Enter your email address

How Should I Travel With Money?

by Tony · 12 comments

The Basics Of Dealing With Money While Traveling

If you’re anything like me, trying to figure out how you are going to travel with money is a headache.

When we were planning our around the world trip, worst case scenarios easily flashed in front of me. I wondered what I would do in a foreign country if I lost my wallet, got my credit card stolen, or had some other terrible financial calamity strike…

freaking out about money and travel

After a year of international travel, I’m here to tell you that you really don’t need to freak out. Just look yourself in the mirror and say this:

Cool it

While there are a lot of sources online about the best way to prepare (and they don’t all agree), there really are only a few simple things you need to do before you travel with money.

Credit Cards For Travel

You probably saved for a long time and saved every penny you could to travel, so don’t be giving those pennies away to the bank!

Most credit cards have a “foreign transaction fee” that is automatically charged when you buy something in a foreign currency. You might not think it’s a big deal, but when you’re traveling long-term, those 1% charges add up. Avoid them by doing 1 minute of research.

Capital One offers a great card with no fee and is what we used during our travels. Do your research, but just make sure whatever credit card you select has no foreign transaction fees!

You can also check out some helpful money tips from the always traveling Rick Steves.

ATM Card For Travel

Same thing with your credit card. Don’t let the bank take an extra fee!

You’re going to be out of your normal ATM network, so don’t get hit by those $3-5 charges (or worse) every time you hit the ATM. Ally Bank use to reimburse all ATM fees, but changed it in the last few years to only be within the US.

Charles Schwab still reimburses all domestic and international ATM fees, so it won me over. The only trick is you have to open a brokerage account as well. Just leave this new brokerage account with $0 and there are no issues, so don’t fret.

Bonus Tip: If you don’t want to get new checking accounts or credit cards, you can always call your bank. Be as polite as you can and see if they will waive these fees while you are overseas.

If the first person you speak with won’t do it, call back and see if the second person will waive the fees. You will be surprised how often this works.

Your Old Credit & ATM Cards

So now that you have a new credit and ATM card for travel, what do you do with your old ones?

We still brought ours along and kept them stored safely for emergency purposes. If we ever got our travel cards stolen or lost, we at least still had the means to get cash.

Nothing makes you stress-yell at your travel partner more than not being able to access your money…

Calm Down

And just in case you’re in an area where you can’t find an ATM and nobody takes credit card (happened more than I thought in our travels), have some US dollars stashed in a few different places. Hide some in your backpack, in toiletry bags, and even under the soft inserts on your sneakers. Just remember where you hid it all!

Keeping Your Money Safe While You Travel

Money belts… just don’t.

I had a money belt the first two weeks of our trip. I finally had enough when I got stuck in a checkout line in a Santiago grocery store with Meg trying to fish money out of the money belt that was under my pants, on my back, and below my belt (aka sitting on my butt).

Poor Meg.

The threat of pickpockets while traveling overseas is probably overblown. That being said, I did get pickpocketed twice on the same train ride in Buenos Aires!

So if you don’t use a money belt, what should you do?

Nothing beats being alert and smart with your money.

  1. Never carry too much at one time.
  2. Always be aware in crowded spaces
  3. Pay attention to people standing awkwardly close to you.

Besides being vigilant, you could also check out some nifty travel pants. I highly recommend these Scottevest travel pants (non-affiliate link) as they worked amazingly well. They have hidden pockets that close with magnets under your main front pockets. These are perfect places to keep money and credit cards while still being able to easily access them when you’re out.

Plus, I always thought I looked much more stylish in these travel pants than many of the other brands that tended to make me look like a middle age hiker…

Traveling with money

Your Turn

What is your #1 tip for dealing with money when you travel? Share your best piece of advice in the comments below!

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? August 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Thanks for the travel pants tip. I’ll check those out.

One thing I always want to do but never get to because I’m lazy is to spread my money around in different spots on my body and luggage (backpack). When we withdrew large sums at Xoom offices in Argentina I’d put small wads under the insole of each of my shoes, in my wallet, and in the money belt. But other than that, I just can’t be bothered and end up carrying larger amounts in the money belt. Which I hate, so alternatives like those travel pants or boxer briefs with hidden pockets are next on my list of things to try.

Tony August 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Hi Peter!

The travel pants were honestly… amazing. The ones from Scottevest were definitely the only ones I found that looked dressy enough to not look like hiking pants and the hidden pockets were crucial to my sanity.

After the first month or two of travel, I also let my guard down a bit. Being smart about where we went and at what times was probably the best way we found to keep our money safe. Although I did always have some dollars spread around our bags just in case…


Rachel Lloyd August 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Very informative. I have traveled a ton and this is super helpful. Great tips

Catherine August 20, 2014 at 5:34 pm

I use a money belt only when I’m carrying a ton of cash. (I had to bring about $7,000 with me when I led a study abroad trip to Ghana and boy, was I stressed the whole flight!)
Otherwise my best tip is don’t carry a lot of cash.
As an aside, I used a wallet with two pockets when I was leading the study abroad trip—one side was for my personal money and the other was from the trip budget. It helped me keep it all straight. You could use that strategy to portion out your own money—say, for souvenirs or food.

Tony August 20, 2014 at 6:58 pm

WHOA!!!! OK, Catherine… I’ll make a money belt exception for when you are carrying more than $5,000 in cash :) I would definitely wear one then too!

I love the idea of separating spending cash by purpose. It would help make sure you don’t go over budget by accidentally spending food money on a massage (unless you consciously wanted to do that).

Thanks again for sharing, Catherine!


Catherine August 20, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Yeah! That much cash definitely seemed excessive, but I had a lot to pay for in a cash-only society!

And for the record, I wholly support using food money for a massage. 😉

Bill Volckening August 20, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Aha, well my methods are super top secret, which is why nobody ever finds my money when I travel. So top secret, in fact, I have often found money stashed away after returning home :)

Tony August 20, 2014 at 9:41 pm

HA! It’s almost like bonus money at that point… almost :)

kelsey August 20, 2014 at 6:21 pm

this post cracked me up and love the tina gif. great tips!
ladies in navy

Tony August 20, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Thanks, Kelsey! We aim to amuse and to educate :)

P.S. We have never been to the big island of Hawaii but have heard amazing things. Meg’s parents retired to Kauai so we definitely plan on checking all islands out at some point. Would love some tips!


Yvonne King August 21, 2014 at 12:10 am

This is a fantastic article with lots of great tips. One of my best friends was robbed when traveling in South America and it was one of the scariest things that I have ever heard of. She was meeting a friend there, but they were traveling separately (both from the US). The friend arrived first and got chatty with an airport security guy. He was a con-artist who worked in some sort of crime ring and when my friend arrived, they told her a bunch of things about her friend and put her in a cab. That cab dropped her off in the middle of nowhere and took ALL of her stuff. Luckily a friendly hotel let her use a computer with internet to have money wired to her for the trip, but had she had some cash in her shoe sole, it sure would have come in handy!

Tony August 21, 2014 at 10:12 am

That is terrifying, Yvonne!

Glad your friend ended up being OK. You never want to let the possibility of the bad things happening wreck your experience of the great things that can happen during travel, but is sure helps to be prepared just in case.

Really glad you shared an example of why it makes sense to take a few precautions!


Comments on this entry are closed.

Older post:

Newer post: