How I Carry My Money While Traveling

Derek Travel Gear 122 Comments

By this point in my travels I think I’ve tried it all when it comes to carrying around my money and credit cards while on the road.

Sitting here right now I can only chuckle and shake my head as I recall my inexperienced and frightened traveling self carrying around a money belt during my first trip abroad. That money-carrying option lasted only six months, until I realized that my money belt actually made my life more complicated. I happily discarded it one day while in the town of Mae Sariang in Thailand.

With the money-belt gone, I immediately switched back to the standard method of money-carrying – the wallet. And over the following two years I went through a variety of wallets, mostly cheap ones found in local markets around the world, in an attempt to find one that fit my needs perfectly. Of course, this mission was never successful, although, I still preferred any old wallet over a money belt. But the wallet was bulky, especially when keeping it in my side pocket in the hopes of deterring pickpocketing folk in some of the countries I visited.

Anyway, I certainly didn’t quit my search for a better option.

A SIMPLER METHOD

While working on board a cruise ship in Hawaii, a fellow crew member and good friend of mine once told me that he had faced a similar money-carrying issue as myself. His solution was remarkably simple – a rubber band. I loved the idea and immediately ditched my wallet. My bulky pockets vanished and my money and credit cards never got in the way of my movements. Unfortunately, this only lasted for 2 days, at which time the rubber band broke.

Luckily, all I needed to do was find another rubber band. And even though they broke on a somewhat regular basis, I stuck with this method of money-carrying for just over one year. I eventually gave it up after spending an unsuccessful 2.5 hours searching for a new rubber band one day while in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with my cash and credit cards bouncing around like wild, misbehaving children inside of my shorts pocket.

By the end of those 2.5 hours, I simply wanted nothing to do with rubber bands and so I made the bold decision to abandon all types of money-carrying equipment, to rebel against every method that had ever failed me. Now, when Earl the Rebel would go out, he would just grab his pile of cash and credit cards, chuck it into his pocket, any pocket, and proudly flaunt the chaos and disorganization that resulted.

For two years I carried on in this manner.

UPGRADING TO A HIGH-TECH SYSTEM

It was not until I was backpacking through the Hindu Kush mountains of Pakistan that I started to question the usefulness of my ‘pile of chaos’ method. After all, I was about to cross the border into Afghanistan and certainly such a trip warranted a money-carrying system far more secure than any I’d ever tried before. So a few days before making the overland journey to Kabul, I bought a tough velcro wallet, two rubber bands AND a small chain in the ‘thieves market’ in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

This high-tech wallet system did prove useful in Afghanistan. My cash and cards remained secure at all times as everything was in one bundle, attached to my belt with that chain, allowing me to quickly and safely pull out money while standing on a street corner buying a bag of raisins.

However, the problem occurred when I flew to Delhi a few weeks later, where I decided not to use the chain any more. And on my very first night, someone pick-pocketed my wallet as I walked through a market.

With wallet gone (along with several hundred dollars in cash and all of my credit cards), I didn’t know what to do. So I bought a cup of tea from a street vendor using the change I found in my other pocket. And then I drank that cup of tea.

And as I sipped away I noticed a man buying a hand towel from a street stall next to me. When it came time to pay for his towel, this man pulled from his pocket something that I knew existed, but had never thought to use myself. The answer to all of my problems shone brightly in my face in the form of a well-polished, silver money clip.

THE MONEY CLIP

My first money clip – a narrow, thin, yet sturdy, clip – was purchased in a shop in the town of Savannah, Georgia the day after returning from India. And from the moment I inserted my money and credit cards into this clip, I knew that my long search for the ideal money-carrying system was closer to an end than ever before.

This clip had just enough flexibility in its curve to effortlessly handle both a small pile of cash as well as a large stash of bills and credit cards and so, together we went across the world, this money clip and I, visiting places such as Hungary and Croatia, Argentina and Uruguay, Myanmar and Thailand and Egypt and Jordan.

For 3 years we traveled the globe, during which time we were inseparable, with my long-dreamed-of goal of keeping my money well-protected and organized at all times finally having been achieved.

It was not until 2009 that our bond came to an end. We were at the beach on the island of St. Thomas and as I added a five-dollar bill into my money clip after paying for a Corona, the clip just snapped, too weak from years of dedicated service to carry on any further. Heartbroken, yet thankful for the time we had spent together, I had no choice but to lay that money clip to rest in the white sands of Emerald Beach, leaving it free to relax to the soothing sounds of the gentle waves forever.

THE PRESENT DAY

I have a new money clip now, but it’s not nearly as reliable as my old one. This one often refuses to hold my money tight if I only have a few dollars to hold and sometimes I’ll reach into my pocket and discover that my credit cards are sticking in every possible direction. With that said, we somehow manage, and I still find that a money clip is the most useful method of carrying money while traveling around the world.

But the reason I’m writing this post is because sometimes, the challenges of my current money clip become too much to handle. Today is a good example. While trying to pay for a half dozen bagels at the supermarket this morning, I pulled out my money clip and found that it had failed me yet again, leaving my cash and credit cards and driver’s license all tangled up in one giant mess. Money soon fell to the floor, credit cards were scattered on the counter and I stood there helpless, never before having felt so unorganized in all my life.

The young woman at the cash register looked straight into my eyes at one point and tried to comfort me with her smile. She then shook her head ever so slightly, as if to provide an answer to the question bouncing around my head at that very moment.

That question was…“What is the point of using a money clip if that clip doesn’t actually clip anything together?”


How do you carry your money around while traveling? Have you found the perfect solution?

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Comments 122

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  4. Tony

    The easiest way to carry cash I have found is to simply put most of it in a woman’s nylon stocking and use the ends to tie it around one’s waist. I then put a chump amount of cash in a wallet which I carry in my front pocket providing a much easier target for pickpockets to go after if they were to target me…

  5. Ernest

    I’ve been in similar dilemmas, and never found a wallet that worked well while traveling. However, I recently picked up a HuMn wallet, and I think it is outstanding. It’s a like fancy elastic band wallet and money clip with RFID-blocking aluminum plates (in my case, I opted for the lightweight carbon fiber plates).

    They are a bit pricey, but they work extremely well. I love that I can scale and adjust my wallet while traveling without worrying about loose slots or currency that does not fit.

  6. Mike

    You’re looking for the binder clip, as previously mentioned. Rubber bands loose tension. Money clips do work fine. For traveling however, you’re better off with the binder clip. They can be found in stores easily, and are also cheap. I even use my binder clip to hold my keys.

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  8. Ólafur Kristján

    Now I did not read all the comments but I have always found the sock to be a real useful place to hide some of your money and/or cards, and try and divide it up a bit like some emergency money under the sole of the shoe or carve a hole in the shoe tongue and stuff somethings up there, and always keep a wallet with small useless crap in and small amounts of money if worst comes to worst and you would get mugged or something….. anyway LOVE your blogs, keep on writing and traveling 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Olafur – Thanks for reading the posts! And I agree, dividing up the money is the most important thing as you simply don’t want to lose everything at the same time.

  9. Kathryn

    If all you’re using is a money clip you should look up the mighty wallet. I got one from a novelty store from the clearance section (someone returned it or something) for a couple of bucks and I’m a girl and I can’t imagine carrying a purse anymore. I stick that bad boy in my pocket, it looks like an old piece of paper, its waterproof and worn down but still holdin’ on strong. I’ve had it for almost a year now and its constantly in my back pocket. Its also really thin (or as thick as you want) REALLY try it! It seems perfect for your travels because its “camouflaged” as an old piece of paper so no one will think your money is in there 😀

    1. Earl

      Hey Kathryn – I’ve seen that mighty wallet around as well. At the moment I’m quite happy with my Smart Clip but I can definitely see how the mighty wallet would be a very useful travel item!

  10. Andy

    I too have searched for the “perfect” money clip having just recently spurned wallets forever. After several false starts with metal and leather models, I have fallen in love with a carbon fiber model I found on-line called the “Koolstof”. A google search will put you on it. It weighs something like 6 grams and (so far) does not seem to “loosen” up at all even after carrying overly-thick bundles of cards and cash. Good luck!

  11. Anna Lombardi

    I use clothes with built in pockets. I either wear underwear with pockets or a tank top with a pocket on the stomach. I wear the tank under a regular shirt so no one sees the pocket and no way anyone can steal from me. They are so much better than money belts or neck bags. I buy them from the Clever travel companion.

    I just discovered them last fall and I wonder why no one has thought of this before?

    My hubby uses money clips and they never work!

    1. Earl

      Hey Anna – Those kind of clothes definitely work well and I agree that they are infinitely better than money belts. As for the money clips, has your husband tried the Smart Clip? I bought one after others recommend it and I must say, this thing is the best money clip on the planet!

  12. alyson

    my boyfriend’s father had a secret compartment sewn onto the inside of his belt while travelling europe in the 1970’s. It kept his things safe and secure even while being searched by some less than civil guards in morocco.

  13. Carlos

    The money clip can still be pickpocketed. I like using a velcro wallet + chain strapped to my belt, than put it in my pocket and hide the chain. (I don’t use a chain but rather a cord)

    1. Earl

      Hey Carlos – The money clip can still be pickpocketed but generally only if it is stuck in your back pants pocket. The idea is that it is slim enough to fit in your front pants pocket which is much harder to get into. Of course, nothing beats the chain/cord method when it comes to security!

  14. linda maker

    im a woman and i do travel quite often both vacation and business. i guess all women have one advantage over men —we were bras. yes my money and other valuables i put inside my bra cup. really theres no safer place and no need to even were a money belt. i have a rather expensive leather change purse big enough for all my cash-credit card-drivers license- coins and if i push it i can get my cell phone into it. right into the old bra it goes. never lost anything and no chance of any pickpocket getting it. atleast not without me knowing it and punching him in the nose.

    1. Earl

      Hey Linda – I can’t deny that. Women do have that advantage over men in terms of keeping their money and credit cards safe!

  15. oliver

    when i travel i tend to split my cash in different pockets , tht way i cant be robbed of all my money at the same time… but i carry my wallet always, can’t do without it…

    1. Earl

      Hey Oliver – Splitting up money always makes sense. Most of the time a person will take whatever they can get and won’t stick around asking you to empty out all of your pockets. So when the money is in different places, we can just hand them a few bills and off they go….thank you for commenting!

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