How to Protect Your Money While Traveling

Wed, Feb 16, 2011

Financial Advice

When I was 18, I traveled to Europe as an exchange student. I really didn’t know how to protect my money while traveling, and kept all most all of it in pocketbook, in a single form. I was lucky: The only danger my money faced was being spent. If I had been robbed, I would have been hard-pressed to get my money back (although, as part of a student exchange, I would have had help dealing with the aftermath).

True, I was at a disadvantage: I didn’t have a credit card, and I didn’t have a debit card. (This was a looong time ago.) Traveler’s cheques were the way to go when traveling overseas. However, some of the basics of protecting your money never change. It is especially important to be careful of your money if you know you will be traveling to a place in upheaval. Plus, you never know if the country you are in might suddenly become unpredictable, as what happened in Egypt recently.

Before you head out of the country, consider these tips for protecting your money:

Use Credit Cards

Credit cards are almost universal these days. Take a credit card that is accepted in a wide variety of places. These cards should be used for large purchases (hotel rooms, car rentals, tickets, etc.). Credit cards come with fraud protection, so if your card is lost or stolen, your liability is limited. It’s a good idea to bring at least one other card along with you, as a backup. Your back up card, and a paper with the phone numbers and account information for the cards you are bringing, should be kept in a separate and secure place. A hotel safe or locker is a possible choice.

Keep Cash in Different Places

You probably will need cash for some purchases, since not every vendor will take a credit card — especially if you stray off the beaten path. Don’t keep all your cash in one place, though. Leave some of it in a secure place off your person, and keep some of it separate on person. You can use money belts worn under the clothes to protect some of it, and keep some in a wallet or purse. There are other hiding places that are popular for cash, including socks and bras.
Know Where Your Debit Card Is

If you want access to cash, you can use a debit card. Keep track of it, and report it immediately if it is lost or stolen. Before you go, think about where you are likely to withdraw cash from an ATM. Find out where the ATMs are located, and use those. Be on the alert for false ATMs set up by scam artists in areas frequented by tourists. When in doubt, use a bank ATM (even if the fee is a little higher).

Also, be aware of the differences between ATMs in the U.S. and in other countries. Password and PIN entry may be different; before you go, you may need to choose a PIN that is compliant with the machines in another country.

Clean Out Your Wallet or Purse

Take as little as possible. Take only the identifying information that you need. Limit the number of debit and credit cards you bring to three or four (total). Don’t keep account numbers, Social Security cards and other sensitive information in your wallet or purse. Travel light, and have an inventory — kept separately — of what you are bringing. Do a check at the end of each day to make sure you still have everything.

Let Others Know What You Are Doing

Before you leave, let your card issuers and your bank know that you are traveling overseas. Make copies of your important documents (including your passport). Write down the phone numbers of the banks (account numbers not necessary) in question, and make copies of your itinerary. Give a copy to a trusted family member or friend to keep for you, and keep another copy for yourself. Just make sure it is kept in a secure place.

If you are careful with your money, making preparations, it should be quite safe as you travel, and you can enjoy your vacation.

Do you have any other money tips for traveling overseas?

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