What is the Best Way of Accessing Your Money on a Long Trip?

In the old days anyone travelling abroad had to rely on a mixture of cash and traveller’s cheques. Thankfully those days have gone and there are now a number of ways of getting hold of your money no matter where you are in the world. So which one is best?

Debit Card

A debit card simply lets you access the funds you have in your bank account. The majority of modern debit cards can be used internationally but you should still check with your bank that this is the case with yours before you head off. It also wouldn’t do any harm to ask them about the charges you will incur when using it in other countries. It usually makes sense to take out relatively big sums of money at a time rather than small amounts on a more regular basis and don’t forget to set up online banking so that you can check your account while you are travelling. Some travellers like to have two current accounts and two debit cards. As well as keeping your money separate this also means that you have a back up card. If you are going somewhere really remote you might want to check the availability of local ATMs but this isn’t a problem in the vast majority of places.

Credit Card

A credit card is great for emergencies but probably not something you will use regularly on your trip, due to the interest involved. Taking out cash withdrawals from an ATM is expensive enough at home never mind in a different continent. Credit cards can come in handy for booking flights and hire cars but you will want to keep a tight control on your spending with this card and spend some time before you go learning how credit cards work.


Having some cash with you is always a good idea. Most people still seem to stick with US dollars for this purpose, as they are easily changeable just about anywhere. Euros are also a decent choice and this sum of cash can give you a nice back up to your cards in case of emergency. We also need to bear in mind that debit and credit cards often have much lower daily limits abroad than in our home countries.

Traveller’s Cheques

chequeYes, traveller’s cheques still exist. They seem to be a lot less popular than before but they are still a pretty decent back up option. Because you register them and sign them when you receive them they are secure and will get replace if lost or stolen. They can be used in most places you are likely to go to and if we are being honest are probably a safer bet than carrying a wad of bank notes around. However, they are seen as being a bit of an inconvenience and rather outdated by many people. Bearing all that in mind, there is really no harm at all in slipping a few traveller’s cheques into your suitcase before you leave home. You might never need them but they might just save your bacon at some point.

Have a Plan for Emergencies

Ok, so up until now we have seen that it makes sense to take a debit card with you. You could then have some cash and maybe some traveller’s cheques for special occasions and emergencies and a credit card for big purchases. Most travellers would be quite happy with that level of security but there is always the possibility of having all of your luggage lost or stolen on your travels. The thought of being stranded hundreds or thousands of miles from home without a penny is pretty scary, isn’t it? One final thing you should consider is how you would deal with an emergency like this. Could you call a friend or relative to get them to wire you some cash? Is there a contact in your bank that you could leave signed instructions with so that you just need to fax or email them when you are abroad? By thinking about this before leaving home you can travel without any worries on this score.

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7 Responses to What is the Best Way of Accessing Your Money on a Long Trip?

  1. I usually bring some currency. A quick stop by the bank 2 weeks ahead of time usually does the trick. Otherwise, doing the max w/d at the ATM and just eating the fee works fine. Travelers checks sometimes come with fees both at the bank you get them from and from where you cash it…usually 5 bucks or so
    Tortoise Banker recently posted..S.M.A.R.T. Goals and How I Track ProgressMy Profile

  2. When I travel overseas I am a fan of using credit cards that don’t have a foreign transaction fee. They are safer than carrying around a lot of cash and there is fraud protection if they are stolen.
    Sean @ One Smart Dollar recently posted..How to Travel The World for FreeMy Profile

  3. I have a card hidden in my bag and the normal card in my wallet that charges no interest on withdrawals abroad. Should I lose both, the first one has a collect call number so you can get a new one quickly, in the meanwhile… well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!
    Pauline @ Make Money Your Way recently posted..Make extra money: Rent your parking spaceMy Profile

  4. Most certainly cards – ones that either don’t charge fees or the fee is less than the commission of the change offices. We also look at the rate cards offer.

    I remember going for work to Albania about 20 years ago and my colleagues took some fancy travellers’ chques that he could not change. I ended up paying for his hotel but not before have the satisfaction of threatening to leave him there to work for his hotel bill (this would have taken about six years). :)
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