Whenever I travel abroad, I typically withdraw a large sum of foreign currency before I embark on my travels. Cash is virtually accepted everywhere, so for convenience sake I use it as my primary form of payment when traveling abroad.
With more and more international payment options becoming available, I stay up to date on cash alternatives. International credit cards and various ePayment methods are constantly working to make our international payment experience as seamless as possible. If you’re still on the fence about which to use, here are some pros and cons of each.
The “Green” Stuff
Cash is the most widely accepted form of payment, so it’s always a great idea to carry some with you at all times. When converting to foreign currencies you should always plan ahead. While you’re still in your hometown, shop around for the best conversion rates. Airport and train station kiosks will always offer the worst rates so you should avoid any last minute conversions. Here are some ways to get a good deal on conversions:
- Order cash from your bank: Most banks allows you to order a foreign currency to be picked up at the bank location in a few days. Typically, they will offer the best rates because of their preferred borrowing rates.
- Use in-network ATM’s: If you can, try and find a designated in-network ATM while abroad. Most banks have international branches that allow you to avoid foreign transactions fees.
A big downside to relying on cash is that it’s easy to misplace and sometimes a liability, depending on where you’re traveling to. Here are some easy ways to make sure your cash is safe while traveling.
- Use a traveler’s belt or pouch that can be worn underneath your clothes. This mitigates the risk of your cash being easily misplaced or even stolen.
- Try and keep your cash separate from credit cards or other forms of payment. This way you aren’t “putting all your eggs in one basket”.
- If you’re traveling in a group, split the cash up amongst your group so there’s always a back-up.
- Always use a safe at your hotel when storing your cash.
Depending on where you’re traveling to, odds are credit and debit cards will be widely accepted there as well. If you want to avoid the hassle of currency exchanges and the liability of cash, credit cards are a more convenient option.
Nerd Wallet provides a list of the best no foreign transaction fee credit cards of 2016. I personally like to use the Bank of America travel rewards card when traveling. With no annual or foreign transaction fees, its both convenient and affordable when abroad.
The majority of international merchants only accept EMV Chip cards, so if you haven’t yet made the switch it’s probably a good idea to do so. Also, it’s a good idea to do some research on wherever you’re traveling to. Some places only accept locally issued plastic so make sure you’re well aware of that before acquiring new credit cards for travel.
Your best option is probably to rely on both credit cards and cash when traveling. However, there’s definitely a strategy to when and how you use each payment method. Take into account these pros and cons so you can travel like a pro!