This topic always raises travelers’ blood pressure and stress by a few points. Even I still check and double check that I have everything in order before I go. The good news is that most of what you have to do to minimize your risk of being without money can be taken care of before you…when you can take your time to make sure it’s all in order. The rest relies on being street smart while you travel. So, a lot of these will become second nature to you in no time.
Managing Your Money and Finances on Your Career Break
- Let your banks know where you’re going for all credit and debit card accounts. You don’t want any surprises while you’re traveling. And, banks have pretty sophisticated fraud systems. So, if you haven’t been traveling and all of a sudden overseas charges start showing up, you WILL be flagged. So, for every debit and credit card you plan to take, be sure you let your bank know to expect constant overseas activity. Even after traveling for a year, I got flagged when I bought a new DSLR camera. Once I called, everything was fine again. It’s good that they are watching. You just don’t want every transaction held up.
- Use your ATM card to get local currency. I’m a big believer in using the local ATM. You tend to get the best, most current exchange rate via the bank. Yes, the banks will charge you fees. But, there are some banks that will waive or refund those fees. So, do your homework before you go and move your account as needed. If you have to use an exchange place (it happens), then find one away from the airport to get the best rate. Also, withdrawing the maximum amount you’re comfortable carrying around will minimize those ATM fees.
- Always have a backup plan. Sometimes the credit card machine doesn’t work. Sometimes, the ATM is out of money. Sometimes they say they take credit cards . But, when you go to pay, you find out the card machine is ¨not working.¨ So, have multiple options to minimize your hassles.
- ATM tips.
1. Exercise caution at the ATM at all times. Find one that’s guarded if possible. For example, in South America, many ATMs have guards so you can feel safe getting money.
2. If you don’t have a 4-digit ATM pin, get one before you leave. It’s the most universally accepted PIN worldwide. I only recently discovered that some banks use 5-digit pins. Make sure you get a 4-digit pin or else you will have a hard time logistically getting your PIN reset from overseas.
3. Some countries have a limit on how much money you can get per transaction. But, know that you can usually do a second withdrawal if you need more cash.
- If you’re joining a tour group like Gap Adventures, you can find out how much money they recommend bringing with you. On my tour in India with Gap Adventures, most of the costs were covered. So, all we needed was money for food, tuk tuks and whatever trinkets we wanted to buy. Luckily India is pretty cheap so we didn’t have to worry too much about being without. And, our group bonded pretty quickly. So, if anyone had run out of money, that person would have been covered until we could get to a working ATM or a money exchange place.
The B-Side Money Tips for Your Career Break Travel
- Always pay in the local currency. You will always get the best price using local currencies.
- Cash is king in most of the world. Outside of Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, cash is preferred, and often the only way to pay.
- Don’t use an internet cafe to do your banking. Many banks won’t recognize the computer you’re using. And, even if their security allows you access to your account, a public computer may not have adequate browser security to protect your most personal financial data. Use your own laptop.
- Have a VISA credit card. I love my American Express, but many merchants do not. So, be sure that one of your credit cards is a VISA. It’s the most accepted card I’ve seen. Matercard is an acceptable alternative. But, I’ve found Visa to be the most widely accepted.
- Set up a power of attorney with someone back home. It doesn’t hurt to have a trusted someone back home able to access your banking information. I have someone and that person has come on handy from time to time as various situations have come up.
- Set up a will and trust. When you leave for your career break, you need to have all your affairs in order. And, this includes what to do in case the unthinkable happens. If you have a will and trust already, review it and modify it before you go. If you don’t, this is a good excuse to get one established.
Check out the other topics covered in the Gap Adventures Career Break Video Series
- Packing Tips for a Career Break
- Money Tips for Your Career Break
- Security 101 While Traveling
- Discovering A Country Through Its Food
- How to Get Around Like a Local While Traveling
- Why Consider a Small Group Tour Operator on Your Career Break
- Cooking Class in India: Learn Something New on Your Career Break
- Solo Travel: How to Travel Alone Without Feeling Lonely
- Getting to Know Our Tour Leader in India
Disclosure: I am serving as the Gap Adventures media spokesman for career break travel. While this series is part of a broader campaign to raise awareness about career break travel, all opinions, tips and advice are mine.