It would be amazing if travel was always, only, sunshine and rainbows. I suppose if there are no lows there are no highs, though. The reality is sometimes less than desirable situations arise. Financial woes are in my memory as such undesirable happenings. All of the below have happened to me at one point or another. Here are 5 Money Mistakes to Avoid While Abroad.
Having only one form of plastic
You’ll want to have at least two forms of credit cards with you, assuming you own more than one option at home. For instance don’t just take one credit card or one debit card. Take several. I usually travel with my preferred American Express (Starwood rewards for the win!), a Visa (since it’s often more widely accepted abroad) and a debit card. This way if one fails on me I have two more options. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep one of the cards in a completely separate pocket or travel bag, just in case you need it for backup if your wallet’s pick-pocketed or lost.
Not alerting your banks you’re overseas
I was surprised to find my debit card didn’t work in about five ATMs I tried to use in Chaing Mai before we headed out for an all day excursion with elephants. I’m so good about alerting my banks I’m overseas! Alas, I must have missed an alert because I promptly returned to my hotel to hop on Wifi to use my phone’s Wifi calling feature (I have an American Verizon plan, if you’re wondering) to call the bank back home. It was an easy fix but it never would have been a problem had I double checked my alerts. Many alerts can be set online these days. It’s a good option if you’re not keen on talking to a human or making a call.
Where’s the phone number to get in touch with your bank or credit card should you need to? Directly on the back of your physical card.
Taking out too much cash
It’s very unusual to press the wrong dollar amount in your home country when withdrawing money from an ATM. However, throw in a foreign land and some currency conversion rates and it’s a confusing cocktail. I simply need a few extra Yen on my last full day in Japan. I stopped at a 7 Eleven ATM (plentiful in Japan) and proceeded to punch in numbers. I even canceled the transaction once knowing one too many numbers was keyed in. So you can imagine my upset and horror when instead of withdrawing around $20 USD (about 2,210 Yen) I withdrew the equivalent $200 USD (about 22,095 Yen). Eeeek! The day before I left! I had hardly spent that much money the entire week I was there! There was no turning back at that point. The money was mine. Lessoned learned: if you’re not sure if you keyed in the correct amount, even if there’s a line of 30 people behind you waiting to use the ATM, cancel the transaction and start again. You can never be too sure.
Needless to say, I plan on going back to Japan just to spend my remaining 20,000 Yen. 😉
Minding conversions at an ATM
Be a smart traveler. Don’t have conversations with your travel buddy about how much money you’re withdrawing. This is especially true if you’re taking out money at night when it’s more difficult to see who is around. Be discreet and leave those conversations for private talk, like before you leave your hotel room. Think about it – if someone overhears you’re withdrawing hundreds of dollars that morning for an excursion, who’s to say they won’t follow you and pickpocket you before you can say “Instagram worthy”? It’s also a good idea to use your hand to cover the pin pad when you’re keying in your pin number and the like on the ATM.
Be safe. Not sorry.
Leaving your card in a ticket machine
I raced down to a subway platform in Germany hoping to catch the next train. Whew, it wasn’t arriving for quite some time. I went to purchase a train ticket and, having plenty of time to spare, walked around the adjacent shopping mall to kill some time. I actually found these really cute dishes at a shop and proceeded to pay for them. (Frowning face was possibly foreshadowing.) Ahhhh! Where was my credit card?!?!!?! I freaked. I paid cash instead, thanked the cashier, and quickly dashed out of there.
I immediately called my credit card company (whose number I had to Google since I didn’t have the physical card on me.) I proceeded to tell the nice woman who answered, “I’m in Germany. I need to cancel my credit card ASAP. I’m not sure if it’s lost or was stolen.” She was great and closed the account quickly.
Imagine my shock to find my card hanging out in the same machine I inserted it in to purchase my ticket. Wow, what a testament to the honesty of the area! However, because I’m a skeptical person who errs on the side of caution I’m still glad I canceled the card. I didn’t want to wonder if someone copied down the number and was using it online, leaving the physical card behind as a trick. Better to be safe than sorry!
For other tips check out:
- Top 10 Tips for Traveling Abroad
- One Thing Everywhere you Travel
- How to Edit and Oragnize Your Travel Photos
Let us know if you have any tips for travel abroad in the comments below!