Dare I say, sometimes being disorganised as a traveller works out to your advantage as I came to realise when I started thinking a little more deeply about how to handle my money matters while travelling. I may be a frequent traveller, but by no means has that turned me into an organised traveller.
I mean I still pack mere hours before I depart and sometimes I really don’t realise I forgot something until I actually need to use it at my destination.
Be that as it may however, I tried to plan my finances in a manner which would perhaps be in line with what financial institutions like banks suggest for travellers, but their dirty little secret is out now because the advice they give only adds to more expenses. Yes, you should indeed notify your bank about your intentions to travel somewhere so that they don’t block your credit or debit card on suspicions that it’s being used fraudulently when you withdraw money from an ATM in a foreign country or if you try to complete a POS payment. That doesn’t mean you should follow their advice further after that however, especially that of using your card to buy local currency in the country you’re visiting from the airport currency exchangers.
Yes, many of these are listed as “trusted forex partners” and are in a sense recommended in this way, but those guys will really chop your money through their service fees! Seriously, it’s much, much cheaper to withdraw local currency at a local ATM because you get charged somewhat of a flat fee by your bank, so you rarely get charged more than a fixed fee — give or take one or two quid.
Depending on where you’re travelling you’ll perhaps need some local currency in cash, so you should definitely have some, for example you might want to tip someone or you might have to deal with service providers or vendors who only accept cash.
Otherwise if you really can, use your card directly at points of sale as this shouldn’t incur any fees, at all.
I like to take things a step further however and use preloaded debit cards, especially those which bear the MasterCard logo. These are very convenient because well you can use them just as you would your primary bank card, but it just gives me that added peace of mind of knowing that my primary banking details aren’t being accessed with each payment or withdrawal I make, so there’s no risk of my primary bank account being sucked of all the funds it has in it.
Preloaded debit cards also have the added security layer of being able to be loaded online with just the amount you’ll need to use through them, so no worries as far as that goes.
Other than that, common vigilance goes a long way when it comes to money matters for frequent travellers and if you really can, get a debit card which is denominated in the local currency of the country you’re travelling to. You’ll save a bit on exchange fees which can add up to quite a substantial amount.