When traveling abroad, you want to spend every second enjoying the sights, not stressing about fraud alerts from your bank or how much to tip the taxi drivers. This checklist will help you figure out all things money—before you say “bon voyage.”
1. Give your bank a heads up
Using a credit or debit card abroad can be an easy and secure way to travel—but only if you make a few calls ahead of time. Alert your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans, or they could freeze your account when they spot an overseas purchase. Not having access to money can be a difficult way to travel.
2. Know the rates
Do you have to be able to convert dollars to pounds in your head? No. But having a basic understanding of the currency rate will help you pick the right place to exchange money abroad, as well as give you a gut check on whether that 20-pound cab ride is a better decision than walking eight blocks. Find and download a currency conversion tool, and take a peek at the Federal Reserve’s weekly exchange rates before your trip.
3. Carry some cash
While the use of debit and credit cards is increasingly widespread, there’s no guarantee that every taxi, food station and souvenir shop will welcome your plastic. The good news: You’ll likely be able to use your debit card at most ATMs abroad. Check with your bank before you travel to make sure that’s the case, and ask whether they partner with any banks abroad, so you can avoid pricey ATM fees.
4. Learn the local customs
Did you know: A 15 percent service charge is automatically included on restaurants and cafe bills in France?1 Or that tipping is a no-no for the most part in Japan2 and South Korea?3 Knowing the local tipping etiquette can help make sure you don’t offend—or waste money.
5. Empty your wallet
Losing your wallet anywhere is tough, but it can be a nightmare when you’re abroad. So why travel with every credit card, debit card, library card and piece of ID? Only carry around the documents you need that day, and leave your non-essentials in the hotel safe or at home. Also, take pictures of each card so you have crucial information on hand if you need it. Just don’t forget to have copies of the pictures, in case you lose your phone!
6. Consider opening a travel rewards card
More than 60 percent of credit card holders use their cards to pay for travel expenses.4 So why not pick plastic that’s going to earn you goodies while you travel? If you’re in the market for a new card, look for one that’s tailored to travelers and doesn’t carry a foreign ATM fee.
7. Crunch the numbers on travel insurance
A study by the US Travel Insurance Association found that one in six Americans had to cancel travel plans, but only 22 percent of those who had to cancel had travel insurance (ouch).5 Don’t assume insurance is out of your price range (there are several different types of protection). But the best place to start is by checking the insurance you already have, like your renters or homeowners policies. Some may help you cover unexpected snafus, like if your luggage mysteriously goes missing.