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How to prepare for travel money emergencies

Create a travel emergency kit to help keep your finances in order abroad.


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Getting stuck overseas without a penny to your name is the last thing you want on a vacation. Thankfully, there are a few simple things you can do to prepare for a worst-case money scenario abroad.

How can I prepare myself for a travel money emergency?

Making sure you’ve prepared yourself financially could save you a lot of grief in the long run. Here are a few simple tips you should consider before and during your trip to ensure a stress-free vacation:

  1. Notify your provider that you’re traveling
    If you’re planning on using your regular debit or credit card overseas, let your card lender know where you’ll be traveling. This will save you the hassle of having a transaction declined or blocked as a result of a security precaution. This can also help your bank identify whether a new transaction is actually fraudulent in the event that your credit card is stolen.
  2. Organize more than one travel money option
    The saying “never put all your eggs in one basket” applies here. — take a few spending options. Travel-friendly credit cards can be used for large purchases or reservations for hotels and car rentals. A debit or prepaid travel card can come in handy for ATM withdrawals and smaller purchases. You could also prepare ahead of time by sending money overseas before you go. Last, but certainly not least, bring cash — you never know where and when your card will be accepted.
  3. Create a travel emergency kit
    You’ll want to have a safe location to store several important emergency items, such as your emergency documentation as well as your emergency cash. Don’t carry this kit with you during your day to day travels — you’ll want to keep it separate, such as in a safe location in your hotel or luggage you aren’t carrying with you.
  4. Have your provider’s contact numbers on hand
    Doing your research on knowing who to call, what the process is and what options are available — whether it be an emergency cash transfer or a replacement card — will save you time and a headache. Before you leave, jot down your provider’s contact details in both your phone and luggage. All of this information should be available via your cards Terms and Conditions or you can contact the customer service team directly.
  5. If you notice something’s wrong, report it immediately
    If you notice suspicious transactions on your account or are unable to access your funds, contact your provider immediately. Resolving the issue could take some time, so the sooner you report it, the better. Some lenders may have a policy about the cardholder taking reasonable steps to protect the account and report irregular behavior, if you fail to do so, you may find yourself unable to get the assistance you need.
  6. Scout out the nearest consulate
    If you’re experiencing a travel money emergency and don’t have the emergency resources of a travel kit, call or visit the local US consulate. In the worst-case scenario, the consulate can help you contact a friend or family member and facilitate a funds transfer to a new account. You can read more information on the US Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Compare travel money cards

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Foreign transaction fee Welcome offer Rewards Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 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)
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Petal® 2
Up to 10% cash back from select merchants, on other purchases earn 1% back, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments
Build your credit with rewards and no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score of 600 or higher. See if you prequalify with no impact to your score.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases
An impressive cashback card that offers up to 4% back on everyday purchases like gas, travel and dining all for the cost of a Costco membership.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.

Compare up to 4 providers

Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

Bottom line

While it’s a drag to prepare yourself for an unexpected emergency, it’s a surefire way to reduce stress and minimize further issues. Your travel strategies will depend on your individual circumstances, so consider what will be best for you, and be sure to learn about all your travel money options before going abroad.

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