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

How to organize your travel money before you travel

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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

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 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

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

Details Features
Atlas Premium
Atlas Premium
Comprehensive coverage with higher limits and a range of additional benefits.
  • Trip cancellation: Not available
  • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
  • Baggage coverage: $1,000
  • Trip delay: $200/day up to $400
Go to site More info
Travelex Travel Max
Travelex Travel Max
The most comprehensive protection plan offered by Travelex. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
  • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
  • Emergency medical expenses: $100,000
  • Baggage coverage: $2,500
  • Trip delay: $1,000
Go to site More info
RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
Coverage includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
  • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
  • Emergency medical expenses: $15,000
  • Baggage coverage: $750
  • Trip delay: $100/day up to $500
Go to site More info
STA Travel Standard International
STA Travel Standard International
Affordable coverage for the essentials needed when traveling outside of your home country.
  • Trip cancellation: Not available
  • Emergency medical expenses: $25,000
  • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $250,000
  • Trip delay: $100/day up to $250
Go to site More info
RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
Increased limits of coverage, plus trip interruption insurance worth 150% of the trip cost.
  • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
  • Emergency medical expenses: $50,000
  • Baggage coverage: $1,000
  • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
Go to site More info
Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
Not 100% sure you're going to make your trip? Cancel For Any Reason upgrade is available with the Travel Select plan.
  • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
  • Must cancel within 48 hours before scheduled departure
  • Offered on trips with a maximum value of $10,000
Go to site More info
Atlas Travel
Atlas Travel
Customizable policy that balances between the basic essentials and premium coverage.
  • Trip cancellation: Not available
  • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
  • Baggage coverage: Up to $500
  • Trip delay: $100/day up to 2 days
Go to site More info
Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
Comprehensive coverage for the cost of your trip, your medical expenses and your belongings.
  • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
  • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $250,000
  • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,500
  • Trip delay: Up to $1,500
Go to site More info
Travelex Flight Insure Plus
Travelex Flight Insure Plus
Choose the coverage amount that meets your needs. Baggage and trip delay protection included.
  • Flight accident AD&D: Up to $1,000,000
  • Emergency medical expenses: $10,000
  • Baggage coverage: $1,000
  • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $100,000
Go to site More info
STA Travel Explorer Plus
STA Travel Explorer Plus
Premiere coverage for a range of travel mishaps with additional riders for sports and other leisure activities.
  • Trip cancellation: $3,000
  • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $100,000
  • Baggage coverage: $500/item up to $2,500
  • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
Go to site More info
Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
Make sure you're covered in case your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
  • Trip cancellation: $1,000
  • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $25,000
  • Baggage coverage: Up to $1,000
  • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
Go to site More info
Allianz International Travel Insurance
Allianz International Travel Insurance
Customizable coverage that can give you peace of mind when traveling to popular or remote destinations.
  • Trip cancellation: $1,000
  • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $50,000
  • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,000
  • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
Go to site More info

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 December 14th, 2018
Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
None
$250
See Rates & Fees
50,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months Rates & Fees
None
$0
17.74% to 26.74% variable
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
$550
None (Charge Card)
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
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$95
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Enjoy a $0 annual fee on the first year and earn up to 2 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases. Rates & Fees
None
$195
16.99% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
None
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$495
16.99% variable
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
None
$995
16.99% variable
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
None
$0
13.99% variable
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
None
$0
16.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 25,000 online bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days from account opening.

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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    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a producer 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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