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.

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


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 Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard 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


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 Bank Visa Platinum. 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

Details Features
Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
Travel with a smile - protect your trip cost, your medical expenses, & your belongings.
  • Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses up to $250,000
  • Trip Cancellation – 100% of Trip Cost
  • Trip Interruption – up to 150% of Trip Cost
  • Political Evacuation - $20,000
  • Lost, Stolen or Damaged Baggage – up to $2,500
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation – up to $1 million
Go to site More info
Travelex Travel Max
Travelex Travel Max
TravelEx's most comprehensive protection plan for the comprehensive traveler. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
  • Trip Cancellation - 100% of Insured Trip Cost
  • Trip Interruption - 150% of Insured Trip Cost
  • Trip Delay - $1000
  • Medical Expense Benefits - $100,000
Go to site More info
RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
RoamRight’s Essential travel insurance package can be broken down into three critical parts: Trip Cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance, and baggage insurance.
  • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
  • Emergency Medical Expenses - $15,000
  • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $150,000
  • Baggage and Personal Effects Cover - $750
Go to site More info
STA Travel Standard International
STA Travel Standard International
Get affordable cover for the essentials of options with STA's mid-level cover policy. This option will still provide up to $1500 in luggage cover and up to $100,000 in medical cover.
  • Trip Cancellation Cover - 100% of trip cost insured up to $10,000
  • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
  • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $1,500
  • Trip Delay - Up to $500
Go to site More info
RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
As the name implies, the Preferred package provides coverage for most trips and vacations.
  • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
  • Emergency Accident & Medical Expenses - $50,000
  • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $500,000
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment - $10,000
Go to site More info
Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
Cancel For Any reason upgrade available with the Travel Max plan. Cancel for any reason - no questions asked.
  • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
  • 100% cover if delayed to departure and loose at least 30%
Go to site More info
Atlas Travel
Atlas Travel
Provides customizable coverage for specific losses. Cover can be tailored to provide a balance between the basic essentials and premium cover.
  • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $1 million
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
  • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $500
  • Travel Delay - $100/day up to 2 days
Go to site More info
Atlas Premium
Atlas Premium
Provides quality cover for a range of benefits with higher cover limits. Premium plan is perfect for travellers with health concerns looking for total protective cover.
  • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $2 million
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
  • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $1,000
  • Travel Delay - $200/day up to 2 days
Go to site More info
Travelex Flight Insure Plus
Travelex Flight Insure Plus
Provides option to choose between different levels of flight insurance protection.
  • Flight Accident AD&D - Up to $1 Million
  • Baggage - $2,000
  • Medical Expense Benefits - $2,500
  • Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - $25,000
Go to site More info
STA Travel Explorer Plus
STA Travel Explorer Plus
Get premiere cover for a whole range of options with STA's premium policy. This option will still provide up to $100,000 in medical expense cover and up to $3,000 in cancellation cover.
  • Trip Cancellation Cover - $3,000
  • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
  • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $2,500
  • Trip Delay - Up to $1,000
Go to site More info
Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance makes sure you are covered incase your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
  • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
  • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
  • 24-hour hotline assistance
  • Existing medical coverage - Up to $500,000
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Allianz International Travel Insurance
Allianz International Travel Insurance
If you frequently travel abroad and want extra coverage in case you get sick, injured, or need to cancel your trip, Allianz International Travel Insurance is the perfect solution.
  • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
  • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
  • 24-hour hotline assistance
  • Existing medical coverage - Up to $1,000,000
Go to site More info

5. Compare and combine travel money options


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 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

Rates last updated April 24th, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
0% of transaction value
$10 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
Enjoy 40000
bonus miles after you spend on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum
of transaction value
The Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers multiple perks, including one of the lowest available APRs on the market.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
0% of transaction value
Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.

Compare up to 4 providers

Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    7. Load funds on card


    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


    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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    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a writer and editor for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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