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Money Tips For Travellers

How to use cash, cards and currencies abroad

This isn’t a post about frugality, or budgeting, or making your cash go further abroad. It’s a post about the actual, physical nitty-gritty of foreign currency - how to get it, where to keep it, and how to spend it! If you’re confused about how to get the best exchange deal, or want to know more about using your card abroad, read on! This advice can be useful to your personal finances to save money, as well as for business travellers to cut down on expenses.

Follow money tips for care-free travel
Travel offers opportunities to visit new places, meet new people and get away from your daily routine. Do it right by learning about using cash and currencies abroad. (Image by: Pixabay)

Exchange Rates, and Getting Foreign Currency

Exchange rates sound complicated to the uninitiated, but they’re pretty simple, really. The international market is in a perpetual state of flux, and currencies become ‘worth’ more or less depending on how business and politics using these currencies are doing. An ‘exchange rate’ is basically what one currency is worth compared to another. So, if the Pound is up and the US Dollar is down, it will cost less for Pound traders to get Dollars - and vice versa. It’s pretty easy to find out what the exchange rates are, and keeping an eye on them can help you to get the best exchange deal at just the right time.

However, it’s worth noting that some exchange agencies also charge fees. Currency exchangers you find at the airport or in street booths will generally charge over and above what you should be paying. Be sure to find a reputable and well-regarded exchanger to get your holiday spends!

What Currency Should You Be Getting?

In general, the currency you’ll find most useful will be the official currency of the country you’re visiting. This sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? In some cases, however, it’s not quite so clear cut. If you’re heading to a location where the currency is unstable, or generally worth very little, you may find it a better idea to travel with US Dollars in addition to the local currency. US Dollars are often more acceptable to traders in nations with unstable currencies, as the Dollar is itself a strong currency. Other strong currencies (such as the Pound and the Euro) may also be acceptable. It’s also worth noting that it’s generally easier to exchange US Dollars, Pounds, and Euros for other currencies in an emergency than it is something a little more obscure in global market terms.

How Should You Keep Your Cash?

Quite how close you need to keep your cash depends greatly on where you’re going. Some places have a major pickpocketing problem, while others are as honest as the day is long. Doing some research before you head out anywhere is the best way to ascertain how to carry your cash. If you’re worried about security, there are plenty of anti-pickpocket purses, money belts, and so on available. It’s also always a good idea to stash some emergency funds somewhere - perhaps in a safe at your hotel room, or in a secret pocket in your jacket - just to be on the safe side.

Make your travel money last longer
Your wallet contains your cash, cards and personal documents. Look after it and have some alternatives in place, should you get pickpocketed while travelling. (Image by: Pixabay)

What About Cards?

Cards are a complicated issue, and their viability abroad depends greatly on your card issuer. Some banks and card companies offer favourable deals on using your card abroad - reducing commission charges and even texting you with info on exchange rates etc while you’re on your holiday. Others are less helpful, and you may find yourself paying hefty charges whenever you use your card abroad. You can get pre-paid cards which you can ‘top up’ as you go along. These allow you to use your card on holiday without worrying about incurring any extra fees than those already paid.

It’s very important that you contact your card issuer before you leave the country, if you’re planning on using your card abroad. As part of their efforts to reduce crime, many card issuers will put an automatic ‘block’ on a card if spending patterns start displaying abnormalities. As you’re likely to spend outside your normal pattern while on holiday, and using the card overseas is a definite red flag, it’s worth informing your card issuer of your intentions beforehand.

On a very basic level, you should also take the time to assess the layout of a foreign ATM. People tend to get very used to a particular pattern - but the ATM design you’re used to is by no means universal! To avoid pressing the wrong buttons, enter your numbers and make your choices after carefully familiarising yourself with the machine!

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