The popular wisdom is to take your existing debit card. That generally works for purchases/meals and to get local currency from ATM’s once you arrive. I tend to agree since they are easy to find and widespread. However do be really careful if it is attached to your bank account(s). Unlike a credit card, being hacked on a debit card can cause more trouble.
- My first encounter with ATM’s abroad was in 2000. I was on a remote one lane road in northern Scotland in search of the Loch Ness Monster. Not surprisingly, Nessie did not make an appearance. However, down the road was a mini-mart with an ATM!
- My second memorable encounter with ATM’s abroad occurred in Prague. On a rainy November Saturday about 10 years ago, all the banks were closed, and I really needed cash. I stood outside a locked bank door. I could just spy the ATM inside. I waited for someone with a local card to appear and open the door. Then, it struck me: If my US bank card worked at this foreign ATM, it would also activate the door. In seconds, I was inside and had all the cash I needed. You would think that was too easy.
- There are plus and minuses to this approach.
5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Debit or Credit Cards: What are the options?
Alternatives to relying solely on bank debit cards include:
- Buy foreign currency before you leave home.
- Get a limited balance debit card that can be used abroad. (Be sure it works at ATM’s.)
- Check that your card does not have steep charges for using it abroad.
5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Debit or Credit Cards: What issues do you need to look for?
- Fees for use of debit or credit cards once you leave home.
- Can the card be honored abroad?
5 Tips on Traveling with Cash Debit or Credit Cards: How can you avoid theft?
Having once been robbed in broad daylight in a popular European destination, this is an issue I take seriously.
- For currency, separate cash into 3 separate safe areas.
- Use a money belt worn out of side at waist length.
- Only use ATM’s at your lodging, inside at shops or other areas that are well-lit and well-traveled.
- In subways, train stations or other crowded places, women should place their purse under their arm and in cooler weather under a jacket.
- Men should watch out for carrying their wallets in their back pocket.
- Both men and women should watch when using a backpack and not put cash/valuables inside.
5 Tips on Traveling with Cash Currency or Debit Credit Cards: What to do after a robbery?
- With debit and credit cards, have both a hard copy and digital one of the front and back of each. Be sure you know how to reach them online or by telephone while on travel.
- Try to take just one low limit or prepaid card. (Be sure to tell your bank when and where you are traveling to avoid having your card frozen.)
5 Tips on Travel with Cash, Debit or Credit Cards: Travel insurance:
- One of the most important of the 5 Tips on Traveling with Cash Debit or Credit Cards is travel insurance.
- Compare policies before you buy. When I was robbed, my travel insurer paid for everything stolen. They also paid for my $34 cab ride replacing items.
For more tips or questions on travel with cash, currency and debit or credit cards, go to our Contacts page and email us.