How to manage your money abroad

When going on holiday with your hard earned cash you really want to get the best exchange rates and lowest transaction fees as possible to make your money stretch. Why lose a bunch of money to your bank when its not necessary? Here are some top tips on how to save the pennies and get the most out of your dollar, euro or pound:

Firstly, read up on your home bank card fees, charges and exchange rates. I can guarantee that taking your normal Santander, Barclays or Halifax debit card will cost you an arm and a leg. Debit cards are a last resort, they charge you; transaction fees, to withdraw from ATM’s and offer poor exchange rates.   For example every transaction you make abroad with a Santander card you will be charged £1.98 plus suffer the poor exchange rate. This is outrageous – I would strongly discourage using a debit card abroad. If you have no other option withdraw one lump sum so you are only charged the withdrawal fee (£2) once. However, be careful with lots of lose cash and bare in mind there will be a limit on the amount you can take out per day.

There are plenty of travel cards on the market which offer no transaction fees, low exchange rates and often no withdrawal fees.

My favorite is the Revolut card. While this sounds too good to be true (exchange rates are as on google, there are no transaction fees and no withdrawal fees) it is actually valid and works. The only problem I had with this in the 7 months of using it, was the technology side of things. You can only access your account on a mobile telephone, not  on a computer or tablet. Consequently, you need wifi, a telephone number that works and battery on your phone. This is because you are sent texts with verification codes on, need wifi for the app to open and your phone needs to be on. If you do not have all three, you can use the card but cannot top it up or view your balance (other than at an ATM). So if using a revolut card always have a back up in case your phone fails you.

Fairfax card is another good one, money withdrawals are free, the exchange rate while it changes with the market is considered better than others and the card itself is free. You can also get  £20 free when you top up £300. You can access the card on any computer and family back home can as long as they know your password (top tip: chose a reliable member of family to have all your passwords at home to help you out if needed).

Caxton cards are another option with decent exchange rates and no fee for ATM withdrawals. However, there is a £4.50 charge for over the counter cash withdrawal so just avoid this. Same deal with signing in online on any computer.

Alternatively you could get a credit card, these have low exchange rates and no withdrawal fees.The best option at the moment is the Halifax Clarity Credit Card (highly recommended by all online travel money advice sites).

Alternatively take out pounds (or your home currency) and get them exchanged in local bank at home or on your holiday (avoid street vendors as these may rip you off and give you fake money). However, having said this in Nicaragua, Leon street vendors who stand outside the banks actually have the best rates and give real money. I have no idea how it works but it was well known for travelers to go to them rather than banks. This was a rare exception (so just ask around and be street wise).

I would say always carry emergency cash in case. When travelling money is always a bit of a fear (getting mugged, cards getting lost or stolen, faulty ATMs, the list goes on). However, talking from experience having cards and money stolen, ATMs eating cards and being stranded alone in strange places I can say that there is always an answer. A friend once told me all problems can be solved otherwise they are not problems. There are Western Union transfers which can take place from family back home, bank helplines to call and friendly people to advice along the way. Always be prepared before hand to lessen the blows of these unfortunate occurrences. This means, bring more than one card, hide cash at the bottom of your baggage and don’t keep all your cards and money in the same place. These things should provide you with the answer if unfortunately you get in a sticky situation.

There are different options of managing your holiday money, chose which ever one is best for you and have a wonderful time exploring a new place.

Money Saving Tips for Backpacking Travels Featured Image


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