Cash and Cards – Tips for a Trip Abroad

Traveling somewhere exotic from your bucket list is exciting. It can also be stressful. Although you can navigate most of Europe quite easily just speaking English, it’s always a wise idea to learn some basics. I have found that “hello”, “goodbye”, “thank you”, “where is the bathroom”, “how much is that?” and “I’m sorry, I don’t speak your language, do you speak English?” are phrases that will get you a long way anywhere you travel.

That being said, no one wants to find themselves in need of extra cash with no way to ask about exchange rates, or using a credit card, only to discover that your bank tacks on a 2% fee for every foreign transaction when you get home.

So here are a few things to do well before you climb on board that great big jet.

Talk with your bank about exchanging US dollars for the local currency of your destination (UK pounds, euros, etc…) Your bank should be able to order the amount you need within a few days. I have a long term relationship with my bank, and they don’t charge me a fee for this. If your bank wants to charge you a fee, consider asking around. If you travel often it might save you some serious cash to open an account with a bank that does not charge you a fee. (or your could change banks altogether, just saying) Getting local money before you arrive can make navigating the taxi or bus ride to your lodgings more of a touristy sight-seeing experience than a Survivor challenge.

Secondly, find out whether the banks that issue the credit card(s) you plan to take with you charge a “foreign transaction” fee. Those little puppies can add up. Do this far enough ahead to give you time to apply for a different credit card. Marriott and United Airlines both have branded VISA cards through Chase Bank that do not charge foreign transaction fees. Those are just examples from my own experience, you may find another card deal that serves you better.

Third, contact all your credit card companies (for the cards that you will be taking with you), and let them know where you will be, and when, so that they will know it’s not a case of identity theft. Make sure to leave the rest of your credit cards at home. Also, take pictures of all the cards and ID you are taking with you, front and back, so that you will have contact information in case you lose your wallet (or it is stolen).

And finally, when making purchases, especially large ones on a trip, you should take into consideration exchange rates, export and import fees, (and any card transaction fees if you are stuck with one that charges them). This can help you make wise decisions about what you really need, and what you should pass up. (take a photo perhaps, or make note of the manufacturer to purchase at home) Post-vacation financial regrets are a common occurrence. Save yourself this heartache by adding a foreign exchange app to the smart device you take with you.

(I’ll have more to say about travel tech to make a trip abroad less stressful in another blog)


So those are my tips from previous travel abroad to places like Bali, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Spain, France, and Scotland. Do you have a trick you want to share? What financial experiences (good or bad) have you had that taught you a valuable lesson? Drop us a comment!

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Reformed road warrior with side interests in human rights, fuzzy creatures, great food, and a healthier planet.

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