Finding the best travel money solution is incredibly important as aside from your passport, having access to money is the second most important thing while travelling. But circumstances frequently work against us whilst traveling to make accessing money much harder than it should be.
With the prevalence of ATMs all over the world nowadays the need to travel with travelers cheques has been eliminated, thankfully, and for most situations having a bank card will suffice to allow you access to money while travelling, but
A BANK CARD ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH. EVER.
Your bank may at some point block your card
Even if you’ve told them you will be abroad (one of my banks continues to sporadically do this even though I’ve told them at least 6 times now that I am out of the country for the foreseeable future).
Someone might steal your ATM card
Or you may even just lose it. Whether it goes because of the bad actions of someone else or a mistake on your part, just having one bank card is not enough.
There are some locations in which ATMs will not work with your card
There is no way to predict when and where this will happen and sometimes it will even be the case that all ATMs in one area won’t like your particular bank card. I know this sounds rather far fetched but it happened to me when on the island of Phi Phi in southern Thailand. You need to know you’ve got a back up plan in case something like that happens to you as if you’re on an island it’s not even like you could get a taxi to another town to find an ATM, you would literally be stuck there if you have no other access to money.
Some places don’t have ATMs
Really. Even if you don’t think you’re going to be going that much off the beaten track. We discovered there weren’t any ATMs even in the middle of Varkala in Kerala India which is a really popular tourist location in that area.
The Best Travel Money Solution
The are actually 3 elements to the travel money solution that will ensure you always have access to money when you need while traveling. And that will allow you to avoid the pitfalls listed above.
Take multiple bank cards with you from different banks
In case your bank blocks your card for any reason you need to know you’ve got another bank card on you just in case. I would strongly suggest this is with a different bank in case the bank happens to put a block on your whole account. This happened to a friend of mine who had to cancel one bank card while on his trip but the geniuses at his bank cancelled all of his cards, rather than just the one he’d misplaced, meaning the “back up bank card” that he’d brought with him was then unusable as well.
Have different types of bank cards with you
In general credit cards are the best to take with you when traveling as they offer the most protection for if someone were to gain access to your account. That said there are some locations where the ATMs will only accept debit cards, as I found to be the case in a number of places in Cambodia.
With me on this trip I have one MasterCard, one Visa card, one Visa debit card and an American Express card. That may sound excessive but when you factor in the situations that could occur, as mentioned above, it makes sense. Each and every single one of those cards has been useful to me at some point in my travels.
Always have US dollars on you
It will make your life a lot easier and help you out of many a sticky situation if you make sure you always have at least $100 USD in your backpack. American dollars are the most widely accept currency in the world. Their prevalence will allow you to make a purchase in most places, even if they’re not the official currency, and will be readily exchanged.
If, for whatever reason, you find yourself in a location where the above back up plans with bank cards haven’t worked, as long as you’ve got some US dollars on you, you’ll be able to get by.
I personally like to keep $100 USD not just in my big backpack but also in my small day backpack. That way if one bag gets stolen on a journey I always have some back up money in case of emergency.
I’ve always kept this stash of money and variety of cards on me in different bags since I travel solo and so I have no one to borrow money off if something goes wrong. I have to be my own back up plan. But to prevent theft even these guys, who travel as a couple, recommend the exact same thing, and they’re all over it in terms of travel safety. Solo or with someone else, make sure you have backups.
As well as the above measures to ensure you’ll always have access to money, somehow, before you leave for your travels be sure to:
Get a bank card that won’t charge you for taking cash out abroad
It doesn’t need to be all of your bank cards that do this, as some of them should be for emergency purposes only, but it will save you a lot of money if one of your bank cards doesn’t charge you for transactions abroad*. It is also safer that way since then, instead of having to take out as much money as possible each time you go to an ATM to minimize withdrawal fees, you can just take out what you need, as and when you need it. Just like you would at home.
If you get the right credit card all your cash withdrawals will be at a near perfect exchange rate too, unlike a lot of the currency exchange shops that give hideously bad rates especially at airports (never change money at the airport when you’ve just arrived in a country unless there is absolutely no way to avoid it), or even run scams and steal people’s money.
Got any other tips on the best travel money solution to use to ensure you always have access to money when on the road? Leave them in the comments below so others can benefit from your experience too.
*If you’re from the UK Money Saving Expert is the best place to find out which cards do and don’t charge for withdrawals when abroad.
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