Paul’s sister Jennie, taking a leaf out of our book, travelled around the world in 2017. Before she left, she asked us for advice on how to go about her money needs on the road. We know there are a lot of other people out there who look for ways to minimise bank fees and maximise their travel budget. After all, you have worked hard to afford that well-deserved holiday, so why give a percentage of your travel savings to someone else (if you don’t have to)?
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When to plan for your travel money needs?
Planning a trip should include budgeting for it so that you don’t feel the (financial) squeeze when you return and drain your recharged batteries by stressing over how to pay your bills in the weeks and months following your trip.
- Check websites such as Google Travel, Skiplagged or Skyscanner to see what flights to your desired destination tend to cost throughout the year. You can save heaps of money by avoiding peak seasons or even just altering the weekday of your flights.
- If you plan to travel to one of the destinations we have been to feel free to check out our travel cost articles. Alternatively, use Numbeo or Budget Your Trip to check what it would cost to visit your desired destination.
While most people already have credit and/or debit cards, it is worth shopping around for cards that charge the lowest fees (and get an additional card or change provider well in advance of your trip), especially if you are planning to travel for several months (or longer).
Finally, think about your cash needs at least ten days before your departure date and get organised.
That sounds complicated… Why bother?
Being mindful of bank fees pays… LITERALLY.
Check out the example below of bank fees incurred for a typical two-week overseas holiday of a family of four. Fees can easily add up to a few percentage points of your total travel budget. In the example, paying attention could save this family more than $160 over two weeks (the equivalent of one hotel night). Having applied these tips ourselves, we only paid USD187 in bank fees for a whole year of travel (0.3% of our total spend for the year).
For simplicity, the above example does not include all charges incurred during an overseas holiday.
Any final tips?
Don’t waste your time with pre-paid travel money cards. We found that their foreign exchange spread is higher than VISA / MasterCard’s, they tend to charge a fee to load (and close) the card, many of the above fees still apply, and they only support standard currencies. One of the benefits of using VISA / MasterCard credit cards is that you are able to dispute fraudulent transactions (usually by calling your card provider’s customer service). While you can dispute fraudulent transactions on prepaid travel money cards as well, we found the process to be lengthy and cumbersome (with claim forms to be submitted to your provider).
Load a currency conversion app onto your phone (for example XE) and set up all the foreign currencies you need while travelling. These apps show you wholesale foreign exchange rates which will allow you to check whether an offered foreign exchange rate is appropriate. Foreign exchange bureaus in particular often charge exorbitant FX spreads to the unwary traveller. Always check the rates before you change money!
Foreign exchange can be a minefield. So, if any of the information provided (above or in any of our other guides) doesn’t make sense please don’t hesitate and send us a comment below or an email.
What travel money tips can you share?
I am no expert when it comes to travel money tips so I would love to hear from our readers about how they save money when travelling – whether it be a credit card tip or where to exchange money.