healthy eating practices.  While critics of Californias regulatory habits might not be suprised by such a policy, it is not (to my knowledge) a policy which is currently in effect.

The following is not about government-sponsored pecuniary incentives for eating tropical fruit.  It is about circumventing ATM fees while travelling abroad.

For my credit union, I can, in theory, use the ATMS of other credit unions for free, and when there are no credit unions around, I am supposed to be able to us HSBC bank machines at no extra charge either.  This apparently doesn’t apply outside of Canada.  While with either my bank or credit union, I am charged a $3 CAD “Foreign ATM Fee”, it would seem that every bank machine I could find in California was charging a $3 USD usage fee (I can’t remember exactly how much exactly it was — it was at least $3 USD, but may have been more like $5 USD…  I can’t remember…)  — under a regular exchange rate, this  means I’d be paying about 7 bucks Candadian (or over 5 buck American) just to take out money. At In-N-Out burger, then that’s a delicious Cheeseburger and Fries!  In Canada, that’s a couple rolls of sushit or a decent fancy poutine!

So that’s like, for the privelige of withdrawing my own money, they are taking a delicious meal right out of my mouth.

Obviously, despite walking the better part of the afternoon to the various bank machines in question, I was unwilling to actually pay the atm fees and withdrawing money (because that doesn’t include the 2ish% they are also charging on top of the exchange rate.  Ugh!)

SO!  I managed to find a way around it, and yet another way to exploit Walmart (it’s a great place to sleep in your car); and later, Target.

It turns out that Walmart has a very generous cashback option, and for the price of a 99¢ pair of flip flops, I was able to use my debit card II do not incur service fees for use of my debit card) to take out $100 US Dollars.  That’s right:  if you assume that one couldn’t otherwise avoid paying $7 in service fees, those sandals cost about -$5.50 (Canadian).  Negative Five Bucks!  For a pair of Flip Flops!  That’s awesome!

orange flip flops
Sandals so shitty, they come with a burger and fries (kind of)

Now, granted: the flip flops sucked — but I got more than 5 bucks for them — or about 4 bucks American!  That’s a few tacos at the Midnight Taco Truck, or animal fries at In-N-Out Burger!  It’s like they GAVE ME animal fries just to take those shitty sandals!

Well, Walmart wasn’t so close to where I was staying, so I had to start using Target:  for a 29¢ Banana, I could take out $40USD — which made those bananas something like negative six-and-a-half Canadian Dollars (or negative 5 bucks American) — which is a Day Pass on Orange County Transit, or a burger and fries at In-N-Out Burger or THREE tacos at the Midnight Taco Truck!  Three Tacos and a Drink if it’s a Tuesday!  Holy shit, I love Bananas!  Which reminds me of a story…

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