Condensed from How to Stay Financially Safe While Traveling by Cheryl Lock of Value Penguin.
If you encounter money problems on a trip, the entire vacation can turn sour very quickly. A little forethought beforehand, and some caution during, mean you can enjoy your experiences without worry.
Before the trip:
Take care of your bills Take some time to ensure any bills at home will be covered while you’re gone, which could mean setting up automatic payments so that you don’t incur late fees.
Call your credit card company Most banks have pretty solid identity theft safeguards in place, so if you don’t warn yours that you’ll be spending money in a city or country far from your home, you could be in trouble. In fact, failing to do so could result in your cards being locked. While you’re dealing with your credit cards, it doesn’t hurt to pack two different ones from two different institutions.
Have a plan for cash. Obtaining local currency before you head to a new country is beneficial for possible emergencies and to obtain a better exchange rate. To get the best rate, inquire with your home bank about buying the currency you need before traveling. It can take a few days, so don’t leave it to the last minute and be subject to what could be an excessive exchange rate fee at the airport.
Scan your important documents. Scan your ID, passport and credit card information and store them in secure online storage in case your wallet is ever stolen. It will be easier to cancel credit cards and get new IDs from the U.S. Consulate if that information is at your fingertips.
Do some research. Doing a little bit of research before a trip can help in a myriad of ways. For example, learning how public transportation works can save you from spending a small fortune on cab rides. Learning of the best practices for safe traveling wherever you might be visiting can help you avoid any uncertain—and potentially harmful—situations.
On the Trip:
If you’ve prepared properly for your trip, you’ll be ready to explore a new area safely, armed with an appropriate amount of money. Still, even the most prepared person needs to be cautious in unfamiliar territory.
Avoid theft Even the savviest of travelers can be outsmarted by thieves. One possible solution is choosing anti-theft purses and wallets, and clothing designed for travel that have hidden and zippered compartments that make it more difficult for pickpockets.
Scatter your money. Research any dangerous areas for tourists and discover what some of the common scams are in the area where you’ll be traveling. Keep your money in separate places when you’re out and about, like put some money in your wallet and some in your bag. And don’t carry all of your money, including credit cards, on you at once.
Avoid currency exchange markups. The easiest way to avoid exchange markups is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees. If you’re already in the country without a good credit card, rely on no-fee ATM cards to withdraw cash or use local banks to exchange U.S. dollars for local currency. Travel pros say that if you can get cash at a bank or foreign exchange office with a markup of 2.5% or less, you’re getting a great deal.
Plan ahead. Keep all the receipts from a trip in one zippered pocket. This allows you to easily add up how much you spent during the trip and to verify that a vendor didn’t overcharge once fees show up on your cards.
Unpack your finances:
After you’ve returned home from a trip, there are still a few things to do to make sure your finances are safe.
Check your bank accounts
Go over your bank accounts as soon as you arrive home to check for any inaccurate purchases. If you’ve kept your receipts, it should be easy to compare the purchases on your cards to what you actually bought. Also, confirm that the hotel charges match up to your reservation amount. Change the PIN on all of your credit and debit cards. By doing this, thieves won’t be able to use your cards, even if they’ve been cloned.