Years ago, it was American Express Traveler’s checks that everyone depended on while traveling. If the checks were lost or stolen, AmEx was prompt to replace the missing documents. The checks were far safer than carrying around wads of cash, but occasionally we’d run into a location where no one would accept them. The checks themselves went the way of dinosaurs after a few years when MasterCard and Visa started being widely used. Then, with the invention of the Automatic Teller Machine money for travel became no more than a piece of plastic in your purse or pocket.
The evolution of plastic money didn’t solve all the problems of travel and money—there was still the issue of guarding against loss of the card and identity theft. However, those Debit and Credit cards certainly made the issue of travel and money much simpler. There are few countries left where you cannot pull out your card to make purchases or withdraw funds from you bank back home. In some backwater places the merchants may still insist on cash when they neither understand nor trust modern developments.
All of that said, we need to plan on sensible use of money in our travels:
• Have enough funds in your Debit Card account to cover any unexpected expenses on your trip.
• Make a budget and stick to it. Impulse spending because 75 local currency equals only one US dollar can be beguiling and tempt you to spend more than you can afford.
• Do have a small amount of cash on you to purchase a meal or some other small expenditure.
• Don’t flash cash around, especially in poorer regions.
• Use a local ATM to get funds in the local currency if you’re abroad.
• Carry money and your credit card in a front pocket, and resist touching it every few minutes to see that it is still there. A pickpocket is watching to see where your valuables are.
• Don’t use a fanny pack to keep your cash and cards.
• Don’t accept the services of someone who speaks fairly good English and offers to be your guide to the best shopping spots. He or she is probably a tout in cahoots with unscrupulous venders like spiders in a web, waiting to sell you cheap goods at exorbitant prices.
• Only use ATMs at reputable banks, preferably international ones.
• Report a lost or stolen bank card immediately to avoid having to pay for a thief’s lavish tastes.
It should be clear at this point that taking care of our money when we travel is little different from doing the same at home (with just a little extra precaution).