Keep your money accessible and safe while traveling
The era of credit cards and ATM machines is upon us and it is possible to gain access to your money around the world, but there are still places where it is hard, and you don’t want to be caught empty handed. You also don’t want to put your money into the hands of robbers, either.
#1. Don’t Keep All Your Money in the Same Place
If you are traveling with cash, and you should have some, don’t keep it all in the same place. If you do, you could be completely wiped out if you lose your purse or wallet or have it stolen. Here is a list of possible places to spread your money around:
- A secret pocket (more on that later)
- Your luggage (in a plastic bag in the lining of your suitcase)
- Room safe
- Your wallet
- Your sock (that you are wearing)
#2. Have a Decoy Wallet
Being mugged is really scary. Being pick pocketed is less scary, but still incredibly annoying and can leave you devastatingly short on cash and identification. If you are traveling in a place that is known for its pickpockets, don’t keep anything of value in accessible pockets or purses.Here are some tips:
- Keep some small bills in a front pocket. You can access it easily to pay for things on your daily outings like meals and souvenirs (it’s very awkward to be digging around under your clothes for money–any it tips people off as to where you are carrying it).
- Create a decoy wallet. Put some small bills in it and some sample credit cards like the kind you get in the mail. This will deter a pickpocket from targeting you further. It will also provide you something to give a mugger without losing your real credit card and larger sums of money.
TIP: In a situation where you are being forced to turn over your wallet, you can throw the dummy wallet and buy yourself some time to run away.
While we are on the subject of wallets, it is a really good practice to either purchase a separate travel wallet and only keep your essential things in it, or trim your existing wallet and remove anything you won’t need on your trip. Will you really need your library card, your gym ID or your coffee shop punch card while you are in another country?
Debit and Credit cards are a good way to avoid carrying lots of cash and are handy when booking flights and making reservations. However, not all places accept them or you can occur large fees (typically at ATMs). Here are some good practices:
- Get a pre-paid debit card. This can help you stick to your travel budget and cut down on thieves accessing your bank account.
- Check into exchange rates BEFORE you travel. You will save money and time. Sometimes you can use a pre-paid debit card with foreign money on it so you already have the exchange rate taken care of.
- Get a chip card—if your travel to Europe you need the new style credit card with a chip and PIN. Magnetic swipe cards don’t work there. The new EMV cards provide more security than a magnetic-stripe card. They are required as of October 2015.
- Have two separate credit cards (different accounts) issued by different banks and don’t carry them in the same pocket. If you lose one you will have a backup.
- Let your card company know you will be traveling abroad. They make a note on your record and will be less likely to block a transaction that is out of the country.
- Leave a copy of your credit card number and customer service number with a friend—this will help if you have to report a stolen card.
- When you have access to a secured internet connection, check your bank statement and credit card account for suspicious activity. Identity thieves target travelers because they rely on the delay in discovery since most people don’t check their accounts until they are back home. Don’t give them a head start; shut them down quickly.
Related: Understanding Exchange Rates
#4. Use ATMs With Caution
Use cash—avoid ATMs or at least use with caution. They are prime spots for muggers. If you must use one, then use one at a bank. It is less likely to have a card skimmer/cloner designed to steal your card number and PIN. Never use a generic ATM at a hotel, convenience store or on the street.
One Last Thing…
You have a plan to keep your money safe while you travel, but do you have a plan to keep YOU safe? Travel insurance will get you home if you have a medical emergency.