Travelling across the world is always an exciting experience. The best way to avoid unnecessary complications is to take care of as many details as you can before the departure. Money is definitely a top priority: it is already complicated to count with a different currency – think about all those little weirdly shaped coins that mean absolutely nothing to you – the least you can do for your peace of mind is to limit the amount of money-related stress.
The first step of any well-planned holiday is to go and have a chat with your bank. They will be able to tell you about every policy, from withdrawal fees to any card restriction you might encounter. You will always be charged for using your card abroad, but ATMs seem to stay strong as the cheapest option for everyday purchases. There is a good chance that you can actually avoid converting any money before your journey.
While some countries are trying to go cash-free (hello, Sweden), there are quite a few places where you have a minimum spend on the card - not to mention the issue of chip-and-PIN cards in Europe. Either you are a careful planner or simply a bit pessimistic (cards can be lost or stolen or demagnetized, after all), it is reassuring on many levels to carry some cash with you.
Make a little business plan for your journey, and try to be as accurate as you can when you decide how much money you want to convert. On one hand, it is better to change a larger sum at the beginning of your holiday, to minimize the exchange fees. On the other hand, especially if you are not planning to go back to your destination anytime soon, remember you will lose money when changing a foreign currency back to dollars. It is fun to spend a handful of remaining coins at the airport waiting for your flight, just make sure that ‘handful’ is not worth another day of a holiday.
You are probably sick of hearing this, and yet their business is still running: avoid at all cost the so-called ‘no-fee bureau de change’. A quick look at any currency rates website (www.xe.com will be your best friend) will show you how just a serious emergency could justify their fees. When you are changing money abroad, choose a bank or even a post office (they are particularly favorable in the UK, for instance).
In case of an emergency that requires a large amount of money, you can still rely on overseas money services (such as Western Union). Similarly, you can keep a prepaid card or use traveler’s checks as a backup plan. These options are reliable and, in case of overseas services, extremely fast, although they all share unfavorable exchange rate.
There are so many ways to get your hands on your bank account wherever you are, whenever you need the money, that you really have no excuse to be caught unprepared. Time to enjoy your holiday.