Should You Bring Cash While Traveling Abroad?
I recently had a conversation with a few friends of mine who were planning a trip to Colombia. After the basic questions like, “Where are you staying”, “What do you have planned”, “How long are you going for”, etc., I asked what they were doing for money while there. I was shocked when they told me they were going to exchange a large amount of US dollars for Colombian pesos to take with them. Seeing as this isn’t this first time I’ve found myself having this conversation, I felt that this article needed to be written.
Why Shouldn’t I Bring Cash?
Imagine for a moment that you just landed in Thailand, ready to kick off your 2 week backpacking trip. While walking to your hostel, you bump into someone on the street. You think nothing of it until 15 minutes later when you’re at the front desk, frantically searching for your now missing wallet.
Just like that, your trip could be over. While it may seem easy to have cash on hand, it presents a gigantic security risk. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Before you head abroad, ditch the paper and opt for plastic.
Credit Cards Are Your Friend
Now imagine the same scenario above, but this time, instead of calling home and begging someone to wire you money, you go online, and with a few clicks of a button, your old card is cancelled and a new one is on the way. Crisis averted – trip saved.
Whenever possible, use a credit card to pay for your transactions abroad. I use the Capital One Venture and have nothing but good things to say about it. What’s so great about this card?
• No global transaction fees
Use your card anywhere in the world without paying extra fees.
• 2X miles for every dollar spent
Turn necessary purchases into much needed travel breaks.
• Hands down the best customer service
My credit card information was stolen once and used to rack up thousands of dollars in purchases. Capital One called me before I even realized it happened. Within ten minutes, the card and purchases were cancelled and a new card was being overnighted to me. Furthermore, if your card is lost or stolen, they will send a new one to you anywhere in the world. You can’t beat that.
Beyond the safety factor, there’s also the matter of convenience. First, you’ll need to exchange your money for the local currency. That not only takes time, but will incur an exchange fee as well. Then, unless you are the world’s greatest budgeter, you are going to end up with money left over at the end of your trip. Unless you live and are traveling within the Euro zone, that money will be useless back home. That means another trip to the currency exchange office and another fee paid for the “convenience”.
But What If They Don’t Accept Cards?
The vast majority of places you’ll travel will almost certainly accept credit cards. Of course, there’s always that “what if” scenario. Yes, on very rare occasions, you will need some cash. The key word here being some. In these situations, what you need is a good debit card.
Withdrawing money from an ATM is a great way to get around those currency exchange fees. There is typically a fee charged for using an ATM outside of your home country, but the Charles Schwab Investor Checking debit card refunds any of these fees you may incur anywhere in the world. This way, you can keep your withdrawals small for security and convenience reasons, but also visit the ATM as many more times as you need. As an added safety tip, you should only have your debit card on you when you are making a trip to the ATM. Otherwise, keep it tucked away safely in your bag back in the hostel.
So before you leave for your next big trip, get yourself setup with reliable global credit and debit cards. It’s safer, more convenient, and you’ll be racking up points to put towards another trip in no time.