travel tips

Accessing money while traveling

So this was a subject that I was very inexperienced in having lived most of my life where money just comes out of an ATM when you put your card in it, and contactless payments are the norm.

However when traveling you will rarely find it to be that easy, so the question was how should I access my money while traveling?


Travelers cheques

Back in the day before lonely planet guides and google maps there were travelers cheques. They were the standard for accessing money abroad. These days however it will be more hassle for you to find a place that exchanges travelers cheques then it is worth.

Bank Cards

Lets be honest here not all bank cards were created equal. There are some cards that aren’t accepted while others are. For example in Cuba no credit card associated with the USA was accepted which led to many people I knew being stranded with no way to access money. Also in small villages there will be no atm or  internet so you won’t be able to use a card in shops as payment goes over a network.


Cash is of course the easiest option, but it can be risky to carry large amounts around, personally I always had about 500 dollars cash on me half in euros half in dollars, as some countries the exchange rate was better for euros. I hid them in several parts of my luggage and became quite ingenious at finding hiding places for my money which I will write a post about soon.

The Eurozone Crisis Deepens As Greece Attempts To Avoid Bankruptcy

Below is a list from the Thrifty Nomads with 7 awesome tips on accessing money abroad.  Full details can be found on the link here

1. Pay using a credit card whenever possible.

Foreign ATMs can still inflate their exchange rates and charge withdrawal fees, but a direct credit card payment only involves the credit card you signed up with in your home country. And with a good points or cashback program, this beats any other method of foreign payment.

Bottom line? Always pay with a credit card, but NEVER withdraw cash from an ATM with one. Credit cards charge interest on cash advances from the moment you withdraw it at the ATM.

2. Never take the option of paying in your own currency

Card terminals at shops and hotels will often detect that your card is from another country and offer to bill you in your home currency. Never choose this option – always pay in the foreign currency! The exchange rate offered will be inflated by the card terminal, so if you’re using one of the credit cards recommended above, you will receive a much better exchange rate.

3. Inform your debit and credit card providers of your travels

Credit and debit cards are frequently being monitored by security departments for suspicious activity. If you’re from the U.S. and you make an ATM withdrawal in Thailand when they don’t know you’re overseas, this could appear suspicious to your bank, and your card might be locked the next time you withdraw. Give your bank or credit card provider a call and let them know when and where you’ll be travelling. Take it from us – you do not want to be stuck without cash and a useless card!

4. Obtain at least one debit and credit card on each of the Visa/Plus and MasterCard/Cirrus networks.

Even if you follow the advice in tip #3, it’s possible your card could get locked anyway. On top of that, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation where an ATM accepts only one network and not the other. For example, when we travelled in Japan, the only ATMs we could find that would even accept international cards were at 7-Eleven, and they only worked with cards on the Visa/Plus network. I speak from experience – there’s nothing more stressful than needing more cash and not being able to withdraw it, so be prepared and bring multiple cards on multiple networks.

5. Consider a credit card with included insurance

The jury is still out on whether it’s safe to rely on car and travel insurance that is sometimes provided by credit cards, and unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to file a claim after the accident has happened. If you’re concerned about insurance, its best to be safe and purchase it from the car rental company, but if not, you might as well pay with a credit card that offers car insurance and hope for the best if you do end up in an accident.

6. Keep backup cards in your hotel room

If you lose all your credit and debit cards while overseas, you’re going to be in quite the pickle. Always keep at least one extra card back at your accommodation in case your main card or entire wallet is lost or stolen while you’re out.

7. Bring $100 USD as backup cash (I recommend more)

When all else fails, U.S. dollars are the closest thing to a global currency that we have today. It’s the most commonly accepted currency, not only at exchange booths, but even at shops and restaurants in other countries. If there are no ATMs in sight or your cards have been stolen, an emergency backup of U.S. dollars will get you out an emergency situation.


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