Prepping Your Pennies: How to Manage Cash & Cards While On Holiday

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A successful trip overseas can’t work without money, and there’s plenty of pitfalls to avoid wasting your hard earned money. I’ve learned some of these lessons the hard way, so here’s a few great tips that will help you.

Cash, cards and even cheques can be a lifeline when you’re on holiday. But in all the rush to leave and all the excitement of arrival, many of us can forget to organise and handle our money properly.

These 9 tips will show you how to prep your pennies for a successful trip and keep your cash, cards and funds safe.


1. Exchange Cash

  • Sometime it’s good to exchange some cash before you leave for your trip. You’ll be able to take advantage of rate fluctuations and you can also choose the institution offering the best rate.
  • If you don’t want to exchange or carry large amounts of cash, investing in a prepaid travel card can be a good idea.
  • Forgotten to exchange? Make sure you make an exchange at a well-known bank when you get to your destination. Sometimes ‘street side’ exchange booths can be over/under-priced. 

2. Contact Your Banks

  • Once your travel is booked, phone your banks and inform them of where you are going and when. This is so your cards won’t get blocked when you try to use them overseas.
  • If you don’t already have one, requesting a second, backup credit card can also be an option. If your primary one gets lost or stolen (or just doesn’t work), you’ll at least be able to use your backup card and continue with your trip.
  • Make sure that your cards aren’t due to expire while you’ll be away either. If they are, get your bank to renew your card ASAP. 

3. Research ATMs

  • There’s a good chance you’ll be able toaccess your money at an ATM overseas. But it can pay to find out which ATMs you can use in your given destination without having to pay hefty bank fees.
  • If in doubt, a quick call to your bank can clarify what ATM/bank partners are available, what the specific fees and exchange rates will be and what the daily withdrawal limits are.
  • If you are travelling to a less developed nation, try not to rely wholly on ATMs/cards. 

4. Arrange Travel Insurance

  • Smartraveller recommends travel insurance for any type of trip. Travel insurance can cover you for a range of essential items, Which can include your cash and travellers cheques depending on the level of cover.
  • If these become stolen you’ll need to report the incident to your travel insurance provider straight away. If you have the right cover, you should be able to make a claim and get your funds back.


5. Budgeting & Exchange Rates

  • Keep a basic exchange formula in mind when on the go. This will help you keep tabs on how much you are spending. 
    For instance, around 1.5 AUD currently equates to 1 Euro. If you’re in Europe and you’ve only got AUD$100 to last you for the week, you’ll know this is EUR70.
  • If necessary, using an exchange rate app can be useful, but be wary of taking your phone out all the time, especially if you’re in a location where theft can be rife.

6. Using ATMs Overseas

  • You’ll need to withdraw enough cash to last you a while, but not so much that it will entice thieves or leave you in a major situation if all that cash is lost or stolen.
  • Once your cash comes out of the machine, put it quickly into your wallet or bag and move on.
  • Don’t count your cash at the ATM, rummage in your bag or linger around. If you’re using a drive-through ATM, lock your car doors and pay attention to what’s happening around you.
  • Keep your receipt whenever you use an ATM. If you need to make a claim or if you run into any troubles, your receipt is required as proof of the transaction.
  • Finally, avoid withdrawing cash at night or at ATMs in remote, dark or deserted locations as you may find yourself an easy target for thieves. 

7. Carrying Cash Around

  • Using a money wallet or belt to carry your cash can be safest. If you choose to carry a purse or wallet, avoid keeping it on you where it can easily be pickpocketed (e.g. in your back pocket). If you need to carry a bag, a cross-body travel bag with theft-proof functionality may be ideal.
  • Keep your bag on you at all times and don’t leave it anywhere such as on the floor or hanging on the back of your chair.
  • Take particular care of your bag or purse when in common pickpocketing areas or situations (e.g. large crowds). Keep in mind that thieves can also stage various ‘incidents’ (fights, shows, surveys), to distract you and steal your stuff.

8. Using Debit & Credit Cards While Away

  • At restaurants and other establishments, be wary of handing your credit card over and make sure you get the right one back. 
  • If you’re in a place that you don’t fully trust, make sure that your card is swiped in front of you. Otherwise, you may be subject to credit card fraud. If you’re unsure about using your card altogether, cash may be best.
  • Checking your bank balances regularly (every couple of days) is a reliable way to make sure your cards aren’t being used for fraud. If you do notice anything suspect, report it to your bank immediately.
  • You can also leave your debit and credit card details with someone you trust at home. If they are lost or stolen, this will make it easier to track them down and cancel them.  

9. Don’t Flash Cash

  • Whatever you do, don’t flash your cash around. This can attract the attention of thieves and pickpockets and cause you undue hassle. Keep your wits about you when both withdrawing your money from ATMs and taking it out from your wallet or bag to make payments.

Ian is a seasoned Aussie traveller and having learned the hard way about the value of travel insurance, enjoys helping others save money and protect themselves before they step out the door to their next adventure.

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