Tell your friends and family that you are traveling abroad, and one thing is sure. At least one person is going to share a ‘horror story’ about some poor soul being left high and dry without any money in a foreign land. Whatever you do, don’t let stories like this kill your sense of adventure.
It’s very rare that someone traveling abroad encounters a financial problem that cannot be fixed. Unless you are going somewhere entirely unfriendly, there’s almost always a way to get you help if you need it.
That said, it’s a good idea to avoid financial problems in the first place. With a bit of planning, you can ensure your trip goes smoothly. Start by following these eight personal finance tips for world globetrotters.
If you lose your debit card at home, you simply order a new one. In some cases, your bank can print one for you right away. At worst, it’s just a few days. Overseas, it’s not that easy. Before you leave, order a second copy of your current debit card. Then, keep it stashed away. If anything happens to your main card, you’ve got its replacement ready. Just be sure to cancel the lost card right away. You don’t want that to land in the wrong hands.
If your smartphone isn’t set up for banking, now is a good time to start. As you are traveling, you’ll want to check your account frequently, often while you are on the go. If something has gone wrong, you’ll want to be able to take action right away. Waiting to get back to the hotel room and on your laptop to shut down a debit card or transfer money just isn’t an option.
So, install your online banking app before you go. Then, get familiar with it. You should know all the basics before you board the plane. Also, make sure that you use follow the basic mobile banking security tips:
- Password protect your phone (or use biometric authentication).
- Avoid using public (no-password) networks for doing financial operations.
- Don’t click on suspicious links in texts
- Consider a VPN as an additional security layer,
Now, add another layer of safety to protect your account. Limit the amount of money you keep in the account that is linked to your debit card. Instead, keep the majority of your money in a related savings account that is not associated with a debit card. Then, transfer that money on an ‘as needed’ basis to your checking account. This limits the amount that would be thieves can abscond with at any given time.
When you spend money or using an ATM overseas, you may be hit with a few fews. One of these is often your bank’s FX rates. There may also be other hidden fees. Learn what these are before you go. Sometimes they are quite steep.
If your bank charges an arm and a leg, it may be a good idea to sign up for a card that is specifically made for travelers. A lot of banks now issue a bunch of travel reward cards that offer both great FX rates and low abroad fees, and let you accumulate miles and loyalty points for flights, hotels, car rentals etc.
Finally, if you plan to become a frequent traveler, consider signing on with one of the neo banks (e.g. Revolut, Chime, N26). These banks offer very attractive FX rates, and charge no commissions on transactions.
Don’t forget that you can often pay for transportation, hotel rooms, and other charges by using your PayPal account. You can also hold money there to transfer to your bank as needed.
Traveler’s checks are still an option. However, they aren’t as common as they once were. If you’re dealing with someone outside of the hospitality industry, they may not be experienced at handling these.
In case of an emergency, your best solution isn’t going to come in the form of a card, or an internet connection. Sometimes, cold currency is the best thing to get yourself out of a tight spot. Keep in mind that the US dollar is still one the most widely accepted and highly valued forms of payment.
Keep some on you at all times. In fact, consider carrying cash on your person in more than one place, e.g., your wallet and inside your shoe. This will help ensure you have cash even if you lose money or are victimized by a pickpocket. You don’t need a lot of cash though, just enough to get safely back to your hotel room or pay your restaurant tab.
Chances are, you’ll find plenty of places to exchange currency the moment you leave the airport. It’s certainly convenient to use these on your way to check into your hotel. The problem is that many of these overcharge you significantly. You can save quite a bit of money simply by traveling a bit further to exchange your cash.
Your Fodor’s guide will only tell you so much. If you want to learn which neighborhoods to avoid, the tourist traps that aren’t worth the money, and where to eat like a local the staff at your resort or hotel is the best source of information you’ll find.
However, the quality of information you get is contingent upon how the staff feels about you. Tip them. Treat them courteously, and not like hired help. They will send you to places where you are safe, and your money is well spent. This may be the most important travel tip there is.
Keep your money safe, and your time overseas will be that much more enjoyable. Implement these quick and easy tips to protect your cash, avoid needless fees, and sidestep any inconvenience.