However you travel, be it by land, sea or air, you need money. More money than you would probably need for the same amount of time at home following your daily life. There is always the unexpected to deal with — The Emergency Fund — and money to pay to get around, pay for hotels, and such.
Here are some of my observations after my latest foray into foreign territory where the European-wide cash card/debit card I carry was fed into the wrong slot of a ticket vending machine and promptly swallowed up along with all my Euros.
A lot of people advise credit cards for travel. This is usually because the conversion rates can be more favorable. There are, however, transaction fees on many cards as well as the exchange conversion rate. Some cards do not charge for transactions in the same currency which makes traveling around Europe a lot cheaper if you are European. Credit cards are also favored because, even with the charges incurred, they cost less to use than old fashioned travelers cheques.
Be warned, not everywhere takes credit cards or debit cards if they are not issued in that country — this applies to automatic petrol stations in Italy and some shops, restaurants and hotels — cash withdrawals are more expensive when you withdraw from ATM’s and attract higher interest than other transactions.
I had paid off my credit card before going on this trip and had certain expenses earmarked for its use — the first night in Vienna and the last two nights in Venice and travel around Venice. Note to self — ask for a credit line increase before I go away next time.
I had my other bank’s cash card/debit card with me to pay tolls, car hire surcharges and fuel for the road trips and other incidentals.
My spending money was on the card that got eaten.
Yes, we did have some cash with us.
Travelex offer prepaid currency passports. I found this very useful when I first came to Portugal. You obtain the card, which is linked to your passport for identification purposes, and load it before you leave.
Travelex advertise that they offer the best market rate available to exchange and provide a live tracking service to back this up at major offices. You receive a PIN number when the purchase is completed and this card acts like a credit card and can be used just like a Visa Card or Master Card. These cards are valid for a year and can be topped up by cash at airport kiosks or via their website.
Note to travelers from the USA — most of Europe now uses chip and PIN — if you do not have a chip and PIN card, ask your bank for one.
It is always wise to tell your bank if you are going abroad and you are going to be using your card/s overseas — otherwise you may find a block placed on your account for unusual pattern of usage.
There is one advantage with travelers checks — they guarantee to replace them if they are lost or stolen within 24 hours — but you pay for this in the transaction costs and the exchange rate.
I think I got the theory right about splitting between cards and cash — what I did not do was split my funds more equally and for a multi-destination holiday. I think that is vital.
Know your bank’s policy on replacing lost or stolen cards while abroad — and what details they need to replace them — especially if you are on another continent. A replacement cash passport was sent to me by DHL in 48 hours after it was broken. My Portuguese bank could not get me a new one in under ten working days — we are still counting.
Find out if your bank has agencies in the country you are traveling to and get contact numbers if possible. Find out what is needed identification and information wise to get your card replaced and or access to your account.
Each bank is different.
Check your travel insurance policy — some policies offer stolen or lost money transfers in emergencies.
If you travel a lot it might pay to get specialist travel insurance and to choose your credit cards with this in mind.
If all else fails you have Moneygram and Western Union! If you have online banking and know your codes you can even wire yourself the money — otherwise you need a friend.