Unless you’re taking a trip into the wild, you’re probably going to need to spend some money when you take a trip overseas. Not only that, you need to make sure you have the means to manage your funds while far from home – just in case you (a) need more money, or (b) have to transfer money around or pay bills.
With a bit of planning, this is all simple enough. In fact, travellers have a wealth of options nowadays to help them deal with these challenges.
In summary, here’s what we recommend you do before taking off on your trip.
- Take enough cash so that you can survive a few days with nothing else – just in case your cards don’t work, or there’s an emergency early on in your trip.
- Carry a cash card (e.g. travel money/debit/credit card) so that you can avoid carrying too much cash at all times.
- Keep cash and cards separate wherever possible. Otherwise, you’re leaving yourself open to losing all your money at once.
There’s so much more for you to learn, though! We go into more detail below.
Banking with your products from home
Many of the banking products you rely on every day can be used overseas. It just takes a little bit of planning to ensure everything runs smoothly.
First things first: make sure you let your banks/lenders know that you’re headed overseas. This way, if you attempt to access any of your accounts from a foreign country, your bank will know it’s really you. If you don’t let them know, your bank may believe it’s someone else trying to access the account – and lock it.
Once you’ve done that, there are a few products that you probably already use rely on that you may be able to use for your overseas adventure.
N.B. Before you choose one product over another, make sure you read the terms and conditions outlined by the bank or lender. If any of it’s unclear, give them a call and tell them what you intent to use the product for – they may be able to point you in the right direction!
Credit and debit cards
Whether it’s VISA or Mastercard, many countries around the world will accept a card. If your bank supports this option, using your debit or credit card internationally can be as simple as letting them know that you intend to travel.
However, you should be aware of one or two things before you start spending too much on expensive shoes and oversized cocktails. You may have to pay an overseas transaction fee for anything you buy, as well as an ATM withdrawal and foreign transaction fees (i.e. the cost to change Australian dollars to local currency). One way you might be able to get around this is to use your card to withdraw cash from an atm or bank to last you a few days, so that you’re not paying fees all the time.
In addition, if you have a spending limit on your card, either for the month or up to a dollar amount, that limit will still apply. That may not have been a problem with your everyday spending, but it could be restrictive if you want to ‘splurge’ while on your trip. Finally, any credit card that charges a cash advance for ATM withdrawels might sting you with multiple fees, so be mindful of this.
Be aware that deposits and holds are credited back to you faster if you are using a credit card, as opposed to a debit card. That being said, if you can stand to be without the funds for a few days, a debit card is just as smart an option for your trip as a credit card.
Something that many of us might not consider is the value that our internet banking platforms can have while we’re travelling. So long as you’re able to reach a WiFi signal, you can check your bank balances (and travel money card balance), ensure your annual leave salary is going towards a good cause (e.g. fancy dinners for your holiday) and more!
Here are just a few ways you should utilise your ‘net banking’ while away.
- Add more money to your travel money card (if you took one out through your bank)
- Paying bills (unfortunately, these won’t stop just because you’re on holidays!)
- Transferring money between different accounts and banks
Banking with travel money products
Now that you’re aware of how to get more from the products you already have, let’s take a look at the rest of your options while you’re on the road.
No matter which country you go, cash is always your best bet. Not every nation will utilise EFTPOS like we do, or have as many ATMs as us. Therefore, don’t leave home without at least enough cash to last you a few days.
It’s a smart idea to begin looking out for ‘lulls’ in the exchange rate between Australia and your destination. As soon as it becomes affordable, that’s when you organise to get your cash exchanged to the foreign currency. Do not exchange money at the airport, where the cost to do so will be much more expensive than if you’d done so elsewhere.
Wherever you go, don’t keep all your cash in the one place. Divide it up between your luggage, your person, and potentially in locked safes at your place of accomodation (if you deem it trustworthy).
Yes, travellers cheques are still something you can take on your trip! While ‘cash is king’, travellers cheques have their advantages. For one, they’re accepted worldwide in a variety of nations.
In addition, they’re safe. Each travellers cheque requires identification to cash. That means, even if they’re stolen, they cannot be used by anyone but you. They’re also quite easy to replace. You simply keep the serial numbers for your cheques (write them down in a notebook in your luggage), let the issuer know as soon as you realise they’re gone, and they can organise for replacements to be sent out.
Finally, you can exchange a traveller cheque for a full refund at the end of your trip – at no cost! – Before you decide on this option, just be mindful that you should check with the issuer before you leave that you’ll be able to cash the cheque in a bank at your destination. Also, you’ll pay fees and commissions when drawing up these cheques, so factor that into your travel budget too.
Travel money cards
A travel money card functions simply enough. Here’s how they work: you load the card with foreign currency at home, you take it overseas and use it just like any other debit card!
You’ll pay money whenever you load more funds onto it, use an ATM, make a purchase, and and when you cash out your funds at the end of your trip. Because of this, you need to have a good think to ensure you only load what you need onto the card – so you don’t have to pay any unnecessary fees.
How can I protect my money while I’m overseas?
More than half of surveyed Aussies reported that they were saving for a holiday, with their average savings target being $11,234 for the year.
Now imagine losing a large chunk of your savings on the first few days of your holiday. Remember: you’ll be travelling in a foreign country, you’ll be unfamiliar with your surroundings – it’s not hard to imagine. In fact, the Australian Consulate dealt with 773 cases of theft in 2016-17 alone.
Travel insurance helps protect you while you’re overseas though. In fact, it’s the best protection you can carry to ensure the money you worked so hard to save can be replaced. In the case of theft, travel insurance pays towards replacements to your belongings and reimbursement of any cash lost.
It also helps you in a variety of other circumstances. For example, if you fall ill before the trip begins and cannot depart, certain travel insurance policies can help reimburse your lost deposits and cancellation fees. Or, if you get injured while on your holiday, your policy will help pay for your medical expenses.
In short, don’t leave home without it!