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Posts Tagged ‘Paying abroad’

Don’t let your wallet get swiped abroad!

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Perhaps one of the worst ways to have a perfectly wonderful vacation go to ruin is to lose your wallet, or worse, have it stolen, especially while you’re traveling abroad. You feel helpless, sick to your stomach, and fearful, because everything you need to transact even the most basic functions of daily life are contained in that little piece of leather and plastic. All doesn’t have to be lost, though, if you keep three basic, easy-to-remember rules in mind as you travel.

1. Don’t carry your wallet. That’s the simplest and best way to avoid the problem of a lost or stolen wallet. Have I lost my mind, telling you not to carry your wallet? What about the money, the credit cards, the ID? You don’t need a wallet for any of these things. I  always put some cash, one credit card, and my driver’s license in a small "purse" that I’ve bought expressly for travel. This purse is small enough to strap to my leg (under my slacks) if I’m not carrying a purse, and has a little pouch for change. But you don’t need anything fancier than a small plastic zip lock bag, which will easily do the job just as well.

2. Call the police. If you are carrying the wallet (despite my best advice) and it’s been stolen, call the police right away. Even if the police can’t recover your wallet, you will need the police report to make an insurance claim. And sometimes, the police even recover your wallet for you, in which case you can lock it into your hotel room safe for the rest of your stay. Even if you’ve lost your wallet, you should report it to the local police. A lost wallet can often turn up (without cash, most likely) but with ID and other important items still inside. Filing a police report will increase your chances of ever getting the wallet back into your hands safely. Otherwise, no one will have a clue how to contact you as you travel.

3. Keep change, receipts, business cards, etc. in your wallet tucked inside the hotel room safe.
If you really want to be able to avoid having that wallet with you as you travel, you’ll have to get used to getting rid of all those collectables you acquire during the day. Chuck the small change, cards, notes, receipts, and other odds and ends that make your normally feather-light wallet feel like a cannonball. These should go into the wallet and be left inside the room safe, unless you absolutely must have the item with you. If you need an item you’ve stored in your locked wallet, take it out, put it into your baggie or purse, but don’t take the wallet out of the safe. Regarding small change, in most currencies, it’s not worth much in terms of buying power. And if you leave what you collect in your hotel room when you check out, your maid will appreciate the tip.
 

Cash, traveler’s checks, or credit? What’s the scoop on money when you travel?

FP_Creditcard.jpgIn today’s world, it’s hardly ever worth it to carry traveler’s checks. You can find ATM machines in many destinations, even those considered "off the beaten track" where you can get cash, in local currency, using your own credit or debit card.

Typically, the exchange rates charged by your credit card company or bank will be better than those charged by local banks, and the convenience goes without saying. You get money as you need it, without having to carry around lots of bills, and without having to pay commissions and fees to cash the traveler’s checks.

If you simply can’t imagine taking a trip abroad without traveler’s checks, by all means get the ones that are free. If you belong to AAA, or your bank offers free traveler’s checks to their depositors, get them. But make sure you get them in small denominations. Typically, you pay fees based on the amount you’re changing. If you’re like me, you’ll bring them home with you again to redeposit into your own checking account. That is, of course, if you have anything left!

When I travel abroad, I usually bring about $300 in cash so I can quickly convert some dollars to local currency on arrival. That gives me time to find out where the ATM machines are located, without having to stress about not having money in local currency.

I also carry enough $1 bills to take care of incidental tipping, too. Having $20 to $30 in single dollars buys me time to figure out what a good tip should be in local currency (and I can assure you that tips paid in dollars won’t be refused).

I use the hotel in-room safe to store extra cash, so I don’t need to walk around carrying a bundle of bills in my purse. I also take two different credit cards with ATM capabilities, but I only carry one at a time. I leave the second card tucked away in the room safe. If I ever lose my purse or if it gets stolen, I have another card on hand.

And remember, before you even depart the U.S., it’s a good idea to call your card companies and bank to let them know when and where you’re going. The last thing you want is to have your bank account frozen while you’re abroad.

I always call my card company before leaving for any trip. The trip details go into my credit card file. If you’ve ever been in another country, tried to make a purchase, and had your card declined, you know why the preemptive call is important. In today’s security-conscious world, where identity and card theft is rampant, cards are often declined because the charge doesn’t fit a normal profile. If your credit card profile is annotated with your travel details, you’ll never face this embarrassing inconvenience.
 

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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