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First Time Traveller with a Q about currency

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What is the best way to swap currencies while going round the world?
8 years ago, September 11th 2010 No: 1 Msg: #118983  
Hi everyone!

I'm new to this site and about to take my first travel expedition alone next year. I'm going round the world for six months. I really couldn't be more excited and am absolutely thrilled that there's a forum like this where I can connect with others in my position. :D

I really just need your opinion on something because, at the moment, I'm getting overwhelmed by everyone telling me to go one way or another.

My round the world travels will mean that, as far as money goes, I'm going to need Rand, Aus dollars, NZ dollars, Pesos, Nuevos Soles, and Mexican dollars.

While I'm getting two different choices from the two banks I'm with, the post office are telling me something different and then I have an abundance of opinions from friends and family (who've never been travelling either) ("traveller's cheques"/"use our credit card"/"use your debit card"/"get eveything out of a cashpoint", etc.).

My question is: What worked for you when you went to more than one country on one trip?

What did you find the best way to get money out/spend money?

😊 Thanks x Reply to this

8 years ago, September 11th 2010 No: 2 Msg: #118985  
B Posts: 460
I wouldn't bother with travellers cheques - they tend to be an administrative pain in the neck and don't usually attract a decent exchange rate.

Credit cards should never be used to withdraw money from an ATM, as that's a cash advance and will attract a punitive rate of interest. A credit card can be handy for paying for services such as tours but note that most credit card companies charge a commission of at least 3% for using the card overseas, plus the company you're buying from may also chuck on their own commission (very common in South America). There are some credit cards that claim to not charge the foreign usage commission, e.g. Halifax Clarity, however I haven't used one of those cards personally and I've no idea what their base exchange rates are like. If you so wish, you'll be able to use your credit card all over the place in Australia and New Zealand, but I wouldn't expect to be able to rely on it elsewhere on your travels (though when you say you need pesos, it's not clear where you're going - there are at least 8 countries whose currency is called the peso, including Mexico :-))

I never used my debit card to pay for services when I was travelling - I only used it as an ATM card, however I would guess the way the parent bank treats both kinds of transactions will be the same (hopefully someone else can chip in on this). I think currently most ATM cards charge a 3% foreign usage commission, and you may also have to pay a fixed fee for using a particular ATM. Check with your bank what their fees will be, as well as their base exchange rates.

For a long time, the Nationwide ATM card was the best one to have because there was no foreign usage fee, however I think they'll be charging a 2% fee from November this year. That's probably still lower than most banks.

There seems to be a rising level of interest in prepaid cards such as those offered by Fairfx, Caxton, and (I think) the Post Office. These still charge a foreign usage fee (I think Fairfx's fee is 1.5%) but it's lower than most banks. Unfortunately you also need to take the base exchange rate into account when figuring out who's offering the best deal. I haven't used one of these cards but, on the face of it, they might be a better alternative to a standard ATM card.

Finally, it's always good to carry some cash with you (preferably US $, though pounds or euros are a decent alternative) as a back-up.

In short, I would recommend taking one credit card (preferably one that doesn't charge extra for foreign usage), two ATM cards (preferably one on the Visa network and one on the Mastercard network), and a couple of hundred US $ for emergencies. Do some research into prepaid cards and see whether they offer a good alternative, in which case take one instead of one of the ATM cards.

HTH Reply to this

8 years ago, September 11th 2010 No: 3 Msg: #119004  
i would agree that it's worth taking a few different cards and keeping them in different places just in case. i usually have one in each bag, and one on me in my wallet. It's no fun getting stuck with no cards and no money as I did after getting pickpocketed in Bali Reply to this

8 years ago, September 11th 2010 No: 4 Msg: #119005  
oh and make sure you have an email in your inbox which has all your card numbers written down and all the emergency phone numbers for you card companys. print a few copies for you bag as well.

on a positive note, I found my card companies pretty good when I was in trouble and they quickly got money to me across the world.

another tip is that it often recommends taking dollars to countries, i have found euros are just as good if you want a bit of cash just in case. plus they are more useful back in europe Reply to this

8 years ago, September 11th 2010 No: 5 Msg: #119008  
I agree completely with the above, except I don't leave any cards in my bags - my passport, cards and primary money stash are in a ziplock bag inside a hidden pocket that attaches to my belt and sits inside my pants at all times. Eagle creek also makes ones you can wear around your neck that sits under your shirt. These are pickpocket-proof. I do keep a crisp $100 bill hidden very carefully inside my main pack, in the event something really bad happens. I have my daily spending money and some fake credit cards in a regular wallet, which is no big deal to lose and I figure if I do get mugged it might serve as enough of a decoy they dont go looking for more.

Make sure the US dollars or Euros you bring with you are in mint condition and have the most recent years. It is very difficult to exchange older dollars and especially damaged ones. Most visas have to be paid in US dollars and cant be paid in local currency so be sure to have enough on you, and try to have some smaller denominations as getting change back in dollars can also be a problem. If you find yourself having to buy them somewhere make sure you hold them to the same standard, they may try to pass off the bad ones on you.

In addition to emailing your card numbers and emergency phone numbers you should also scan your passport and send it to yourself. Bring several copies of it as well, many hotels will ask to hold your passport (which I hate doing) but they find it almost impossible to refuse keeping a photocopy of it in lieu of the real thing.

I am going around the world for the second time starting in about six weeks - the daydreaming and planning parts are almost as good as the actual traveling! I can stare at a world map for hours, experimenting with itineraries...have fun!

Dominick

Reply to this

8 years ago, September 12th 2010 No: 6 Msg: #119014  
the fake wallet idea is really good Dominick, might start doing that myself in future Reply to this

8 years ago, September 12th 2010 No: 7 Msg: #119019  
Wow, thanks for the fast responses, guys. That was brilliant. And really helpful.

I guess I should have actually listed the countries I'm heading, haha : South Africa, Aus, NZ, Chile, Peru, Mexico.

I'm travelling from the UK but would you recommend having US dollars on me just in case (I can't imagine UK pounds are going to come in handy where I'm going).

Ooh, and the fake wallet thing is definitely something I'm going to do. A great idea!
Reply to this

8 years ago, September 27th 2010 No: 8 Msg: #119803  
Fake credit cards, where does somewhere get their hands on one of those? It sounds like an excellent decoy. Reply to this

8 years ago, September 28th 2010 No: 9 Msg: #119930  
I use expired ones or promotional gift cards that dont have any value but look just like credit cards. Reply to this

8 years ago, October 19th 2010 No: 10 Msg: #121345  
I've rarely seen such excellent advice given in response to a travelblog question...even down to having recent $US bills to pay for visas. And I especially appreciate Dominick's comment "I am going around the world for the second time starting in about six weeks - the daydreaming and planning parts are almost as good as the actual traveling! I can stare at a world map for hours, experimenting with itineraries...have fun!" That's exactly what I do! Have a great trip Ceri!
Reply to this

8 years ago, October 19th 2010 No: 11 Msg: #121361  
Oh, piece of advice about cash points in S. America, they don’t automatically give you back your card once they’ve given the cash, they will ask you if you want to do anything else, you press no and then you get back your card, so don’t just take your cash and walk away, like we did when we were in a massive rush in La Paz last week, d’oh.

We’ve been able to either change our currency when crossing the border overland, or most bus stations have an ATM. Everyone is right, carry some dollars on you for those moments when you can’t get the right currency, as taxi drivers etc will take them. Definitely for Peru and Chile at least anyway.

We currently have an account back in the UK with all our travel money in it, we don’t have those cards with us. We have bought Caxton fx preload cards which are linked to this account in the UK and we just load a few hundred pounds on at a time (doesn’t charge us for withdrawals etc), we also have an emergency mastercard and a visa debit for absolute emergencies with us. Seems to be working out ok so far!
Reply to this

8 years ago, October 19th 2010 No: 12 Msg: #121368  
B Posts: 37
I took a credit card and a debit card last time. After reading about people here using credit cards to get money from an ATM, I asked my sister how to do it. She told me to get a PIN for my credit card, but to try hard not to use it as that money is considered a cash advance and you pay interest on it starting immediately. So I did as she suggested, and only used the credit card twice, once when the debit card didn't work, the other when I needed more than the limit to pay for a airline ticket. The bonus - I sent a text to my sister to pay the credit card the same day, so only ended up with a four dollar interest fee. It certainly helps to have someone you trust at home to help in things like this.

I also like the idea of a fake wallet. Will definitely try it out next time. Reply to this

8 years ago, October 20th 2010 No: 13 Msg: #121406  
B Posts: 25
I did a big six month trip through lots of countries and it was just easier to have an atm card - maybe a spare one if you have two accounts. Credit cards are useful too. Don't bother with travellers cheques.
If you are going to some countries that are not so well developed or may not have an abundance of atm machines, it might be a good idea to take some US dollars. I did this in South east asia and it proved useful. As long as you look after it, it's a nice security measure to have in your money belt!
I always used to take out quite a bit of cash at the atm and just pay the banks fee for a foreign withdrawl....at the end of the day, however you change money, it will incur a charge so for ease and simplicity I prefer just to withdraw money in the country I am in..in the correct currency. It's just easier!
Just make sure you have somewhere safe to keep the cash!
JHG Reply to this

8 years ago, October 26th 2010 No: 14 Msg: #121763  


If you will be gone a long time you may want to set up automatic bill pay and go ahead and schedule regular payments to your credit card company. There will be many times where you have internet access but don't want to sign on-- it won't be safe.

I agree with everyone that the ATM is the best way to go. Reply to this

8 years ago, November 7th 2010 No: 15 Msg: #122535  
I like all the ideas people.

I have thought of the fake wallet idea too, was just wondering, how much did you all carry on you at any one time?

Has anybody used a pre paid card? anyone know which one is best to use? Reply to this

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