All Things Money – Global Outings™

Everyone has their own system for accessing cash when they travel — This is mine. I’ve developed it after one mugging, one attempted mugging, and running out of dough several times.

Cash & Carry

  • Credit Card with Low Limit: I have a special credit card that I travel with that has a low credit limit, that way if the card is stolen I won’t get wiped out. I then go online to pay off the card as I’m traveling.
  • ATM Card: I opened a checking account with Charles Schwab that doesn’t charge any ATM fees. Those $2-$4 fees can really add up and this card can save you quite a bit of money when a home-town bank ATM is nowhere in sight.
  • Credit Card Companies: Call your credit card company and let them know which countries (or at least the region) you’ll be in. I had a few friends that used to brag about buying so much in Milan they all had their credit cards tuned off. This is not only nauseating, but unnecessary — on all levels.
  • American Express Checks: Most travelers no longer use traveler’s checks since very few banks will honor them and money changers charge a small fortune. When I was in Russia, only 1 bank in the entire country would cash them. (The local American Express office wouldn’t even exchange them!)
  • US Dollars: I don’t care what you say, if you’re in a bind, US dollars are the way out of it every time. Make sure you have new bills with no tears or writing on them. Also, ensure you have small denominations – plenty of $20, $5, and $1 bills.
  • Local Currency: Definitely helps you negotiate a better bargain when shopping, and as one of my travel guides, Kym, said: “You’re in their country, you should use their money.”

Separate but Equal

I’m pretty diligent about keeping my money stashed in different locations. Small bills and coins go in front pockets for quick buys of water and snacks. Local currency is stashed in a small wallet across my body with an ID and a credit card.

(This is also my mugger’s money – a very New York City concept that holds that if and when you get held up, it’s better to be able to give your assailants some money, rather than none and all, since that would only piss them off and possibly make them violent.)

Passport, ATM card and US dollars go in a money belt out of sight, down my pants. I also keep a small amount in another bag and make photo copies of my credit cards and all IDs to carry separately from the originals. Last, I scan a copy and upload to my virtual vault (I use SugarSync), so that I can access copies of the documents anywhere in the world.

Ready & Wired

I never want to be caught without money, because I have been before and it’s not fun. (Read: Trannie Revenge: Phuket, Thailand) So for emergencies or a miscalculated budget, I give mom 2 checks to cash and wire to me if I need money anytime along the road.

Experience has told me that it’s best to provide the cash to your point person upfront, so there’s no discussion about what you’re going to do with the money. Your loved one might have a different view of the necessity of, say, going to Madagascar, extending your trip by another month, or buying that really really expensive pair of shoes.

How do you work your money while traveling? Would love to hear your tips!


This entry was posted on Saturday, May 14th, 2011 and is filed under What to Pack.

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