By this point, I think I’ve tried it all when it comes to carrying money while travelling. Going back to thinking about a few trips in the past, I can only chuckle and shake my head as I recall myself, cautious and frightened, carrying cash in money belts, various hidden pockets, and forex cards, which I came to know about during my first trip abroad. After a while, I immediately switched back to the standard method of money – carrying – The wallet. And then learning to guard it with my life and carry it with me hidden inside a backpack at all times.
My boyfriend on the other hand carries multiple wallets with smaller bills spilt into all of them. The problem arises when he accidentally forgets (the main) one back home. Now I stick with two forms of currency: Plastic (One main with the spare card hidden) and Cash (Loose change in the main wallet and large bills hidden) Anyway, I certainly haven’t quit my search for better options, but here are some money-mistakes to avoid while travelling:
1. Keep your bank in the loop with your travel plans:
Always notify your bank before your travel. This is especially true if you’re travelling overseas and intend to use your credit or debit card whilst abroad. Banks have almost zero lag time in noticing a card being used abroad. Since banks have gotten more sophisticated about this, they will usually spot foreign transactions and assume that your card has been stolen. Worst case scenario is that they’ll cancel your card. This would mean an expensive/ long call with your bank to get it reactivated.
2. Pay close attention to ATM fees:
While travelling internationally, each time you withdraw cash you will likely to incur a fee. Some banks have outrageous fees levied on card usage outside your country’s geographical area. Many of these are transaction fees for accessing your money. These vary depending on whether the ATM is run by a large bank or not. Keep in mind that fees can change, it’s worth checking before every trip.
3. Research the local exchange rate:
In the first several hours of arrival at your destination, get a little research done on the local exchange rate against your home currency. It often takes us a day or two to have a handle on how much things cost, but this takes longer if you are travelling in an area where prices aren’t fixed as they should be. Knowing the exchange rate by heart can let you do the math quickly and efficiently.
Funnily in Buenos Aires, Argentina I got a cheaper exchange rate at my hotel as compared to the bank and an even cheaper rate was on offer on the streets, but I obviously didn’t want to take a chance with fake notes. I always make note of US dollar to INR and vice versa since a dollar is accepted in most countries or can be converted easily. USD is the easiest for carrying money while travelling because it can be exchanged almost anywhere.
4. Skip traveller’s cheques:
Barely anyone accepts traveller’s checks in 2015 anymore, they’re not cheap or common and you have to keep aside a fair amount of time to visit a bank and procure them. Some banks have very stringent rules on in-cashing them, so it’s difficult for businesses to help you deposit them. But on the other hand, credit cards give you a far better rate of exchange in most parts of the world. I can’t remember the last time I saw a travellers check as carrying money while travelling.
5. Don’t assume on the tip amounts:
Customs for tipping may vary immensely from place to place, and not having knowledge of these can be both embarrassing and expensive. Practices can also vary from industry to industry. While travelling in Brazil, I realized that a 10 per cent tip is compulsory in a restaurant, but it might already be included in the bill for that. On a taxi ride you just round up to the nearest number or five if you are feeling generous and as a minimum fare for most rides like 13.10 real taxi ride, you give 14 or 15 realis.
6. Steer away from public Wi-Fi for banking transactions:
Avoid making online payments, checking bank balances, or entering financially sensitive details of any kind while using Wi-Fi networks or public internet. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, so use only when absolutely required.
7. Don’t leave your valuables unsecured:
This one goes without saying. There’s nothing worse than loosing carrying money while travelling, it can sour the entire trip. Slinging your purse over your shoulder or shoving your wallet in your pocket is a natural action that almost all of us will do. It is also the easiest way to get pick-pocketed or robbed, as these spots are both obvious to thieves and difficult to protect. Instead, use a backpack and layer it in between other things you need when you’re out and about.
8. Never underestimate data charges:
How much could a few social posts, a bit of google mapping, a few email checks and a batch of other updates cost? Plenty, apparently. Even if you purchase an international roaming plan, they often have aggressive data caps, and your data allowances can disappear before you know it. Be smart! Get a local sim for calls or stick to Skype and other data-consuming activities stick to free wifi!
9. Carry cash:
Oldest trick in the book but Forex works just as well even today. It’s easy to assume that everyone takes cards, but there are still a lot of places that still don’t accept them. It’s always smart to carry some cash. And since forex is easily available in your own country almost everywhere it’s easier to make sure you have local currency in smaller bills tucked away for emergencies even before you reach.
10. Look for a bank with an international partner:
Make sure that your bank has an international partner. Large corporate banks and credit card companies usually do but smaller banks or credit unions might not. An international partner will save you money overseas.
Lastly, make sure you know how you can access your money when travelling. Then you can simply think about relaxing and having fun while on vacation and have one less thing to worry about.
Read more on How I save money to travel the world.