Whether you are traveling domestically or internationally, managing your money while you are traveling can be a bit stressful.  This is especially true when you are dealing with exchange rates and foreign currency!  But with some advanced planning, you can minimize your worry while traveling and make sure that you are prepared for most anything that could happen.  Here are some of our money travel tips to help you stay organized and rest assured.

Money Travel Tip #1 – Carry Multiple Payment Methods

credit_card

It is important to have multiple ways to access your money when traveling.  I recommend bringing a few credit cards, and a couple different debit cards too – just in case there is a problem with one bank, you still have a back up.  Credit cards are widely accepted around the world, at least in major cities. Be sure you have a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees; Chase Sapphire, AMEX, and Capitol One are good options.  If you are unsure, call the credit card company to check on their fees abroad.  It is silly to pay a foreign transaction fee if you don’t have to.

Credit cards are a great option when you travel abroad because if it gets into the wrong hands, they can’t liquidate your cash accounts before you know it.  Credit card companies are good about catching fraud, and even if transactions go through, there are ways to get your account credited.  With cash…it’s usually gone forever!!!

** SPECIAL NOTE **  Do not fuss with travelers checks! It’s the 21st century…no one uses these anymore. They are way more hassle than they are worth. Don’t even think about it.

Money Travel Tip #2 – Let Your Banks Know You Will Be Traveling

It is extremely important that you call all your banks and credit card companies in advance of your travels to let them know your plans.  You simply need to request a “travel notification” be put on your account.  They will typically ask you the dates you will be away and what countries you plan to visit.  They will make a notation on your account, which will reduce the risk of your account being locked due to fraud suspicion while you are gone (sometimes it still gets locked, which is why you should bring multiple payment options with you).  Some credit card companies have self-service sections on their online banking websites that allow you to put “travel notifications” on your account yourself.

Money Travel Tip #3 – Be Prepared for “Cash Only” in Rural Areas

Even though so places around the world take credit or debit cards,  smaller establishments (especially in rural locations) will only accept local currency.  And please don’t be those foreign tourists who ask if they can pay their bill with US Dollars!  Be prepared and always have a bit of local currency on you.  You will also need cash for things like shopping at local markets, paying for transportation, etc.  And when you can, try to break large bills into smaller denominations because some merchants won’t always  have change (or at least they won’t admit that they have change).

 

Money Travel Tip #4 – The Best Way to Get Cash While Traveling:  ATMs

empty_atm-2Nearly all countries have ATMs (unless you are really off the beaten path), and this is usually the best way to get cash overseas.  Not only is it the most convenient way to get local currency, but it is often the cheapest!  Before you leave, be sure to verify that your bank will allow you to use an ATM abroad, typically they just need to be a part of a larger network, such as STAR.  If you use a major bank, then it shouldn’t be a problem.  But if you use a small bank or local credit union, then you may run into trouble, so just give them a call to check.

You will likely pay a fee each time use use an ATM abroad (so don’t visit the ATM everyday), but the fee is minimal compared to the fees that currency exchangers will charge you!  You will also get the best exchange rate through a bank’s ATM.  ** Be sure to use an ATM that is affiliated with a bank abroad, and preferably an ATM machine located at a physical bank office. That way, if there is trouble you can go inside.  Plus, there is less risk of it being criminally tampered with.

I’ve used ATMs all over the world and never had an issue (knock on wood).  However, if you do have some trouble and get in a situation where your cards are not working or your bank has put a block on your account, don’t panic.  There are numerous international money transfer companies that you can work with, perhaps with some help from family back home, to get some cash sent to you.

** NOTE ** Remember that the ATM will dispense in local currency, so keep that in mind when you input how much cash you want to receive.

Money Travel Tip #5 – Money Security

When it comes to securing your money (cards & cash), I recommend combining a few different methods.  One of the safest ways is to use a type of money belt or pouch that can be worn under your clothes.  Some of them wrap around your waist, attach to the inside of your pants (like a belt loop), or around your neck.  This is a safe way to store some of your emergency cards and cash; although, I don’t always go this far to keep my money secure.  It really depends on where you are visiting and the risk.

Money Pouch

A secure money pouch that threads a belt & folds over inside your pants to hang next to your body. We rarely use it – but we have it just in case.

I do keep 1-2 cards in my wallet so they are easily accessible, as well as some cash for the day.  The rest of the cash is spread it around in different bags because I don’t want to go to the ATM everyday, and I also don’t want to carry large amounts in on me (or in one bag) at any given time.  My wallet is NOT kept in my pocket, but in an over the shoulder bag that zips closed (Josh uses a shoulder bag that zips as well).  When we are in crowded areas, we are careful to be sure the bag hangs in front of our bodies, with our hand holding over the zipper. That way, people can’t easily get into the bag.

Mexican Pesos Currency

It is also important to write down all of your card numbers and phone numbers, just in case of emergency.  Keep them in a safe place – and I recommend that you keep it cryptic because writing all of your information on a piece of paper, and then losing it, wouldn’t exactly help your security concerns!  If this still worries you, then perhaps you just give this information to a family member to hold on to in case of an emergency.

Being Prepared Doesn’t Mean Being Paranoid!

Overall, being cautious with your money is important when you travel; however, don’t worry about it to the point that it ruins your experience.  Luckily, I’ve never experienced much trouble in this area, but I would have been prepared just in case.   Simple common sense goes a long way, so be careful just as you would at home.  It’s not that other countries more are risky for theft, but rather people seizing an opportunity to target tourists who are NOT paying attention. If you are not an easy target, then you likely won’t be a target.  As long as you have planned ahead, and taken these 5 money travel tips to heart, then you should be able to enjoy your trip and not worry so much about your money while traveling.

Do you have some additional money travel tips to share? Please include in the comments below!

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Money Travel Tips

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