We’ve come across many smart money tips for travelers over the years. Here is the absolute best advice we’ve found for carrying cash, credit cards, or other money equivalents while you travel. This advice is a must-read, especially if you’re traveling to areas where crime or theft is a concern.
If you’re traveling to a foreign country, you need a way to carry currency to pay your travel expenses. But security and simplicity is of major importance.
Should I carry traveler’s cheques? No. Traveler’s cheques are not recommended, although they are still a means of guaranteeing absolute safety for the money you carry. This is because they are simply not convenient. If you purchase traveler’s cheques, you will need to sign every single bill in advance. Many merchants will not accept them, and for incidental spending the inconvenience outweighs the benefits.
Should I carry credit cards? Yes. If you own one or more credit cards, use them while traveling abroad. Credit cards are the simplest way to make purchases overseas, and you don’t have to worry about converting currencies since your credit card company will automatically convert all your purchases to your home currency. There is a small cost that credit card companies assess on FX conversions, however, the convenience outweighs the cost. If possible, use a credit card that won’t charge a conversion fee per transaction (check out some cards by Capital One Bank).
For the bulk of my travel expenses, what is better, cash or credit cards? Credit cards are better. This is because you won’t have to worry about losing your cash or having it stolen. Use credit cards for most large purchases, like your lodging expenses, transportation tickets, and meals.
I have several credit cards. How many should I bring? Bring at least 2 credit cards on your trip. This way, if you do lose one you won’t be inconvenienced. If you do bring multiple cards with you, keep one locked in your luggage while you’re out, or give it to a travel companion to carry for safekeeping. This way, if you lose your wallet, you’ll have instant access to another card. If you have no one to hold your extra card, and you must carry it on you, keep it in your front pocket, separate from other cards and cash. This is the least likely place for i to get lost or stolen.
What do I do if I lose my credit card? Call your credit card company as soon as possible to cancel it. You are not responsible for any unauthorized charges made on your card if lost or stolen.
Should I carry cash if I have credit cards? Yes. Always keep some local currency in cash with you when traveling. You will need it for small expenditures like snacks, taxis, bus, souvenir, etc.
How much cash should I carry? Carry only as much cash on your person as you will need for the day. You can decide how much you may need for daily expenses. If you must carry a fairly large sum of cash on you during the day, make sure you split it up and keep in your front pants pocket for safekeeping. This is the safest place to avoid loss or theft. Fold bills, and hold them either loose or with a money clip or rubber band in your front pocket.
I have more cash with me than I need for a day out. Do I carry all of it with me? No. Only carry the amount of cash you need while out during the day. Keep excess cash in a safe place. Check for in-room hotel safes that use a code that you set. If there is no better safe place for your extra cash, keep it locked in your luggage (always carry luggage locks with you when traveling). This may not sound like a good option, but it is actually safer than carrying large amounts of cash on you. Cash locked in your luggage is secure if no one knows it’s in there. And unless you are in a location where your entire luggage is at risk of being stolen while you’re away from your room, it is extremely unlikely that money will be stolen out of locked luggage.
What if I’m in transit, and have large amounts of money? If you’re traveling by bus, train or public transportation, and do not have a hotel room, keep your money with you. But, remember to split up plastic and cash in several pockets or between several persons. If you’re driving yourself in a car, you may keep extra cash and at least one credit card hidden under a floor mat in the rear seat. This is an unlikely place for anyone to search for money, and is safer than keeping money inside luggage in a car. Remember to lock the car doors at all times.
How should I get cash when I’m traveling? Never use money changing booths at airports or other tourist locations. The best and cheapest way to obtain cash in local currency is to simply use you own bank ATM card. Find an ATM that is of a well known national bank in your destination. When you use your ATM card, your bank will usually get you a better rate on cash withdrawn from the ATM than you can get from money changers. Remember, when withdrawing cash from an ATM, maintain awareness and ensure that you are in a protected location. If you are traveling with others, have someone keep a look out for any potential crime risk while you are removing cash from an ATM.
The same general rules for carrying money apply to carrying your ID while traveling in foreign locations. If you are carrying a passport, obtaining a replacement may be a serious hassle if lost while in a foreign location. Decide if it is safer to keep your passport on your person, or locked safely in your luggage. Wherever you keep your original ID, make sure to keep a photocopy in your luggage, and another photocopy (miniaturized copies are good) in your wallet or pocket. This way, you’ll always have access to your ID, and be able to identify yourself to authorities if it becomes necessary. Some countries may require you to keep your original passport on your person at all times, although this is rare. Know the rules before you travel.
If you are traveling in high risk areas known for crime and scams, never keep all your cash or credit cards in your wallet. Always split it up and keep some cash and at least one credit card in your front pocket. Have travel companions carry some cash and a credit card as well. The same rule applies to your ID. If you are concerned with theft while walking or traveling through a city, keep your driver’s license, and any other important papers you don’t want to lose, in your front pocket. Don’t carry them in wallets, purses, or any other hanging bags.