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Whether you are cruising close to home or across the world, an ATM is a convenient and easily accessible source of cash. Even with the usage fee; you typically get a best rate of exchange since cash withdrawals from an ATM are at the wholesale bank rate. There are literally thousands of automatic teller machines linked through systems like Cirrus, Star, Honor and Visa. (Learn what systems an ATM card is valid with before leaving on your cruise.)
Most ATM cards also function as debit cards when making purchases. A debit card does just what it says. It debits your checking account for the amount of the transaction. Since most debit cards are processed through the Visa or Mastercard system, it is as easy to use them for purchases. That said, they do not offer the purchase protection or benefits of major credit cards. They are the same as paying cash.
Finally, do not depend on just an ATM card for your travel dollars. ATM systems can be “down” or a card's magnetic strip can be damaged and access to cash is cut off.