10 travel money tips you need to know before you travel | finder.com

How to organize your travel money before you travel

Looking to organize your travel money like a pro? Use these tips and tricks.

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There’s vaccinations, passport applications and flight bookings to take care of, but travel money should also be in the spotlight of your pre-vacation checklist. Being in a foreign country without access to money could be the difference between a good and bad vacation.

Follow these 10 easy travel money tips and your vacation cash flow should be all set!

1. Budget

When you start to plan a vacation, you should already have a budget blueprint. To craft an effective budget, you should research and know how much accommodation and flights will cost — and how much travel money you should take.

Once you figure out your spending budget, spread out your funds between different travel money options. For example, pay for necessities and large purchases using a rewards credit card and cover daily expenses using a preloaded travel money card. Don’t forget to put aside some cash for emergencies.

2. Research and study

travel-research-notebookUnderstanding your destination and how the locals spend is essential when deciding on your best travel money options. Research to see if the destination you’re heading to is credit-friendly or cash driven. If you’ll be using your card often, take a card with no foreign transaction fees or foreign ATM withdrawal fees. You could also bring a travel money card that supports multiple currencies or apply for a credit card with no foreign currency conversion fees. You’ll also want to make sure you have different denominations of cash for emergency use.

Browse our country-specific travel money guides for more information, read up on our travel money pro tips and make sure to avoid making these 12 travel money mistakes.

3. Fund your trip

woman-holding-up-credit-card-owner

With the right travel reward credit card funding your trip, you could earn rewards points for expenses you’re already making. Plus, if you use a credit card like the PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card to organize your vacation, you could benefit from a personal concierge and complimentary travel perks.

Keep in mind when using a credit card on vacation that you’ll have to repay everything you charge plus interest (unless you’re using an interest-free credit card).

Compare travel rewards credit cards and credit cards designed for overseas to earn rewards while spending.

4. Consider travel insurance

travel-insurance-policy

You should compare travel insurance to vacay with peace of mind. If you’ll be applying for a credit card to use on vacation, consider getting one that offers complimentary travel insurance like the Simmons Visa®. This can save you the hassle of securing your own insurance and save cash in policy fees. Before applying though, make sure you’re eligible for the complimentary insurance and know exactly what it covers. You never know when you’ll need fraud protection to cover the cost of replacing your card or any funds that are lost through fraudulent activity.

Get a travel insurance quote today

Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
100%
$15,000
$500
$500
Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
$10,000
$1,000
$100
Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
$50,000
$2,000
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Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
$20,000
$1,000
$600
Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
100%
$15,000
$750
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Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.

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5. Compare and combine travel money options

travel-money-cards

When it comes to prepaid travel cards, credit and debit cards or cash, there is no such thing as the best travel money option. The right option depends on your needs, spending habits and travel destination.

For instance, a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card would be a great choice if you want a card with no foreign transaction free, travel insurance and a competitive rewards program. You’d also benefit from bringing your trusty debit card along for small purchases and cash withdrawals — some cards even offer no international ATM fees. And there’s always the travel-friendly prepaid card with free international ATM withdrawals and zero currency conversion fees. Always bring along cash too, it’ll likely be accepted everywhere and can help out in a pinch.

6. Start applying for the card(s)

card-applicationOnce you’ve compared your travel money options, it’s time to apply for your chosen card (or a combination of cards). You can usually complete your application in a few minutes online or by heading into your local branch. To increase your chances of approval, make sure you’ve confirmed that you meet all of the eligibility requirements and have prepared the required documents. If approved for the card, you may receive it within a week or on the spot if you apply in branch.

Make sure to apply for your card sooner than later so that you’re not receiving and activating it at the last minute. Once you’ve received your new card, set up a secure PIN that will not be easily guessed. And if you receive a backup card, be sure to keep that somewhere safe.

Compare travel credit cards

Updated July 17th, 2019
Name Product Foreign transaction fee Welcome offer Rewards Filter values
None
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
None
N/A
1% cash back right away, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments
Build your credit with no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score.
None
3% cash back bonus on up to $10,000 in the first 12 months, then 1.5%
3% cash back on up to $10,000 in the first 12 months, then 1.5% on all purchases
Earn 3% cash back on up to $10,000 in the first 12 months, then 1.5% on all purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & fees
None
35,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
35,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. Rates & fees

Compare up to 4 providers

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    7. Load funds on card

    card-reload

    If you’re taking a travel card, make sure it supports your destination currency and that you preload the currency in advance. One of the biggest advantages of using a prepaid travel money card or a travel-friendly debit card is the fact that you are spending your own money and you can’t get carried away and overspend.

    It can take some time for loaded funds to appear in your account depending on how you load the money. Leaving it to the last minute and having to wait on your cash to be available would not be a good start to your vacation. Oh, you’ll probably try to avoid using a prepaid card doesn’t support the local currency.

    8. Exchange foreign currency

    foreign-currency-exchangeFor some destinations, you may want to purchase a small amount of the local currency beforehand for emergencies and small purchases when you first arrive. If you’re stuck in a foreign airport with no money for a taxi because the ATM machine is busted, you’ll be wishing that you exchanged some money before your trip. It’s also good to have some money for tipping the taxi driver or hotel staff.

    You also don’t wait until you’re at the airport to change your money because those exchange desks tend to charge the highest margins and fees. Either buy some foreign currency before leaving or use an international ATM when you arrive at your destination.

    9. Call your bank

    call-your-bank

    It is a major key to inform your card issuer about your upcoming trip. If you use your regular debit or credit card overseas without notifying your bank, your provider might suspect that it’s a fraudulent transaction and may freeze your account. While you can contact your bank to request for the account to be unfrozen, you’ll save a lot of time, inconvenience and potential embarrassment if you just contact your bank or set a travel alert via your bank’s mobile app.

    In case of lost, damaged or stolen credit, debit or travel cards while on your trip, contact your issuer immediately.

    10. Pack for your trip

    suitcaseRule #1 is not to put all your money in one place.

    Keep you backup card in your carry on luggage, tuck some cash into the inside pockets of your checked bag, stash some more cash in your socks and hide the emergency credit card under the mattress when you arrive at your hotel… or not. Either way, never keep all your travel money together in case your wallet goes missing or gets stolen.

    With a good dose of common sense and awareness, you’ll have a good time and be happy with the travel money knowledge you’ve used on your trip.

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