5 Tips for Managing Money While Travelling
No one likes the idea of travelling around with a wad of cash. Paying high bank fees and awful exchange rates isn’t appealing either. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, there will be a cost or risk but there are things you can do to reduce those expenses and risks.
Disclosure – This article does include specifics of our money, along with the products and services we personally use. Be sure to do your own research and get professional financial advice specific to your personal circumstances.
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1. Dedicated Accounts
We have travel money separate from the rest of our money and always make sure we have more than one account/credit card available to us. This way, if one gets compromised, we have backup options.
Our preferred options are below but do your own research to see which product or products suit your needs. These are not the only options and don’t include credit cards as we change them regularly.
They tend to have the lowest exchange rates and fees. You can have accounts with different currencies which reduces the need to transfer back and forth, saving even more.
If you know you’re going to travel, you can transfer money to the account for the currency of the country you are travelling to when exchange rates are good and keep it there.
Sign up for Wise for free and once you complete a transaction over $300AUD you will be eligible for a free transaction up to $500GBP.
We’ve used ING for years across Asia, Europe, New Zealand and the South Pacific. ING refund any overseas ATM fees provided you meet the spending criteria the month before, they’re fee-free in Australia and have good customer service. This saved us hundreds when travelling in the islands.
UP Bank and uBank
We trialled Up 3 years ago, right before we were about to head to the islands again. They have an $8 bonus as soon as you join and are fee-free too.
It was great having them as a backup option plus the few times we had issues overseas, customer service resolved it in-app instantly. Whereas ING took months and numerous calls to sort it some issues we had.
When we discovered uBank, we decided to do the same. They have a $20 bonus when you join for free using the code S7VL6WF and use your card 3 times within the first month. For us, it’s pretty much the same as UP.
2. Do NOT Exchange at the Airport
One of the easiest ways to lose money is to exchange it at the airport. The fees are extremely high compared to elsewhere and the exchange rate is atrocious compared to other options.
We understand sometimes you forgot to get cash or feel you don’t have an option so might do it. Try to avoid it where possible though.
How we manage our money while travelling depends partially on where we are. For the most part, we keep small amounts of cash handy and look for safe payment options but use the bank with the lowest fees and best exchange rate at the time.
Hence why we have a few accounts. Check the exchange rate on the day you are doing things but specifically check the Mastercard or Visa exchange rate that applies to your card or account.
3. Compare ATM and Bank Fees in the Country
Countries have more than one banking option usually and the fees will vary in each country too. Check the country you are travelling to and the ATM plus banking fees for each.
As an example, we found BSP to be the cheapest in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Their ATM withdrawal fee was lower than ANZ and Bredbank but always do your own research.
Check the exchange rates of those banks too though. If you are withdrawing a large amount and the exchange rate is better with one of the other banks, a slightly higher ATM fee might work out cheaper overall.
4. Credit Cards
One of the major benefits of credit cards is insurance and protection. Unauthorised transactions can usually be sorted easier.
If they get stolen you can cancel there, unlike cash which once it’s gone, there is nothing you can do.
Credit cards often come with travel insurance, travel bonus points, protection and money returned for unauthorised transactions etc.
That said, do your research and get the right card for your circumstances. Compare fees, interest rates, bonus offers, exchange rates and benefits such as insurance. Always read the product disclosure statement so you know what you are getting.
5. Be Careful With Cash
In the islands, we use cash more than in other locations because many places there don’t accept cards. Buses, taxis, markets, phone credit, all of it is often cash only. As such, we have to get cash out regularly.
With cash, you need to keep it safe and keep an accurate record of what you are spending otherwise you might think you lost money when really, you spent it without realising it.
Keep it close to your body, be aware of your surroundings and people bumping into you or similar. One place many women keep it is in their bra but that can be tricky to access publicly.
There are scrunchies with zips now you can slip cash into, socks inside your shoes etc. With any of these hidden spots, you’ll need to go to a bathroom or something to get the cash first when buying items so it’s not always practical.
Only once in all my travels have I had issues with cash and that was in Austria. I don’t know how I did it but I managed to lose about $200AUD. Other than that, I’ve never had money stolen or gone missing but please, always be careful with cash.
How do you manage money while travelling?
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