Whether domestic or abroad, all-inclusive resorts or culturally immersive, it is always important to consider how you will handle your money while traveling. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a pinch, with no cash or working credit cards. That's why we've put together this go-to list for your next trip.
Perhaps the most nerve-wracking currency to carry while traveling, cash is also the easiest to transfer. If you are dealing with street vendors or privately owned transportation companies, it may be the only acceptable form of payment. However, you don't want to get stuck carrying too much or else you'll end up with a target on your back.
Here are some tips for handling cash:
- Carry $50-$100 in emergency cash.
- Know how to exchange currency prior to your trip & where to get the best deals. Check out tips on how you can exchange currency abroad here.
- Know how the local economy works. Do they only deal in cash? Are there ATMs available? What currency do they use?
- Don't keep your emergency cash in one place. Have it stored in a few different safe spots in case you get pick pocketed or lose your wallet.
Using your debit card is a great way to stay within your budget, avoid paying interest on travel charges, and limit the amount of cash you are flashing about. However, not every bank or credit union has cards that work abroad. Be sure to let your bank know you're traveling and see if your card can go with you. If so, it's a great way to access ATMs and avoid high currency fees when traveling.
Here are some tips for using your debit card while traveling:
- Check to see if they charge foreign transaction fees to use your card abroad.
- Avoid ATMs with withdrawal fees when traveling domestically.
- Check to see what the ATM fees are prior to traveling abroad. Some forums on Trip Advisor get pretty detailed! Check out this post about New Zealand ATM fees.
- Some banks actually reimburse you for ATM fees. Check to see if your banks does and how you can take advantage of that!
Travel credit cards can be a great way to avoid high foreign transaction fees while earning rewards for things like flights and hotels. A lot of pro-travelers use credit cards for free flights, hotels, and other perks. If you're savvy like that – great! Additionally, they are great to have in the event of an emergency. You never know when you are going to need to book and additionally flight or charter and sometimes additional costs come into play that you just dont' have the cash flow for. Credit cards can really help with that. However, be careful not to rack up a ton of interest in this endeavor or else it is pretty much useless. The only way a credit card is actually beneficial is if you are building your credit and earning rewards in the process. If you lose money in the end, you are losing period.
Here are our tips on using your credit card when traveling:
- Before using your credit card on foreign transactions, make sure the card doesn't take a fee for using it abroad. (We love using Nerd Wallet for all our credit card questions.)
- Find a credit card that offers travel rewards that can be used on your next trip.
- Make sure where you're going accepts cards. Some places are cash-only and you don't want to rack up cash-advance fees.
- Make sure you card has a chip, some merchants abroad no longer trust the magnetic strip.
You are going to carry some form of currency on your abroad. It is what will help you get from one place to the next, eat, and have massive amounts of fun. With the tips above, you're well on your way to being smart about handling your cashflow. But the only way to really know is to gain experience. So, get out there and experience the world! One beautiful place at a time!