One of the biggest fears for many travellers (especially solo travellers) is the thought of being left stranded abroad without any money. It happens, you can easily lose, damage or have your bank card stolen; after all, it is only a piece of plastic with a chip inside it. Here are my tips for travelling abroad with bank cards:
Imagine being stood inside the airport in Medan, Indonesia and you need to book a train ticket to the city centre and then pay for your hotel room. You’ve tried 3,4,5 ATM’s and none of them is giving you any money. People can see the panic in your face; they try and take advantage of the situation. You could contact your bank but you don’t have any money to make a call.
Have at least one backup method of payment
Firstly, do not rely on one bank card while travelling – ideally, travel with two debit cards, a credit card, and a travel cash card, plus a small amount of local currency that will get you from the airport and pay for your first night in your accommodation. This might sound over-the-top, but having at least one backup, will save you from being stranded abroad, alone.
Inform your bank that you’re travelling
For your own financial protection, banks block accounts when they see any suspicious activity, so it’s essential that you inform them that you’re travelling abroad, and to which destinations. You’re then less likely to have any problems withdrawing money from your account on at the destination.
Check the expiry of your card
This catches a lot of travellers out – they set off on their trip, and do not realise that during their travels, the card expires, therefore potentially leaving them without any money. At least a month prior to your trip make sure that all of your bank cards have an expiry date after you return home. It’s also worth looking at your card for any damage, and re-ordering a new one to be safe.
Make sure that the CSV code is readable (in case you need it to order tickets online) and check that your signature is still readable. With chip and pin, many of us forget to sign the card, and this can cause problems in some countries.
Protect your bank cards
Naturally, you might carry all of those cards around in your wallet or purse, but lose it, and you’re screwed. Do not carry all of your bank cards in your wallet; keep them secure in the hotel room safe, or, somewhere that no one would think about searching in your accommodation.
It is important that you only withdraw money from an ATM attached to a bank, or better still, go inside the bank and use the machine. Never, ever, use a bank machine that is located inside a shop, or, outside a tourist attraction / currency exchange place – not only will it be near impossible to get your card back, but you’ll also probably receive a lower exchange rate.
Limit card usage
Think about withdrawing money only once or twice a week, as it’ll lead to less wear on your card, and lower the chance of it being lost, damaged or stolen.
At the beginning of the week think about how much money you will need and withdraw it – give yourself a daily budget. Not only is this a good way to keep your money secure, but it’ll help you make sure that you do not overspend and then have to spend the following year paying off credit card bills.
For security, I have two accounts with the same bank; my income goes in one, and once a week money is transferred into my spending account, which is the only account that has a debit card – there’s never more than £150 in the account, so if anyone clones the card, they won’t get access to all of my money.
Have bank account contacts at hand
Keep the contact details of all of your bank cards somewhere at hand, both on your mobile phone and on a document saved on your computer or a service like Google Drive or Dropbox.
That way, if you lose your mobile phone, you can still get the details without too much hassle. It’s also a good idea to make a note of any information you’ll require to confirm that you’re the account holder – obviously, security is of paramount importance, so password protects any documentation.
You probably will not want to pay the ridiculous roaming fees when using your mobile phone to phone your bank, so, download an app called Viber, which allows you to make cheap phone calls from abroad – all you need is a decent quality internet connection, but make sure you find somewhere private to have the conversation.
Use your common sense
A lot of this advice is based on common sense – don’t be intoxicated and leave your guard down when using your card in a bar, or at an ATM. Keep your card safe – your passport and wallet are essential to your travels, these you need to secure with your life. Hopefully, you will find these tips useful when planning your round the world trip.