The fact is when you travel it is impossible to pre-pay for every little thing you will need. The smaller the detail, the less likely you can prepay it and the more likely you will not even think about it before hand. What this means is you need to either carry some cash, a credit card or have access to cash. So that means getting your travel money sorted out before leaving home is a good idea.
When travelling there are some ways that you can get or access cash. There are some that are going to come with a cost while others will be a minimal impact. The main difference comes down to how comfortable you are with the different options available.
Carrying some cash is the easiest way to have it available. You can change currency for most major countries before leaving home. Which takes a lot of the guesswork out of the whole process.
However, at the same time cash is also possibly the least secure option. If you lose cash or have it stolen there is little if anything you can do to recover it. Carrying a few hundred or even a thousand dollars in cash is feasible. But much more and you are in my opinion exploring yourself to risk.
Even if you are careful, there is always the thought in the back of your mind at how much you are carrying. Plus there are also requirements in almost every country that you declare if you are carrying more than $10,000 in cash. Which subsequently requires supporting documentation of where and how you got the money.
Depending on where you are travelling a credit card can be a good alternative to cash. But does come with one big downside. Unless you are going to keep up to date with the exchange rate and calculate every purchase you never know just how much you are spending.
Although in some places a credit card may not be a lot of use. I have found places where they might only access VISA or MasterCard. While some areas may not have credit card facilities at all.
While it might be possible to get a cash advance on a credit card, this is a very bad idea. Besides any fees you would pay at home, there is likely to be other fees added on as well. Such as currency exchange fees and potentially withdrawal fees. I am no financial advisor, and it is your choice. But to me, a cash advance while overseas unless it is an extreme emergency seems like a real bad idea.
You can consider taking you regular bank account card to withdraw money. Some banks do have banks they work with in other countries, allowing you to use their ATM’s and branches.
However, you need to make sure that you are aware of any fees and charges that you may get charged. They can very quickly add up, and can quickly make it a very expensive option.
For example for someone from Australia with a Westpac Bank account, you might expect the following fees. A 3% foreign transaction fee on all debit or credit card withdrawals. A 2% cash advance fee on credit card withdrawals where “credit” option is selected. A $5 ATM Withdrawal fee if you do not use a Global ATM Alliance network or a Westpac Group partner ATM. Potentially other fees from the owner of the ATM.
So if you were to withdraw $100, and all potential fees were involved it would cost you an additional $8+ using your bank card. Or could be $10+ if you were to withdraw money from your credit card.
Every time I have travelled I have had travel money cards with me. They are potentially the most flexible option, but not much more secure than cash.
Most travel money cards have the ability to act as a bank card and debit card. Meaning that the money loaded on the card can be withdrawn from an ATM like you bank card. But you can also select the credit option when making a purchase.
There are some things that you might want to check on the different cards before moving forward.
– Do they charge a fee to get the card?
– Is the exchange rate different to the cash rate?
– Are there any fees when reloading the card?
– How do you reload the card?
It is worth comparing all the features of any card before going ahead. Just to see if there is any additional benefit between one over another. Just a reminder I am not a financial advisor so please do your research before getting a card. Which is also the reason why I am not naming any particular offer.
What You Might Need Cash For
From my point of view, there are some things that I book and prepay and others that I leave until I arrive. Generally, we think about how we are going to get there, the flights, trains or such. Plus we also look at booking and paying for somewhere to stay. Sometimes I will even do a little research and book some tours in advance.
But it is everything else that is left to pay with cash or credit card when we are there. The list can get a little longer so it is worth thinking about what may come up.
– Transport from airport to hotel
– Public Transport
– Meals (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)
– Drinks (Can include everything even water)
– Tips (Some countries this is unavoidable)
– Attraction Entry Fees
– Shows (e.g. Broadway, theatre, stage shows)
– Other entertainment (e.g. Las Vegas Gambling)
– Pampering (e.g. massage)
– Impulsive tours
– Impulsive car or bike rental
– Entry to national parks
I can be certain there are things that I have not included. But you get the idea; many things can take cash once you arrive.
There are also other considerations where you might plan one thing but find a very different situation. I have two stories that show this working in both directions from when I have travelled.
When I arrived in Vancouver for the first time, I had planned to use an airport shuttle service. The price was somewhere around $20 to get from the airport to my hotel on a shared shuttle service. However, due to some delays, I missed the last service for the day. I end up taking the train from the airport to the city for $5. Saving some money, but adding a little stress.
On the other hand, when I arrived in Nice, France, it turned out to be a public Holiday. I had planned to take the bus from the airport to the city for around €3 or €4. But I arrived to find no public transport operating at all; the only option was to take a taxi. The cost was €45, much more expensive than I had planned, but the only option.
Keep A Cash Backup
As you can see from the last story having some cash can be a great benefit. So one thing I do is always make sure I have some cash tucked away somewhere. Sort of like a just in case fund. It may only be $50 or so, but it is money that can help me out in a tight spot.
But at the same time, it is money I know I will rarely ever need. I tend to travel with more backup options for access to money than people have to backup their computer.
How I Carry My Travel Money
I just want to give you a brief overview of how I travel with cash and cards. The fine details are not so important as everyone travels with different things. But there are a few key points to keep in mind.
I always travel with multiple options; there are multiple credit cards or travel money cards. Plus I also often travel with two or more different currencies.
The important thing about how I travel though is that I never keep it all together in one place. I try and split the cash between at least three or four different locations, on me or in my luggage. While trying to do the same with the cards to some degree.
What this means is if my wallet is stolen, I might lose one card and some money, but not all of it. The same if I lose a bag, some money and/or cards might go, but not everything. So for me, it is about building some level of failsafe into carrying money.
Enjoy The Holiday
I hope that this post has given you some things to consider for your next trip. Getting your travel money organised is always a little bit of a grey area. You just never know how much is enough, or if it might be just a bit too much. But hopefully, I have been able to give you some things to think about when trying to consider how you will access your money overseas.