There is no black market in Indonesia, so for safety's sake bring only a portion ot your funds in cash. Though rates are often better for traveler's checks than for cash, always carry some US$5, US$10, and US$20 dollar bills in case you need quick money and banks or Moneychangers in Bali are closed.
The bulk of your traveling funds should be in the form of a widely accepted brand of traveler's checks. American Express (Amex), Bank of America, First National City Bank, Barclays, Wells Fargo, and Thomas Cook Traveler's Checks are accepted all over Indonesia.
Bank Mandiri, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, and Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) take most Australian and the better-known traveler's checks. Use the Indonesian phrase trapel cek for traveler's checks. Cek jalanan turis is also widely understood.
Upon presentation of your passport, it usually takes no more than 20 minutes to cash traveler's checks at a bank. If clerks in a bank will not accept your brand of checks, it might help to ask for the bank manager. Major hotels, department stores, and many pricey shops will also take traveler's checks, though at lousy rates.
Indonesia is still very much a cash-oriented society, so Visa, MasterCard, and Amex credit cards can only be utilized in Bali's major tourist and business centers equipped to process a charge. Middle-range to upscale hotels, tourist- oriented souvenir shops, the big art shops along the tourist corridor, domestic and international airlines offices, and the more expensive restaurants will accept them. As a general rule, most air-conditioned businesses with glass windows will accept plastic.
Travel agencies will usually accept them, which is convenient because you can pay for a car rental or a tour through them. Not all retail outlets accept the American Express card, but Garuda accepts it.
Most merchants cannot authorize your limit; you can only purchase goods equal to a total value at Rp 250,000. Also, it is common for Indonesians to add a two to five percent commission if you use your credit card. Try to bargain this commission away. Your passport and your credit card are needed for all transactions. Be sure to verify the total amount charged.
Ask the retailer or service provider to convert the total amount into dollars and cents, then write the amount on the charge slip. This way, in spite of currency ups and downs, you will know exactly what is owed your credit card company. Take a list of your credit card numbers and phone numbers to call so you can cancel your credit cards if you lose them. Leave a duplicate list with a friend back home.
Always keep the customer copy because charge slips could be altered and used to defraud you by adding extra zeros. Do not discard the slips until the charges have been paid. Later if you discover that you have been cheated by a merchant who switched or misrepresented merchandise, write your credit card company, which may be able to satisfactorily resolve the problem. Always keep your credit cards within sight when making a purchase.
Cash Advances Against Credit Cards
You can also use your Visa, MasterCard, or Amex (but not Diner's Club) cards to get cash advances (normally up to US$500) from moneychangers, but they charge a steep six percent commission. Banks that give cash advances against credit cards vary widely in their commission. Make sure you know the rate of commission betore you make the transaction.