Money is very important when you’re planning to travel out of the country. It’s used to pay for you hotel, train rides, food, etc. Whether you are going backpacking around the world, or just doing a little country hopping on your vacation, knowing how and where to exchange your money can save you heaps. I have compiled a detailed list below is a list to help you out.
Credit cards have many great features, including good exchange rates, secure insured payments and a credit limit that lets you spend more than you originally wanted to if you change your mind. With that in mind though, credit cards can also be dangerous. They tend to carry hefty transaction fees, and they’re usually in the small print. If you’re traveling to a remote area such as the Amazon, local shops or petrol stations won’t have the facilities to accept them. Getting cash from an ATM with a credit card will see your charges racking up too, leaving you less to spend on your travels. Finally, on the flip side to enjoying your holiday and exceeding your intended budget, you might then struggle to pay this off, which means large interest, which in turn stalls future holidays.
Tips: Use for large purchases, then pay off the balance as soon as you can. Look for special offers with no exchange fees or low transaction fees. ALWAYS read the small print. If your card is being charged in your home currency, check the exchange rate yourself because some people will rip you off without you realising!
Cash is King, that’s what they say. Not only is cash accepted everywhere, it will also ensure you pay the right price for everything. Local shops the world over have been known to convert their currency to yours before charging your card (debit or credit) and you end up paying way over the odds due to their made up rate! Cash is great for small purchases, and I never visit a foreign country without at least some local currency jangling in my pocket (zipped!). Unfortunately cash is very, very stealable. Once it’s gone, you won’t get it back. You can’t ring the bank and ask them to cancel your $100 bill. The conversion rates at most high street exchanges or even banks tend to be higher than you can find elsewhere.
Tips: Store securely. Only put money for that day in your wallet, hide the rest safely. Plan ahead of time and order your money from an online broker, you can usually save over 1%, which is substantial when you’re taking thousands.
Usually sporting a more modest limit than a credit card, debit cards can be a good way to manage spend. You can withdraw money without withdrawal fees, which add up over a few countries. The exchange fees are still charged however, and these generally mimic those of a credit card. Again you have the issue of not being able to use it for purchases in remote areas. Any purchases you do make have nowhere near the amount of security that credit card purchases do, so be wary.
Tips: Never let your card out of your sight, they can be skimmed within seconds. Tell your bank where you are going ahead of your trip to avoid your card being blocked. Try to avoid making large purchases with your debit card.
Prepay Currency Card
These are available at fantastic rates online, and act like a credit card that you have to prepay. The exchange rates are the best you will find provided you shop around, plus most of these cards carry no exchange fees. They are accepted just as widely as credit and debit cards. They do have transaction fees, which tend to range from 1% to 4% per transaction. They can charge to top up the card, but this can be waived if your top up is over a certain amount.
Tips: Shop around, and try to make sure your transaction fee is not above 2%.
Pre printed cheques for a nominal amount that can be exchanged for cash wherever you are. Despite being less bulky to carry than cash, travelers’ cheques are becoming accepted less and less worldwide. Of all the backpackers and nomads I have spoken to, I only ever hear bad stories about travelers’ cheques.
Tips: Don’t use them.
Overall, my advice is to use what is right for your trip. Gemma and I are going to 6 countries across 3 continents in August this year, with a budget of £7000 and we have opted for a FairFX Anywhere Card because we have the cash available, and the top up is free. If we didn’t have the money, we would have taken a credit card for large purchases and a debit card for cash withdrawals. We will take cash for the first day, and then use our currency card at ATMs as we go (1.4% transaction fee). We find this works best for us. Happy travels!
Do you have any other suggestions? What is your preferred method of carrying money?
Author Bio: Alan from ‘More Passport Stamps’ is one half of a couple that are traveling the world at their own pace, and aiding others to do the same with advice on how to get to the most glorious destinations in the world on a tight budget.