What Avenues for Cash Do You Use When Traveling Abroad?

How do you plan for a trip abroad? Do you exchange some money into foreign currency before you leave your own country? Do you wait until you get to where you are going to exchange money? Do you take traveler’s cheques with you and cash them into local currency when you need them? Do you rely solely on your debit and credit card? There are many ways to go about planning for a trip abroad in terms of money.

In the past, I always exchanged some money into foreign currency so I wouldn’t have to search for a bank when I arrived overseas. Another thing I would do is make sure I had enough travelers’ cheques to get me through my trip. Now that is a thing of the past…. Using traveler’s cheques….. It is for me since I have found better options.

I researched what I wanted to do for my upcoming trip in June. Did I really want to take traveler’s cheques with me when I heard that they were not widely used anymore? The answer to that question was a resounding no…. What were my options if I didn’t use what I have relied on in the past? Realized my options lay in two possibilities with debit and credit cards. After coming to this conclusion, I needed to decide if I wanted to fall back on the bank I use for my accounts as well as the credit cards I normally use for purchases. That part was pretty easy to figure out that I didn’t want to use either of those options and needed to find an online bank and credit card that would work out best for me no matter where I am traveling.

It didn’t take long for me to decide on banking with Charles Schwab for my traveling needs. I opened up a high yield investor checking account which is great for me since I don’t need a minimum balance in it to keep it open. It has free checking, unlimited free ATM rebates when I use other banks to withdraw money from their ATM’s and of course you get the visa platinum debit card with it. Only drawback I could see is that it is linked to a Brokerage Account which I am positive I won’t be using. Then I had to figure out how I was going to fund it to get the account open to where they sent me the checks and debit card for it so I could start using it when traveling. Luckily, I was able to open the account online instead of mailing in the application. Another thing is that I didn’t have to put money into the Brokerage Account and then transfer money out of that account into the checking account. I was able to directly transfer money from my bank directly into the Schwab checking account. It did take three days to clear my bank and post to the new account and my bank did charge me $3 fee but it was worth it to get the account funded and up and running. I haven’t used the account yet but plan to use it a few times before my trip so I can see that the ATM fees are rebated at the end of the month. I also heard that Schwab doesn’t charge the foreign transaction fee that some banks do charge. I asked a Schwab representative about this and they told me that Visa charges them 1% but they do not pass that onto the client which would be me. It’s a win situation for me since I want as much of my hard earned money going towards this trip and not going towards ATM fees and foreign transaction fees. I will only be using the account to withdraw cash when I am in Europe. I don’t plan on using it when I need to pay for my hostels or entrance fees. That is where the credit card comes in…..

Like the decision for the debit card, it didn’t take me long to decide on which credit card I wanted to apply for and use for my travel needs. My sole reason for applying for the Capital One Venture Card is that you do not get charged any foreign transaction fees for using it. Another plus is that it doesn’t have an annual fee. I plan to use this card for any purchases where I might normally pay in cash but a credit card could be used instead. It will be used for paying for hostels and all entrance fees for places we absolutely have to see when we are in Dublin, Paris and Rome. I also plan to bring another credit card with me as back-up in case something happens to the Capital One card. You never know what will happen when you are traveling. It is always best to have another plan in motion in case something happens to the first plan i.e. you lose your cards or they get stolen. You definitely don’t want to be stranded without anyway to pay for your trip when you are away from home.

Remember always have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work out the way you want.

One more thing, I do plan to buy some currency before I leave the states. I always feel better having some cash on hand in case I can’t find a bank right away to withdraw money from an ATM. It may not have the best exchange rate when exchanging money before leaving home but it is always good to know that you have some local currency with you to pay for the bus or train into the city from the airport.

How do you fund your trips? Do you have local currency with you before you arrive at your destination? Do you rely on debit and credit cards? Which debit and credit cards do you use when traveling that you find the most useful? Or do you rely on the old stand-by of traveler’s cheques? I would love to know what you use and which cards you’ve found to be the best when you are on the road.