A few weeks ago, I wrote about the method(s) I’ve used over the years to carry my money while traveling, mentioning that the money clip is generally my preferred method. However, what I failed to mention in that post is what exactly I carry around with me, clipped in to that money clip of mine.
Obviously, I carry some money, but as several readers pointed out, that’s a bit vague. Do I walk around with $500 in my pocket or do I keep a much, much smaller amount on me, such as $10 bucks worth of local currency? And what about those cards? Do I use credit cards, debit cards or maybe the only cards I carry are playing cards?
Normally, I carry about $50 USD worth of local currency with me while I’m wandering around each day. But I don’t carry it all in one place. I’ll stick about $40 worth in my money clip and throw the rest either in my other pants pocket or in a shirt pocket if I’m wearing a shirt that has one. This way, whenever I’m about to purchase something small, such as a roadside snack or a tube of toothpaste, I don’t have to pull out my entire money clip. And whenever I use up the money in my shirt pocket, I simply add some more.
I also travel with about $100 US dollars in cash, however, this is only for emergencies and I always leave this money in my hotel/guesthouse room.
And I think it’s been about three years or so since I’ve visited currency exchange booths on a regular basis. ATMs are a much easier way to get cash nowadays as you can obviously withdraw only the amount you need, which helps travelers avoid having to carry around large sums of moolah. Although, the amount I withdraw from an ATM depends on the fees that the local banks charge for each withdrawal. If no fees are charged, I’ll typically take out $100 or less, but if fees are charged, I might take out as much as $200 at a time in order to ensure that I don’t have to pay that fee too often.
Many travelers must also take into consideration the fees charged by their home banks as well, which in most cases are quite significant when withdrawing money overseas. Luckily, especially for US citizens, you can avoid such costs by putting your money in one of the handful of bank accounts that does not charge any international ATM fees (see below).
As soon as I arrive in a new country, the first thing I do is make a trip to the ATM, preferably one inside of the airport. Of course, if I’m crossing a remote land border, say between Bangladesh and India or Turkey and Iraq, where ATMs are nowhere to be found, then I will change some money into the local currency before crossing, but usually just enough to get me to the closest major town.
And when I do need to exchange some money, I personally am not too fussy. I don’t spend full days roaming around comparing every exchange booth in the city in search of the best rate. As long as they don’t charge a commission and the rate is reasonable, I’ll take it.
In addition to cash, I also carry the ATM card for my Capital One Savings Account, which is one of the US bank accounts that does not charge any fees for withdrawing money overseas. (Capital One has a variety of savings accounts that are attractive to travelers.)
I also carry around one more ATM/Debit card from another bank account as well as two credit cards, which I generally only use when I’m booking a flight online.
One of these credit cards is a Capital One Rewards Card because this card also doesn’t charge any international transaction fees. And my second credit card is a United Airlines Mileage Plus Visa so that every dollar I spend with it increases my United Mileage Plus Frequent Flyer account by at least 1 mile.
(*For US Citizens, Charles Schwab also offers bank accounts without international transaction fees. Also, if you have a Bank of America account, you can use your ATM card at any bank within the Global ATM Alliance without racking up any fees. For citizens of other countries, it might pay to look at the Global ATM Alliance as well to see if you have an account with one of the member banks. And if you know of any fee-free accounts in Europe, Canada, Australia or elsewhere, please let us know in the comments!)
Unlike a lot of other travelers, I almost always keep my valuables in my hotel/guesthouse room while I’m out and about every day, and this includes most of my money, the credit cards I won’t be needing, my laptop and my passport. I personally find it much more risky to be carrying these items around with me all of the time than it is to keep them in my hotel room. And in 11 years, I’ve never had anything taken from any guesthouse or hotel room that I’ve stayed in, anywhere in the world.
If I walk into a budget hotel and immediately sense a creepy vibe, I simply turn around and find somewhere else to stay. Rarely do I hand over money for a room unless I feel comfortable with the environment and am somewhat confident that my belongings will be safe in my room, just as anyone’s belongings should be safe in any hotel room.
And if I happen to be staying in a dorm room, then I always lock up my valuables in the safe provided by the guesthouse/hostel. If they don’t have a safe, I don’t stay there. It’s as simple as that.
The main reason why I keep my valuables inside of my room instead of on my person is because, the last time I checked, pickpocketing, or most forms of robbery that travelers tend to face for that matter, tend to occur outside of one’s hotel room. If I don’t have anything on me to be pick-pocketed or stolen, then I have nothing to worry about.
In addition, if I’m carrying everything around with me, I also run the risk of leaving something behind during the day, perhaps at a restaurant or historical site, such as my backpack, with my laptop and passport inside. By walking around with only a small amount of money and my camera in my pocket, I’m a lot more relaxed and therefore more able to enjoy my experiences, knowing the worst that can happen is that I lose $50 bucks and the day’s photos.
And before I forget, I also carry around my driver’s license (we should always have some form of identification on us) and sometimes I even carry around the business card of a hotel that I am not staying at. That’s right, I figure that if I’m robbed or find myself in a sticky situation, one where somebody wants to track me down, I better not give them the address of where I’m actually staying. While I realize that this may be a little over the top, I generally only use this tactic when traveling through regions where I must pay extra attention to my security.
Let’s hear your advice! What’s in your money clip, wallet, money belt, rubber band, binder clip, shoe or bra while you’re traveling?