When you end up on a small island in Honduras needing to pay the dive shop and the island’s only ATM is down, or when you have $1000 cash stolen from your bag in NYC, you realize the importance of figuring out your finances prior to going travelling.
My main money tips for travelling abroad:
- Know if where you’re going is cash or card friendly. Most countries in Europe require little to no cash (even the bathrooms in Copenhagen take credit cards!) but in Central America and parts of Southeast Asia, if a place accepts cards, they tack on an extra fee so cash is best.
- Most credit cards charge a foreign conversion fee of 2.5%. Find a credit card that doesn’t charge this, or offers you a higher rate of cash back on foreign currency purchases. The Rogers World Elite mastercard is a no fee card giving you 4% back on foreign purchases.
- Carry local currency. There is no point in changing your money twice because you have an idea that US dollars are widely accepted. They are pretty widely accepted at a shitty exchange rate so you might as well bring the correct currency for the country you are visiting.
- Carry a small amount of your home currency to avoid having to make an expensive withdrawal on your last day on vacation when you run out of cash. This saves you from converting too much money and losing money converting it back, but allows you exchange small amounts to cover your last day expenses. Most countries have a bank or exchange booth that will allow you to exchange your home currency for local currency without too bad of a rate.
- Download the app xe.com to have a quick conversion calculator.
- Not all currency exchanges have equal rates. A bit of research ahead of time can save you a lot of money. As a general rule, airport currency exchange booths offer the worst rates (and charge a service fee!)
- Know your bank charges in advance and factor this in when making withdrawals. If you are planning to take out $100 every two days and your bank charges you $5 on top of the local bank charging you $5, you’re paying an extra 10% on top of the exchange fee. Balance this with the risk of carrying a large amount of cash on you – in countries where theft is common, that $10 every couple days might be worthwhile insurance. Better yet, get a card that allows for free withdrawals abroad. I use the free Tangerine card allowing me free withdrawals in many countries. If you use the orange key 16663560S1 they’ll give you a free $50 for signing up. Free account, $50 for signing up, and free international withdrawals? Why not!? Once small catch… they have a few countries that are “white listed” meaning you need to have your card unlocked before you travel or it won’t work. When I phoned to inquire, I was told Australia and New Zealand are current white listed countries (2018)
- Carry two debit cards and two credit cards from separate banks. Or three. Because when your Tangerine card isn’t working in Australia and you locked yourself out of your RBC account, you’ll be glad to have access to funds.
- Keep your money and cards in separate places. If you’re robbed, you’ll be grateful you stashed a back up cards and some cash in your dirty underwear at the bottom of your backpack.
- When booking travel, check which credit card offers the best insurance. Most travel rewards cards have incredible travel insurance but require you book your trip with them.
- Use those extreme couponing skills when booking travel. I’m very into Ebates right now and then grabbing extra coupon codes for Hotwire, Groupon getaways or collecting Expedia points on top of my cash back. Don’t sign up to these sites without getting the significant sign up bonuses through referral codes. One of my biggest travel fails was signing up for Uber without a referral code and paying for my first ride while the rest of the world gets their first ride free!
For more tips on saving money while booking travel click here. I’ve included links for some kick ass sign up deals like $45 off your first Airbnb stay.