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The Scary World of Travel (8th ed): Handling Money Abroad

We all know how to handle our money at home -- which vendors take cards, virtual wallets and which only accept cash. We understand the value of the amounts we see on price tags. We recognize the bills and coins we carry and can quickly select the correct one. We choose sensible and irresponsible spending decisions with that understanding. We don't have that same understanding and comfort when we need to deal with foreign currency. Fumbling around to select the right bill or coin can hold up a line of other customers and hurt our confidence. We worry that we might be over-charged or cheated. We aren't sure how to thwart pickpockets. Questions from newbie travellers about handling money safely and wisely while abroad are common. Let's look at some ways to manage money before, during, and after your trip.

Before the Trip

Do Some Research

Many countries are turning more and more to electronic and card payments but there are still many that are more cash-reliant. Smaller businesses, especially in less-developed and more rural destinations often operate on a cash-only basis. Take some time to google the situation in your destination.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in the most popular tourist areas however, which cards are more widely accepted varies widely. Before planning to rely on your credit card, do a google search to determine if your card is accepted broadly. Your credit card company may need to be notified of your travel to avoid fraud alerts that may freeze your card.

It's important to understand the terms of your credit card to determine foreign transaction fees and the terms of any travel insurance that may be included with your card. These are service fees charged on top of the exchange rate. Make sure that you have plenty of credit available on credit cards. Pre-approvals for hotels, tours, excursions, and fuel stations are temporarily applied against the balance. Pay off the balance, if possible, before travel.