Are you wondering how to handle your money when you travel internationally? I get asked about it all the time.
I also get asked about how to handle pickpockets stealing your cash or credit cards. Touch wood, so far I’ve been safe.
When I first started travelling internationally the entire money equation was a headache. You had to use International Travelers Cheques, which you would purchase in the currency/currencies of the country/countries you were traveling to, which was often a complete nuisance.
You needed to wear a money belt under your clothes and keep your travelers cheques, passport and extra cash in it for safe keeping.
You had to keep meticulous details on your travelers cheques – which you had cashed, and where you cashed them, in case your cheques were stolen.
If you had American Express travelers cheques you were OK because they would replace them within a day or two, but other companies were terrible, and you could be stuck out there in the world with no money for days on end.
You also paid a fee to get your travelers cheques, and then at the money changing places you would pay another fee to cash them.
Now we travel with plastic, but not all cards are created equal, and
you have to be very careful which cards you travel with.
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Currencies fluctuate from day to day and throughout the day, but you seldom get the actual official exchange rate when you swipe your card.
Banks get really liberal with the numbers and are generally substantially different from the official rate. My bank is generally at least 6% higher than the official exchange rate, so I lose at best 6 cents on every dollar I exchange.
So in general, I don’t use them.
When you charge something to a credit card you will pay multiple fees – sometimes from the local merchant, your bank will always charge you for using the card overseas, an exchange rate that is nowhere near the actual rate for the day, and a conversion fee. So if you are using a credit card, only use it for the big expenses. Also, unless using American Express you may find your credit card protection against faulty purchases, items broken in shipping, or shipped items that don’t arrive, is either sketchy or non existant when dealing with a foreign purchase.
|Ceramics purchased in Sicily arrived broken, Visa wouldn’t help.|
Last year I shipped ceramics from Sicily, some of which arrived broken. The merchant suddenly didn’t speak english anymore, and Visa wouldn’t reverse the payment, or help me at all.
(I wrote about it HERE) I specifically used a Visa card because I wanted a layer of protection.
But in the end I paid all those excessive credit card fees for nothing.
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Debit cards are ideal, but also come with their share of headaches.
Firstly you have to find out what your bank charges you for walking up to a foreign ATM – there will be a fee and it is often a steep one. Also you may get charged by the local bank for using their ATM. You do however get the best exchange rate.
I use a credit union debit card as it has really low rates.
One thing I am looking into for international travel is Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a crypto currency that is used digitally, and not affiliated with any bank, or any single currency.
I am looking at Xapo.com for bitcoin as they not only let you utilize a bitcoin wallet (click link for information) but they also have a Xapo debit card, which you can use anywhere that accepts cards. Many major cities have bitcoin ATMs too.
One of the benefits of traveling with bitcoin is that lack of bank fees. Bitcoins instantly convert to the currency of the country you are spending them in, so all you pay for is the items you are purchasing.
Another benefit is that with credit cards, merchants can wittingly or unwittingly share your payment credentials, exposing you to fraud. Plenty of travelers have had thousands charged to their cards or had access to their cards shut down while traveling due to fraud. Xapo.com is the leader in Bitcoin security, so you have that extra peace of mind when you are making purchases.
If you are relying solely on credit and debit cards when you are traveling you can find yourself in a world of trouble if your cards get lost or stolen. If you are in a major city such as Paris or Madrid, your bank can take days to replace your lost card, but it will probably get one to you.
If you are anywhere remote, such as a small town or worse still on honeymoon in Bora Bora, there is absolutely no guarantee a replacement card will get to you prior to your trip ending.
Having a bitcoin account as a backup is a brilliant idea – if your cards are stolen you can still access money. And if you make purchases with your bitcoins you avoid all the credit card fees.
“Bitcoin perfectly acts as a single cross-border payment token that doesn’t ask hefty commissions or any sort of conversion charges. So selling a coffee on an on-board flight, or paying a restaurant bill in a foreign country becomes instantly easy, without relying on exchanging currencies firsthand.”
Xapo.com Bitcoin is really easy to use. You simply download an app to your phone. At any time while you are traveling you can add money to your bitcoin wallet from your laptop. All you need is an internet connection.
Although I don’t think that at this point I could exclusively use Bitcoin for international travel, I do think it will become the way of the future.
I would however love to try taking a trip exclusively with bitcoin and see how well I do – wouldn’t that make a fabulous live blog series??
For more information on traveling with Bitcoin, check out this article on the Benefits Of Bitcoin For International Travel
To purchase Bitcoins, or to get more detailed information on the crypto currency, check out www.Xapo.com
If you have traveled with bitcoin, or if you have a bitcoin story to share, please tell us about it in the comment section below.