How to manage money while traveling abroad

July 16th, 2015 Mike Finlayson
Managing money while traveling abroad

Planning a trip can be a lot of work – especially when you’re going abroad.

It can be tricky to determine the best and most efficient ways to manage your money before and during a trip. From setting a budget to exchanging foreign currency, there are lots of things to think about when traveling abroad. To ensure you have peace of mind on your travels, we’ve put together some key tips for managing money before, during and after your trip.

Inform your bank you’re traveling.

Before you leave home, contact your bank and let them know where and when you will be traveling. This will ensure your credit and debit cards will not be temporarily suspended due to suspicious activity.

Also, make sure you know what to do and who to contact in case your credit card gets lost or stolen. Make a photocopy of the back of your cards and keep the document in your luggage or your hotel’s safe. You should also save your bank’s customer service hotline in your phone so you can reach out to them immediately if something happens.

Set a budget.

What’s your trip really going to cost you? Of course, this depends where you are going, what you plan to do and the level of comfort you wish to have. Between airfare, meals, nightlife, souvenirs, public transportation, hotels/hostels and attractions, spending can quickly add up. Creating a budget in advance will help ensure your vacation won’t negatively impact your finances in the long run.

Plan ahead as much as possible.

Before you leave purchase as much as you can on the internet in advance – book hotels, secure rental cars, entertainment packages, rail passes, spa packages, etc. Planning and purchasing ahead of time will save you time, energy, and bypass any issues with language barriers. It may also save you money by avoiding expensive card usage fees, or ATM fees.

Exchange foreign currency before you leave.

It’s a good idea to exchange some currency before leaving on an international trip. This way you will have some immediate cash on hand when arriving to your destination. Although many airports and hotels offer exchange services, they often have very high fees to do so. The best solution is visiting your local bank to exchange ahead of time.

Be aware that many banks do not keep foreign currency at their branch locations. Call your local MidWestOne location to find out if they keep foreign currency on hand. If not, place a currency exchange order. Be sure to plan ahead; orders may take one to three days for processing.

Quickly calculate currency exchange rates by using a mobile app.

Whether you are standing in line to buy groceries at a market or rushing to buy a train ticket, you don’t want to waste time calculating currency exchange rates in your head.

There are numerous mobile aps available to quickly do this for you. Trail Wallet is a no-internet-requiredapp that quickly calculates exchange rates for more than 218 different currencies. Not only can it give you the exchange rate, but it will track your expenses each time you spend money. This app takes the time and energy out of currency conversion and expense tracking which leaves more time to enjoy your trip!

Take multiple debit and credit cards and track your spending.

It’s a good idea to take multiple debit and credit cards when traveling abroad. If you are a couple with a joint account, take both cards associated with an account. Bank cards can get lost, stolen or eaten by an ATM machines. Having backup cards is a great security blanket to have in any unexpected situation. Make sure to keep your backup card(s) in a separate location in the event that your wallet or purse gets stolen.

Be aware of international transaction fees.

If you’re planning on using your credit card while you’re traveling, make sure you determine if your card has a foreign transaction fee. Your card’s customer service department will quickly be able to tell you what the fee is.

If your card has one of these fees, it’ll charge you up to 3 percent of the purchase price every time you swipe overseas. While this may seem small, it can add up quickly. If you charge $4,000 to your card on hotels, taxis, restaurants and other expenses, foreign-transaction fees would tack on $120 in additional costs.

Keep your property and yourself safe.

Most importantly, do things that protect not only your personal property, but yourself. Do not carry a lot of cash or wear high priced jewelry or watches. Keep phones, cameras and other electronics concealed as much as possible. Tourists and visitors are often easy targets for thieves. It’s best to avoid drawing attention to yourself and do your best to fit into the environment around you.

If you have any additional questions about managing money abroad, our MidWestOne bankers can help you make this trip your best one yet. Contact us at 800-247-4418 or visit us at any of our bank locations.

Mike Finlayson

About the author

Mike Finlayson is Second Vice President at MidWestOne Bank. He works with MidWestOne customers to help them manage their personal finances and identify effective money management solutions.

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