5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Debit or Credit Cards: Before going abroad, I always ask myself if it is better to take local currency or debit and credit cards.
The popular wisdom is to take your existing debit card. That generally works for purchases/meals and to get local currency from ATM’s once you arrive. I tend to agree since they are easy to find and widespread. However do be really careful if it is attached to your bank account(s). Unlike a credit card, being hacked on a debit card can cause more trouble.
- My first encounter with ATM’s abroad was in 2000. I was on a remote one lane road in northern Scotland in search of the Loch Ness Monster. Not surprisingly, Nessie did not make an appearance. However, down the road was a mini-mart with an ATM!
- My second memorable encounter with ATM’s abroad occurred in Prague. On a rainy November Saturday about 10 years ago, all the banks were closed, and I really needed cash. I stood outside a locked bank door. I could just spy the ATM inside. I waited for someone with a local card to appear and open the door. Then, it struck me: If my US bank card worked at this foreign ATM, it would also activate the door. In seconds, I was inside and had all the cash I needed. You would think that was too easy.
- There are plus and minuses to this approach.
5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Debit or Credit Cards: What are the options?
Alternatives to relying solely on bank debit cards include:
- Buy foreign currency before you leave home.
- Get a limited balance debit card that can be used abroad. (Be sure it works at ATM’s.)
- Check that your card does not have steep charges for using it abroad.
5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Debit or Credit Cards:What issues do you need to look for?
- Fees for use of debit or credit cards once you leave home.
- Can the card be honored abroad?
5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Debit or Credit Cards: How can you avoid theft?
Having once been robbed in broad daylight in a popular European destination, this is an issue I take seriously.
- For currency, separate cash into 3 separate safe areas.
- Use a money belt worn out of side at waist length.
- Only use ATM’s at your lodging, inside at shops or other areas that are well-lit and well-traveled.
- In subways, train stations or other crowded places, women should place their purse under their arm and in cooler weather under a jacket.
- Men should watch out for carrying their wallets in their back pocket.
- Both men and women should watch when using a backpack and not put cash/valuables inside.
5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Currency and Debit or Credit Cards: What to do after a robbery?
- With debit and credit cards, have both a hard copy and digital one of the front and back of each. Be sure you know how to reach them online or by telephone while on travel.
- Try to take just one low limit or prepaid card. (Be sure to tell your bank when and where you are traveling to avoid having your card frozen.)
5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Debit or Credit Cards: Travel insurance:
- Compare policies before you buy. When I was robbed, my travel insurer paid for everything stolen. They also paid for my $34 cab ride replacing items.
For more tips or questions on travel with cash, currency and debit or credit cards, go to our Contacts page and email us.