Cash & Card: Dealing With Money While Traveling by Susie Staff

I am happy to say that today’s post has been contributed by a guest travel writer. Susie Staff asked if I would consider a piece she has written, so here it is.

Susie Staff contributed:
Some people have travelled the world, from country to country, by cruise or airplane or train; others are only just taking their first steps out of their own country, uncertain of everything on this first time in a foreign land. However, it doesn’t matter if you’re a world adventurer or travelling for the first time – everyone always worries about dealing with money in a new country. Once upon a time the best or only option was traveller’s cheques, along with all their associated costs, frustrations, and the hassle of spending time on your holiday trying to find a place to cash them (or, god forbid, losing them). International banking, debit cards, and credit cards have taken the place of traveller’s cheques in most places, but there are still reasons for travellers to worry about whether or not they’ll be able to access their funds. Some credit cards are rarely accepted in some countries or cities, cash is king in some places but not others, and there’s always the spectre of thieves to keep travellers holding tight to their wallets. Luckily, by taking a few simple steps, it’s easy to ensure you’re never short on funds while you live your dream vacation.

Navigating Exchange Rates
The first choice you have to make when it comes to travel money is deciding whether to take advantage of a low pre-trip exchange rate, or rolling the dice and choosing to take the exchange rates as they come in return for the convenience of being able to take money out only when necessary on your trip. Even the experts can be caught off guard by the confusing fluctuations of exchange rates, which can vary wildly based on small and seemingly insignificant details. However, no matter which decision you make on whether to take out money before or during your trip, you can still make sure you get the best deal for your exchange. At home, your bank may have the best deal for withdrawals in foreign tender, although larger amounts are unwieldy to travel with and may require your bank to order in your money ahead of time. Once at your destination, your choices are primarily banks or specialised exchange centres – each has its own negatives and positives, so make sure to do your research (either online or in person).
Official and in-house exchange rates should be clearly posted, in addition to any going fees. If your bank has a branch in the region you may be able to get a better deal there, but it depends on the branch’s relationship to your home bank. As a rule, avoid cash points unless necessary – these can have steep fees, either as a rule or due to your own bank’s fees – and airport foreign exchange booths, which often have skewed exchange rates and very high fees.
Credit Or Cash
It is vital to always carry enough cash on you to get safely back to your hotel if your cards are lost or stolen (preferably in a place other than where you keep your cards!). Beyond that, how much cash you need to carry on you is dependent on your destination and what you plan to do. Even in large cities many places have minimum spends for the use of credit cards, or may not accept cards at all; likewise, public transit, where available, used to depend on cash. (This has changed with the slow move towards transit cards like London’s Oyster Card.)
When it comes to credit cards, Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted, followed by American Express, Diners Club, and similar cards. If your card is one of these, be sure to bring another method of payment along. Furthermore, make sure ahead of time that your PIN and card are acceptable at your destination. Chipped cards are quickly becoming the standard, and four-digit PINs are the most commonly accepted varieties, but check to ensure that you’ll be able to use your card before you plan to depend on it. As always, use common sense with both cash and cards – look for modified credit and debit machines and refuse to use them, do what you can to reduce your attractiveness to thieves, cover your card while using your PIN, and don’t carry large amounts of cash on your person. With these tips, you’ll be saving plenty, and you don’t want to donate it to a thief.

Thank you Susie!