Travel Tips from the Nest: Travelling with Money
You’ve just found the perfect souvenir that totally encapsulates all the sites and emotions you’ve experienced while on an amazing Albatross Tours European holiday. You simply must have it! But how will you pay? With cash, cheque or card? In this travel tip I’ll provide you with a little insight into some of the pros and cons of each payment method.
Most tour guides will recommend that you take some cash with you while travelling. You don’t have to cash in everything you’ve got at the first money exchange office you see, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little of the local currency for little things like refreshments, taxi rides, souvenirs and tips.
Be mindful if travelling with a lot of cash. There are some crafty pickpockets in parts of Europe. Many travel insurance policies only cover you for a few hundred dollars of lost or stolen cash. Check your policy before you leave and consider using their cover limit as your cash-carrying limit.
I would also recommend sticking to notes of a low denomination – ask the bank or bureau when making the exchange. While travelling through Italy, I offered a deli owner a €20 note to pay for my €5 baguette. He only gave me €10 in change! Because of the language barrier, it was very difficult for me to argue my point. I ended up leaving without getting the correct change, which my sister said was “non-bene!” (“not okay!”).
It might have been an honest mistake or it might have been a ploy to score an extra tip. Either way, I now only carry low denomination notes simply because it reduces the damage if I happen to be shortchanged again.
Credit, Debit and Pre-Paid Cards
Credit, debit and pre-paid cards are very popular, especially as even the most remote towns have begun to carry EFTPOS machines. Cards are a safe option as you’re likely to have the same insurance and cover overseas as you enjoy at home.
Note that you are likely to incur a small fee every time you use your credit or debit card overseas. It’s usually only a few percent, but this can still add up if you’re putting everything on the card.
Pre-paid cards in the local currency are another good option. They come with insurance, can be pre-loaded with many currencies and any remaining funds can be reclaimed at the end of your trip. They aren’t linked to your bank, so they’re more secure if you leave your wallet on the restaurant table or in the back of a taxi.
Traveller’s cheques are falling out of favour somewhat. Many feel that pre-paid cards are essentially a more secure, more accessible version of the traveller’s cheque, and opt to use them instead.
If you do use traveller’s cheques, never store the serial numbers and cheques in the same place. Stolen or misplaced cheques can usually be replaced within 24 hours as long as you have the serial numbers. It’s much harder if the lucky thief also has the serial numbers.
I would not recommend traveller’s cheques for everyday purchases. There are a number of fees to use them and the exchange rate simply isn’t as favourable as the other options.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to each option, so it’s up to you which you go with. Overall, my philosophy with money while travelling is to ‘not keep all my eggs in the same basket’. Spread your travel finances across a few options so you’ll always have a back-up in case the worst happens!