10 Money-Smart Cash Tips To Know Before You Travel


Financial disclosure:  I have no connections with any of the financial entities discussed in this article.

I love shopping while I’m traveling, and understanding how to get the best exchange rate for euros, Pounds, and Kroners allows me to get the most for my money.  Today, I will be sharing money-saving Cash tips that can be especially helpful for international (and domestic) travel.

Related Savvy International Traveler Posts in this series:

 Nothing speaks louder than Cash

Negotiating foreign currencies used to be much more of a challenge than it is today.  With so many countries in the Eurozone, there is one currency for much of Western Europe.  In this modern age, it is much less necessary to ‘change money’ into foreign currency.  However, there are still times when having cash is very useful.

Here are some savvy traveler’s tips to avoid fees and get the most value out of your vacation dollar.

1.  Bring some cash – even US Dollars are fine. Some cash is better than no cash, whatever currency it may be.  In some countries, they will accept US Dollars even if they do not take credit cards.  They may not give you the best exchange rate, though, so be aware and check your math!

I have found US Dollars accepted in Turkey, Israel, Mexico, and Hong Kong when shopping.  Having cash in had is often a good negotiating tool while bargaining.

On cruise ships, US Dollars can also be changed to local currency if needed (beware of the exchange rate).  If you didn’t have cash, it will be a cash advance on your credit card with stiff fees that you want to avoid.

2.  Be aware of bank fees, and withdraw enough cash at each ATM visit to last you for a few days (limit the number of transactions).  However, beware not to withdraw too much cash at a time.  Unlike credit cards, lost money cannot be replaced.  Use partner banks.

Your bank may charge a fee for using an out-of-network ATM.  The foreign bank may also charge a fee because you do not have an account with them.  Limiting the number of ATM withdrawals minimizes this double-fee penalty.

If your bank has partnerships with banks in other countries, be aware of these and use these ATMs when possible.  For example, Bank of America partners with Barclay’s in the UK, and BNP Paribas in France.  There are no bank fees when using ATMs within this partner network.

Some prepaid debit cards such as the Bluebird by American Express charge only a $2.00 flat fee for ATM withdrawals from foreign banks.  This fee is much less than traditional bank fees.

3.  Bring your debit card and use it to withdraw cash at ATMs to get local currency. This will give you the best exchange rate – much better than any ‘Change’ or ‘Cambio’ kiosk in the airport or hotel would.
4.  It is wise to use an ATM during hours when the bank is open. If there are any problems with the machine, you can walk inside to request help right away.  Choose in ATM in a well-lit area without any suspicious people lingering.
5.  If the fees are not too high, it may be worth ordering a small amount of foreign currency through your local bank before you travel.  Check with your local bank for details.  This helps with small expenses when you first arrive at the airport or train station, before you reach an ATM.
6.  Bring some small bills on travel days – be prepared to show appreciation for good service to your shuttle driver, porter, taxi driver, concierge, etc.
7.  Negotiating a price is sometimes part of the local culture. Communicate with a calculator if needed when language skills are not enough.
8.  Consider keeping some foreign currency for your next trip. If it is not a huge amount that you can’t live without now, consider keeping the foreign currency so you’ll have some start-up money the next time you return to that country.  This is especially true if there is currently a good exchange rate.

We have been known to keep small bills and coins from different countries to commemorate our trip.

9.  Protect your hard-earned travel investment with the right travel insurance.  Not all travel insurance is the same; study the fine print about General Exclusions, pre-existing medical conditions, and when the insurance was purchased in relation to the trip.  Purchase your insurance with a travel professional to make sure you have the right coverage before you travel.

You don’t anticipate needing insurance, but emergency situations happen.  Personally, we have had a camera stolen in Venice, and a cyclone interrupted our dive boat trip in Cairns, Australia.  In addition, we have had to deal with an emergency appendectomy and hospital stay while 3,000 miles away from home.

These were times that we were happy that we bought the right travel insurance.

10.  Don’t bring anything valuable on an international trip that you cannot bear to lose. Things often get misplaced or lost during travels.  Keep your valuables with you at all times, but better yet, leave expensive jewelry and valuables at home.  Carry cash and credit cards in a RFID blocking money belt.

What are your experiences with money while traveling?  I would love to hear your tips and opinions!

Please leave a comment below!



Related Savvy International Traveler Posts:


8 thoughts on “10 Money-Smart Cash Tips To Know Before You Travel”

    1. Hi Giselle!
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