We have come a long way from the days of traveler’s cheques or having to carry all your cash on your person. I still remember the first overseas trip I made, I was clutching my bag quite desperately as it contained all of my money and I was terrified that someone would snatch it. Technology has made accessing money while overseas a lot simpler, but with the convenience has come another set of problems, in the form of fees and cyber-attacks.
Today I will be writing about the way that I access money while I travel. This method works for both popular locations such as Europe or USA or off the beaten tracks such as small islands like Mauritius.
I use a combination of cash, travel cards, debit and credit cards.
Multi-Currency Travel Card (Qantas Cash)
There are so many companies and banks that offer this service now, choosing one comes down to currencies available, fees and exchange rates. Being Australian, I use the Qantas Cash card, as it is one of the best in Australia. It offers decent exchange rates, no fees (apart from when withdrawing money from an ATM) and frequent flyer points.
This system works best if you want to lock in the exchange rates before you go travelling. I tend to monitor the exchange rates during the months prior to travelling and will load in cash when the rates are decent. Qantas Cash also runs promotions where you can get extra frequent flyer points upon loading a certain sum.
I use this card to pay for most things, including dinners, pretty much every where I can pay by card. It also provides an easy way to monitor spending.
Best for: everyday payments via card, shopping, locking exchange rate.
Citibank Plus account with Debit Card
This is the best card on the market for two reasons. Firstly, it has no fees whatsoever (you read that correctly, absolutely no fees even when you withdraw money).
Secondly, it also offers the best exchange rates – almost equivalent to the market rates. It is not a credit card, so you need to have money in your linked account before you can make a purchase.
This is the only card you need, if you do not need to lock in rates, as the rates are calculated daily. On my recent trip to Mauritius, I used my Citibank card to withdraw cash from a local ATM to pay for most of our expenses (Mauritius runs mainly on cash)
Citibank is present in 160 countries and you can manage your account online.
The only downside to this account is opening it – you will need to visit a Citibank branch with your passport. This can be a pain as there are very few Citibank branches!
Best for: withdrawing cash from ATMs, everyday use.
I don’t tend to use my credit card while overseas as it can be quite expensive. Foreign currency fees can be a few percent each time, which adds up quickly. The one thing that a credit card can be handy for is when checking into a hotel and they want to place a hold. It is much better to use a credit card for this, as they do not lock your funds. You also do not need to pay your hotel bill with the credit card you use for the hold. Often we will pay our bill with our Qantas card.
Best for: hotel reservations/holds, car rental, emergencies.
I always travel with a very small amount of the local currency, in case I cannot withdraw cash upon available or use my cards. I will also withdraw cash using my Citibank card while I am in a country. I like to pay for certain things using cash, there is something quite fun about handling a foreign currency.
Best for: tipping, spending money when you first arrive, local shops and markets.
What I do before going:
- Inform my bank that I will be travelling.
I also disable the SMS component of my online banking. I request for password only security, so that I can transfer money to my other account or traveller card while I do not have access to my usual number.
- Get some foreign currency
As soon as I am happy with the exchange rate, I will buy some currency, usually no more than 200 dollars worth
- Transfer money to my Multi-currency card (Qantas cash card)
I tend to put half of my travelling money on my Qantas card and I will typically load the money when I am happy with the exchange rate
- Transfer money to my Citibank account
A couple of days before I fly out, I will transfer the remainder of my travelling money to my Citibank account.
So there you go, this is how I handle and access my money while travelling. How do you access your money?