12 Money Tips for Traveling Abroad

money tips for traveling abroadCelebrating four years of hard work at school with a big trip outside the country this summer?  Or maybe you’re just heading to a tropical paradise for some fun in the sun and time away from the rigors of the job?

Whatever the reason, before you travel abroad, you’ll need a plan for how you’re going to pay for day-to-day trip expenses in another country.  As our pre-vacation gift to you, here are 12 smart financial tips for handling funds while traveling abroad.

Before You Leave:

  • If you plan to use a debit or credit card, check the expiration date before you leave. Cards expire on the last day of the month indicated. If your card will expire while you’re away, call your card issuer and ask for a replacement card early so you’ll receive it in plenty of time before you leave. Your new card may require activation by calling an 800 number; a debit card may require an ATM transaction, or both. These activation activities must be completed while you’re still here in the U.S
  • Contact your financial institution to see if your credit or debit card needs to be activated for foreign use.
  • Travelers Cheques can be purchased in euros and in other foreign currencies, which eliminates the need for merchants to calculate the conversion rate and may increase acceptance.
  • Carry enough foreign currency in cash to get you out of the airport. Airport exchange rates are notoriously high so be sure to plan ahead.
  • Create a list of the contents of your wallet: debit, ATM, and credit card numbers, and anything else you might need to replace if your wallet is lost or stolen. Include the overseas lost/stolen numbers for each card you plan to carry. Toll-free 800 numbers are not accessible from overseas.
  • If you’re relying on an ATM card for cash withdrawals while traveling, it must be connected to your checking account. Foreign ATMs cannot access your savings account.Ask any financial institutions or card issuers you use to note on your account that you anticipate transactions from outside the country. If they have a fraud monitoring system, atypical transactions could trigger a fraud alert. If that happens and a financial institution is unable to contact you, you could find yourself in a foreign country with your credit or debit card frozen. However, it is unwise to give anyone your specific dates of travel in order to protect against home break-ins.

While You’re Traveling

  • Have a variety of payment methods available, such as credit cards, debit card, local currency, and travelers checks. If something unforeseen happens, such as an ATM attendant strike or a network interruption, you won’t be left in a bind. And consider leaving one card at home as an online-only credit card number you can use in case of emergencies. If your wallet or bag is lost or stolen, an online credit card option can help keep you from using your limited cash supply to pay for things like airfare, light rail tickets, or hotel reservations.
  • Take advantage of local ATMs – they withdraw from your checking account and dispense funds in local currency. A small exchange fee may apply, but it is usually less than at a bank. Most ATMs offer a choice of languages; the British flag is used to represent English.
  • Download the Smart Traveler app from the U.S. State Department for your iPhone or Android phone. It has information that can help in case of emergency, like U.S. embassy local phone numbers, as well as maps and travel alerts and warnings.
  • ATMs may offer the option of entering a six digit PIN. If six digits are required, add two zeros to the end of your four-digit PIN.
  • Keep your list of plastic card numbers and their lost/stolen reporting numbers in a separate location from the cards. Don’t photocopy your cards. Doing so could give thieves all the information they need to make purchases from your accounts.
  • Make things hard on thieves. Consider splitting up your money into smaller increments, say 1-2 days worth of cash in a wallet or handbag, and the rest in a secure hotel safe. Along those lines, don’t carry all your debit, credit, and ATM cards with you at once. Be sure to also leave a credit card and ATM behind the hotel safe as well. Your passport and any other important docs should be stored in there too. Finally, don’t keep a wallet in your back pocket. It’s far easier for pick-pockets to lift or slice your wallet from behind without you noticing than it is from a front pocket. And most thieves prefer less risky, low-hanging-fruit targets.

With a little planning and forethought, you can save your vacation from becoming a financial nightmare. Safe and happy travels!

Photo by J. Elliott / CC BY 2.0

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