You’ve scoured the Internet for the best rates on flights, booked some amazing hotel deals, and are all set and ready to go on your international trip. However, before you pack your bags and head for the airport, you’ll want to spend some time considering strategies for managing your money while abroad. What will you do if you lose your wallet? How will you access money should a bank strike occur?
Whether you are travelling internationally for business or pleasure this year, it pays to be prepared when it comes to money. Today, we’re sharing some important tips and strategies to help keep you and your money safe and comfortable on your international trip.
Before you Leave
If your wallet is bulging with credit cards, take a moment to consider which cards you actually plan to use while you are abroad. Many people report that taking their debit card, along with two credit cards, suits their travel needs just fine. Leaving some of your cards (department store cards that you don’t plan to use, for example) in a safe place at home, reduces your risk should you lose your wallet.
Before you leave, it is important that you notify your bank and credit card companies that you will be travelling internationally. If you don’t notify them and begin using your cards internationally, they may freeze your account due to concerns over identity theft. When you call, your bank or credit card provider will likely want to know the dates of travel and where your travels will take you.
Compile a document containing the account numbers and contact information for the issuing company and leave this with a trustworthy person at home. (Remember, never write your passwords down!) This way, if you lose the cards on your travels, it will be much easier for you to initiate the card cancellation process.
Learn about the currency you’ll be using. This includes the denominations of all paper currency and coins that you’ll be using, as well as the exchange rate. (The exchange rate may fluctuate from day to day, but understanding generally how many pesos or francs to the dollar will help you make good decisions about your spending.)
You may also wish to bring some foreign currency with you, rather than waiting to exchange it all when you arrive at your destination. Airport exchange counters are not known for offering the best exchange rates, and you will likely want to have some cash on hand to pay for incidentals like taxi fare.
Your local bank branch will be able to help you exchange US dollars for foreign currency. While most banks will have a supply of Euros, Canadian, and Mexican currency on hand, it is always helpful to call over first before stopping by, especially if you suspect that your currency request might be a special order. (Take, for example, the Nigerian naira or the Tajikistani somoni!)
Don’t forget all about your US dollars though! Travel experts agree that it is wise to always have a little bit of American currency available to you while travelling internationally. Many businesses and services will accept US currency in a pinch, and in an emergency (for example, a power outage or other natural disaster) you may be glad to have some familiar currency in your wallet.
When you Arrive
A good rule of thumb when travelling, internationally or domestically, is to carry only the amount of money that you expect to spend that day. Leave the rest of your foreign currency in your hotel safe, along with any cards that you don’t plan to use that day. What you don’t have on you, you can’t lose, after all!
Just as you would at home, when you are using an international ATM, choose wisely. If you have a bad feeling about its location (dark, solitary) or appearance (tampered with), stick with your gut and go elsewhere. The safest ATMs to use are those in well-lit public areas – and your best bet for overall security is to use bank-affiliated ATMs.
Does your ATM pin code have letters in it? If so, you may want to memorize the corresponding numbers associated with your pin code. Many foreign ATMs only display numbers on their keypads; if you only know the letters, you may find yourself stuck without any cash!
Some ATM keypads may also be configured differently than those you are familiar with from home. Those users who simply key in their code based on key position will need to be mindful of this: Enter an incorrect pin code too many times, and your card may be seized by the ATM. (If this happens, contact your bank ASAP to let them know what’s happened.)
When you Leave
After a wonderful trip abroad, you may wish to take some currency home as a souvenir. However, you probably don’t wish to take hundreds of dollars home as a souvenir! Instead, try to plan ahead, spending the cash you have early and relying more heavily on cards as you near your departure date. (You can certainly change your money back over to US currency when you return to the States, but do keep in mind that most banks will not accept foreign currency coins.)
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