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I was recently asked if I had any travel tips for dealing with money while on the road – here are a few that might be helpful:
- Paying Bills at Home: Setup all of your bills to be paid electronically, on Autopay (especially useful if you’re planning a long trip)
- Credit cards:
- Get a card with no foreign transaction / ATM withdrawal fees;
- Set you PIN codes to 4 digits (the standard overseas);
- Microchip / “Smart” cards are becoming more ubiquitous, especially in Europe. To play it safe, consider upgrading your cards.
- Inform credit card providers of your travel itinerary (to the extent known);
- Consider getting fraud alerts and/or purchasing fraud protection;
- When using ATMs abroad, find ones with restricted access (e.g. guard on duty) – this will reduce exposure to scams (e.g. unprotected ATMs are more likely to get hacked / have CC reading devices attached;
- Monitor your transactions online – that way, if your card number is stolen and used, you can more quickly ID fraudulent transactions and notify your credit card company (the faster you act, the better chance you have of protecting your account).
- Photocopy your credit cards: Make two copies (front and back) of your cards – keep one with you, and leave another back home with someone you trust.
- Clean Cash: When traveling to countries in which ATM and/or banking services are more limited, be sure to bring sufficient cash — ask your local bank branch for crisp, clean, unmarked $100 bills – check EVERY bill, as even the smallest blemish may cause your $$ to be refused. Carry a few small bills ($1, $5 – also clean, crisp);
- Cash Cache: Never keep all your money and credit cards in one place — keep a secret cache (of cash) — or two — in different parts of your baggage – in case your wallet / purse is stolen, or if your bag is lost / stolen.
- Check your Cash: When receiving local currency (whether from a bank, exchange office or change from a retailer), always inspect your change and every bill, for two reasons:
- To verify correct amount has been given (I’m always surprised at how often people just assume it’s correct), and
- To insure that every bill is in good condition (clean, not ripped, torn or taped) – as these will likely be refused by other retailers (people are always trying to get rid of unwanted bills to foreigners who may be unaware)
- Small Bills: Many countries have a chronic shortage of small bills … so, as you’re traveling (especially in Asia and Central / South America), collect small bills, look for opportunities to break larger bills; don’t be too quick to give away your small bills!
- Know your Dough: Especially if traveling to multiple countries in a relatively short period of time, take the time to familiarize yourself with the local currency denominations / sizes / colors as quickly as possible. In some cases, large and small denominations can be easily mistaken, which makes the traveler ripe for being ripped off (trust me, I know!)
- Exchange Rates: Check exchange rates frequency, as in many countries they can change quickly. Exchange just what you need, cuz you’ll be pretty bummed if, after changing a bunch, the rate changes dramatically the next. Airport currency exchanges are always a ripoff – get what you need (better from an ATM) and get out. And make sure you know the rough equivalent value of standard denominations to your home currency!
- Local Prices: Save some money (and the bad feelings that may come from getting overcharged just cuz you’re an ignorant tourist) by asking locals about prices. For example, ask at your guesthouse or hotel about typical taxi prices from A to B.
Got some additional tips? Add them in the Comments section below.
– Michael is the Senior Editor at GreenTravelerGuides.com, manager of Straus Home Ranch – an eco-lux organic farm vacation rental in the San Francisco Bay Area – and blogs about psychics and gurus at MichaelStraus.org.