How to keep money safe while travelling: smart ways to keep your currency secure
Don't fret about keeping your money safe while travelling. These straightforward tips will ensure your cash is always secure
Being smart with your money abroad starts before you hit the airport - there are precautionary measures to ensure you don't get stung on your holiday, which you can put in place from the comfort of your home. We aim not to scare you but rather prepare you for the most stress-free trip you can have: here, then, are tips to make keeping money safe one less thing to fret about.
There are travel advice articles out there that mention tips such as placing your money in a sandwich-bag and placing it inside a tight pair of underwear, to ensure no one gets their filthy paws on your dough. You can do that if you wish, but the idea of hard currency next to our nether region strikes us as unpleasant for both you and anyone unfortunate enough to vend to you. That said, most holidays involve heading to unknown places with sums of money you might not usually spend - a healthy dose of caution and preparation is smart for ensuring you aren't left out of pocket when abroad. Here are the sensible things you can do to keep your travel cash safe.
Before you head abroad
Let the bank know you’re heading abroad - make a purchase at the airport
We’ve all heard this, and indeed, we may do it. Some banking apps allow you to tick a box saying when and where you’ll be overseas; other banks request you to call. Do these things, but also, be aware that sometimes the bank ignore these and start declining transactions when you’re abroad, under the auspices of protesting you from ‘suspicious activity.’ This is stressful and time consuming, especially if you need the aforementioned card to pay for your accommodation.
What has always worked for us is buying something small at the UK airport ahead of flying out: say, some deodorant for the flight, or gum to soothe popping ears on take off. It would seem whatever bank algorithm is in place is assuaged by this action: since doing this, we haven’t had any issues with the bank cutting off our card mid-holiday.
Set up a daily withdrawal limit on your debit card
This takes discipline of steel, but if you're budgeting on holiday, a daily withdrawal limit on your card will keep you on target. We confess, we don't always do this, but if you're more self-controlled than us, it's a smart move.
Get yourself a dedicated travel debit or credit card
While a travel currency card can be a smart way of taking foreign currency abroad (you load the amount of travel money you want onto a PIN protected card, which can be cancelled if it ends up lost or pilfered. It is converted to the local currency so you aren't paying the transaction fee whenever you spend or withdraw cash), they won't necessarily give you the most favourable exchange rate. Specialist travel cards, by contrast, provided by your bank don't charge 'non-sterling transaction fees' or the flat fee you will get when you pull your regular card out abroad.
Unlike the aforementioned prepaid travel cards, specialist travel credit/debit cards will charge you according to that day's exchange rate, so while they will genuinely end up a smarter move than a currency card, savings wise, you won't have as clear idea of what you have spent on a daily basis.
But they do offer excellent protection - your bank will insure you, so if you lose your card, have it stolen, or have an interloper spend on it, you'll be able to get any lost cash back.
Those names are similar, so we can easily understand confusion. Travel currency cards are prepaid currency cards provided by a third party - such as the Post Office. You preload them with the amount of money you want to take abroad, in the local currency, and that money is now PIN protected. Your funds are managed through an app, and you can freeze the account if your card goes missing - so your money isn't lost if you are burgled. It also cuts down non-sterling transaction fees when abroad, as the money is already converted at a flat rate.
By contrast, travel debit/credit cards are available through your bank. They are cards that allow you to spend and take out money when travelling overseas without the non-sterling transaction fee. The exchange rate on the card fluctuates in line with the market. They give immediate access to what you have in your bank account or what credit you have. Research your bank's travel debit/credit card rates, though: some of them are awful and offer terrible conversion rates. They are by no means created equal.
Take note of your bank's overseas phone number ahead of leaving, just in case
Better that than faffing around on the internet on shonky wifi when abroad, if something untoward occurs.
While you're overseas
Don't keep all your money on you, or in the same place
If you've taken local currency out ahead of the holidays, don't take it all with you when you head out. If you're at a hotel, keep the bulk of it in the room's safe, and just what you need for the day. At an AirB'n'B? Keep the majority of your money tucked discretely inside an item of clothing in your suitcase.
We've mentioned before, too - when at the airport, split the money you have between your handbag/cabin bag and your check-in, so if either item goes astray you won't lose your whole nest egg.
Wear a money belt
We don't want to engender fear where it isn't necessary: many international destinations are perfectly safe, but this is for those where you have concerns. It's not stylish, but a travel money belt around your waist is the best way to avoid pick-pockets getting their paws on your dough when carrying cash on you. If you're headed into a location known for people with light fingers, tucking your largest bill in your shoe, underfoot, is another good way of keeping it safe if your other cash is filched.
Be sensible - don't leave rucksacks, bags etc unattended
Gorgeous views, holiday tipples, heady experiences can make it easy to be distracted. Don't let revelling in the moment make you lose sight of where you have your wallet and valuables stored. Also, a crossbody bag or one slung under your shoulder is a safer place to store things than a rucksack. A zip on the back of your person is easy for people to slip open and rummage around in. We have a friend, incidentally, who kept both his wallet and his iPhone in the back pockets of his jeans. They were both nabbed while he was riding the New York subway. We are sorry for his loss but learn from his mistake.
Don't be ostentatious with your cash
It may sound unsympathetic, but people who stand in busy thoroughfares riffling through their wads of cash do not deserve pity if they are then pick-pocketed. Don't be daft: count out your money in the safety of the hotel, and try and compartmentalise your cash in your wallet/money belt so you don't have to pull out a fistful of large bills when you come to pay for things.