How To Keep Your Money Safe and Secure While You Travel

by Millie Kay G. on October 7, 2008

Enjoy peace of mind when you travel: here’s how to keep your money safe and secure when you’re out of town.

keep money safe and secure while you travel
Photo from wricontest

Have you ever noticed how travelers on science fiction shows never seem to worry about their money? I wish I could go 7,000 light years without losing a dime when I visit exotic locations. So for my next trip, I’ll keep these tips in mind:

Plan To Keep Your Money Safe While You Travel

Watch Your Cash

I don’t want to take a lot of cash on the trip; it’s hard to keep track of money even when I’m not gawking at attractions. Keep in mind that theft and losses can happen even to the most savvy tourist. Travel guru Rick Steves prefers to keep his cash and other essentials in a money belt while traveling.

Before leaving on any trip, get the scoop on exchange rates and how to trade in your dollars for local currency. Your local bank should be able to help you, but sites like Yahoo’s Currency Converter or Bloomberg’s Currency Converter can offer detailed information as well. Some hotels abroad can help you exchange your money, but the best rates might be at local banks — a reputable guidebook like Fodor’s might help narrow down your choices.

It’s also wise to read up on tipping customs of the destination you’re visiting. For some types of services, tips are already included in the charges; in contrast, I’ve heard that some cultures frown on tipping.

Credit Cards Are Convenient

The last time I went on a trip, I took my credit card. After all, it’s convenient and accepted in lots of places, but I’m careful not to penalize myself by taking out expensive cash advances. Credit cards are also great for monitoring and tracking down what I’ve spent at those airport gift shops and in restaurants. What I particularly like about using my card is the fact that I could easily look up detailed listings of my expenses at my credit card company’s website.

However, it’s best to keep in mind that these benefits may cost more in the long run. For instance, if I travel to another country, I might run into transaction fees. And not every place I visit will be able to accept my credit card, such as the street vendors who sell on a cash-only basis. To contain the transaction fees, I’m going to scour through the fine print that comes with my card or double check and ask my credit card company to clarify the details on these fees.

As a safety measure, you may want to inform your credit card company that you’re going out of town. Otherwise, they might flag your account for suspicion of fraud. If something dire happens to your card while you’re out of the country, your bank will usually let you call collect.

Debit Cards and ATM Cards

From Ottawa to Okinawa to Oklahoma City, you should be able to use your debit card and ATM card. Prior to leaving home, make sure your cards can be used in compatible networks and be aware of the fees you’ll encounter. For instance, a look at Google Maps tells me that Ottawa has tons of banks; and though Okinawa has less listings for banks, a search on ATMs brings up many more listings.

While on the road, you should be vigilant for signs of fraud like card skimmers attached to ATMs and people who snap your card’s picture. Of course, you should always be aware of what’s happening to your card, no matter where you are. In addition, remember that hotels and car rental places like to impose holds on cards that are used for their services. This can lead to problems if you don’t want your money tied up.

Just as it is with your credit card company, it’s a good idea to give your bank some advance notice of your trip or they might flag your accounts for fraud.

Travelers Checks, Anyone?

The last time I used a travelers check was over a decade ago. However, since you have to sign them, they’re still safer than carrying a load of anonymous cash around, and if I run into trouble, they’d be a lot easier to replace than cash. AAA Financial Services offers travelers checks to its members, and you can find American Express Travelers Cheques at participating banks, credit unions, and at American Express Travel Services.

Personal Checks Aren’t As Widely Used

I’ve noticed how a lot of fast food places around here have stopped taking personal checks, let alone out-of-town checks. I’m sure that my relatives and friends in the US will take my checks, but if I’m visiting shops and restaurants, or traveling abroad, I’ll be using other means to pay.

One More to Go: The Mobile Option

I’ve discovered that PayPal Mobile can help me out if I’m staying with friends. If I happen to have a compatible cellphone service, I can text message PayPal Mobile to pay my buddies for my share of the restaurant tab or theater tickets as an alternative to cash. Clearing out my tab before I leave is much classier than skipping town with a giant IOU sign, right?

Seeing all these options, I know that my money worries won’t weigh as much as my baggage the next time I hit the road!

If you’re looking for travel bargains, check out our Travelocity’s Race To Savings Promotions, where we give you an update on the latest travel deals available from Travelocity!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marc @ JustThrive October 7, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Great suggestions. Many east Asian countries like Japan and Korea don’t have a custom of tipping, which might be why Asians are considered bad tippers here in the US.

2 marina k. villatoro June 16, 2009 at 7:54 am

I’m soooo paranoid about my money, being robbed a number of times. That if we go to the bank it’s like it’s written all over my face. My husband has now started taking the cash, he says when you don’t act like you have anything, they believe it!

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