Trying to figure out what’s best for you in terms of money and how you carry it abroad can be such a buzz kill when it comes to travel. It’s even worse when you go to the more “dangerous” places and you have to consider how best to manage your money with the possible threat of it being stolen.
When you set out on your very first trip, it’s almost impossible for you to figure out what’s going to be the best option for you, but you can at least be safe in the knowledge that there are plenty of options out there. Once you’ve got your own personal style of managing your money whilst traveling down to a tee, it won’t seem anywhere near as stressful as it once did before you set out on your travels.
Some of the pros and cons of different methods below are going to change slightly depending on where you’re from and therefore who you’re banking with, or the country you’re visiting and how closely you need to be watching you cash or cards at all times. However, there are certain golden rules you should always be following no matter where you are in the world.
When people go on short vacations abroad they normally take local currency with them to cover themselves for the majority of the trip. If you were able to do that for long term travel, first of all you have to be some kind of millionaire, and second of all it would be ridiculously unsafe and inconvenient. As most debit or credit cards are so international nowadays, you don’t need to be carrying around large sums of money with you at all times, in fact I would advise against it.
It’s still a good idea to have a little bit of cash in the local currency for your arrival, for things like food and a taxi from the airport for example. I might even stretch that as far as having cash to cover you for your first few days if you want to play it safe. Any further than that and you run the risk of having large sums of money being stolen either from a hotel or from your pocket.
It also depends what kind of accommodation you’re staying in, and if your hotel is safe then it’s completely fine to tuck away cash in your locked room, or use the in room safe provided by the hotel. One golden rule for cash use abroad – if you’re going out for the day, only take the cash that you need for that day with you, nothing more. That way if someone does get their hands on it, it’s not going to be too much of a loss to you.
Credit or debit cards
There are a couple of things you should do before you start traveling with regards to credit and debit cards. Go into your local bank and have a word with a member of staff about using your cards abroad. Make sure you know what charges you might incur and consider getting a card at a different bank if your existing charges are going to be through the roof.
Also make sure that your card isn’t going to get blocked whilst you’re away. Some banks put immediate blocks on cards when they are used in a different country, just because it looks like someone has stolen or cloned the card and is using is fraudulently. Notify your bank that you are going to be traveling, and they can tell you what they can do about it to make sure you’re not left with no cards on your travel. Always keep the international phone number for your bank on you; you never know when you’re going to need it.
I would definitely suggest taking two cards with you – perhaps one debit and one credit. That way if one goes missing or stolen you have a backup ready to go. The benefit of taking a credit card with you is that in emergencies you always have access to some money so you can at least book yourself into a hotel while you figure your plans out.
Having your credit or debit cards getting lost or stolen is a complete pain when you’re traveling, but luckily with a few phone calls to your bank you can work around it. Always have one of your cards locked away in a safe place so that you have a backup whenever necessary, and if you don’t need to take a card out with you, just don’t. Take enough cash for the day and avoid having your card pickpocketed entirely.
Prepaid Travel Cards
Otherwise known as a ‘cash passport’, these prepaid travel cards are a relatively new way to carry your money whilst traveling. Head to a travel agency before you set out on your trip to inquire about them, and they should be able to give you all the information you need to know and their own particular policies.
The way they work is simple – you pick a card with the relevant currency you need, load up with as much money you want on there (there are various minimum and maximums depending on the travel agency), the money is loaded on immediately, and you can then use the card as a debit card or with ATMs abroad. You can also top the card up whilst you’re away, so you could just add a small amount of money on there and use it purely as a backup. If the card gets lost or stolen, call the number given and you can cancel it right away.
The drawback to these cards is that sometimes they have random charges on them, depending on which agency you go with, so be sure to check that thoroughly before you go with this option.
Traveler’s checks used to be the nomad’s best friend, but now are considered very outdated. Of course they are useful in the respect that they are safe and when they fall into the wrong hands they aren’t very easy to be cashed in without a matching signature and ID – the main benefit to the traveler’s check.
As they’re not so widespread as they once were, it’s actually now become far more difficult to cash in a traveler’s check whilst you’re away. Yes, you will almost certainly find a place that will do it for you, but there are far less than there used to be, and you’re probably better off going with a cash passport as they’re accepted by pretty much every ATM in existence.
These are just a few tips to help you on your way to a stress less travel money experience (if that even exists!) but it will always come down to your personal choices and how cautious you want to be. Once you figure out your own system, it’s plain sailing from there.
What do you find works best for you?