Travel Advice - Take a mix of cash and cash
When you leave for vacation, what blend of money and
cash equivalents (principally credit cards, ATM cards, and
traveler's checks) should you take with you? Considerations
- The length of your vacation
- The type of vacation being planned
- For example, will you stay at a resort where
you can bill to an account?
- Alternatively, will you be moving between
places and need to pay as you go?
Our preference is not to carry large sums of cash
for reasons of safety.
We attempt to use credit cards for all lodging,
major meals, and events/attractions.
- Credit cards can be used for foreign currency
transactions but this type of transaction is regarded as a cash advance
or loan and interest starts at the time of the transaction.
- We recommend that you Do Not use
credit cards for currency related needs.
We carry two credit cards with us during the trip
but only use one at a time, keeping the other stored in a money belt
until and unless it is needed.
- Taking two credit cards is not an attempt to stay
within a credit balance but a strategy to be able to continue our
vacation in case a card is lost, stolen, or damaged.
- Note that dual credit cards issued on the same
account do not provide as much safety as taking two cards from
- If one card from a joint account is lost or
stolen, both cards will be invalidated when you report the loss to
the credit card issuer.
We recommend using ATM/debit cards for currency
transactions (e.g. to buy Pounds, Euros, etc. - see our article
Buying foreign currency).
It is advisable to take two ATM cards in case one is lost or damaged
(see our article What To Do
When the ATM Eats Your Card).
You need to be prepared for locations where you
cannot find an ATM machine or, perhaps an ATM that works with the
financial network [Cirrus, Interlink, Plus, etc.] that supports your ATM
card. In addition, you may find ATMs “out of service" for one reason or
- In these cases, cash is king.
- You are better off having local currency rather
than dollars but any cash can be a savior (see
Carry cash for convenience and emergencies).
- So, be sure to have some cash to convert into
local currency. It is a lifesaver when you cannot use your credit or
Traveler’s checks are useful cash equivalents but
their value lies in their security rather than their flexibility.
- If you use a reputable check backed by readily
available customer service, the traveler’s check is indispensable, since
replacement is possible if the checks are lost or stolen (see
Traveler Check Security).
- Most often, we find traveler checks useful for
changing money and less welcome by vendors and hoteliers than
- Although we carry traveler checks for
security, our traveler checks sit in our money belt and, often, make
the return home without being converted. Their value is that they
are present if needed.
The Blend/Money Mix
When leaving for a trip, we take ATM and credit
cards for most of our financial transactions.
- Carry approximately one third of the amount of
cash that you think that you will spend on your trip as 50% cash and 50%
- Use ATMs to transact local currency.
- Use credit cards for most expenses incurred while
- We recommend reserving the cash and travelers
checks for use when there is no other alternative available.
Regardless of the money mix you plan to use during
your travels, make sure you know the costs of doing so before you leave
If you need to find information about Destinations or other Things
Travelers Need To Know, try Googling ThereArePlaces.
- If you will use a credit card, find out the fees
levied on international purchases.
- Ask about the maximum extent of the loss you are
responsible for should the card be lost or stolen.
- For ATM cards, find out the cost of currency
conversion and the cost of making a withdrawal at an “out of system”
- These costs should not dissuade you from using
credit cards or ATM cards but they will help you to understand and plan
for the real cost of your transactions while traveling.