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Travel Cash/Card issue

Just lookng for people's thoughts on the best way to hold money whilst travelling over a number of countries.
9 years ago, May 7th 2012 No: 1 Msg: #155896  

I'm leaving to travel in September and were just wondering peoples thoughts on travel cash v debit/credit cards?

If i was just going to one or two countries i think it'd be an easier solution but as i plan on going to plenty then i can't really get currency for all of them before i go.

My current bank i know charge a fee and then an exchange rate fee per transaction i think based on the size of the withdrawal. Was just wondering if anyone knew of any better ways to keep withdrawal charges down. Or is it simplest and safest to just withdraw the maximum i can each time and limit withdrawals?

I'm from the UK so if anyone has been travelling and has a good bank to recommend i would be grateful.


Dan Reply to this

9 years ago, May 7th 2012 No: 2 Msg: #155899  
Hi Dan

Our advice would be to travel with as little cash as possible for obvious reasons. There were times (Laos in particular) where we had to get out large amounts of cash due to the lack of ATM's and it's a nightmare to manage.. how much to get out.. how do we keep it safe.. what to do with it if we've over estimated... etc etc.. just more stress than is necessary.

When we were travelling we had a Nationwide card. At the time it was great with no withdrawal fees but that has since changed and they now charge £1.00 for every ATM withdrawal and a 2.5% charge on all transactions which will soon add up if you are going for any significant amount of time.

I've been researching what to do for our next trip and have discovered that Norwich & Peterborough do a debit card with £0 withdrawal and 0% transaction fees, therefore making it virtually cost free to pay for and take out money overseas. There will still be some charges with the standard withdrawal fee on some ATMS (not all so choose carefully) but this is by far the best way we've found.

There is a condition.. you have to make at least 5 transactions a month to avoid the £5 charge but when a transaction is counted as a withdrawal, card payment, transfer etc then that seems pretty easy to do as long as you remember!

Hope this helps, I'll be watching this thread in case there is any better ones out there Reply to this

9 years ago, May 9th 2012 No: 3 Msg: #156009  
I will have to look into the Norwich & Peterborough account, i can honestly say i've never heard of it. I'm sure i could deal with the 5 transactions a month if that's all you need to do. Sounds a good deal.

Did you ever happen to use a travel pre paid card at all while on your travels? I'm wondering if having a supply on one of these may be a decent idea.

Luckily i'm travelling alone and not as 2 so i wouldnt have to have as much cash on me as you two would have done but i totally agree with your point about carrying cash. Reply to this

9 years ago, May 10th 2012 No: 4 Msg: #156032  
Hi, when we travel we normally take enough cash with us to arrive that we can catch a cab and maybe last a day or so, then we always withdraw enough cash to last around 3 to 5 days, every 3 or 5 days...sort of the same as what we'd do at home. Not enough that if you lost it or it was stolen it would be a problem, but enough you can do something out of hte ordinary. If we're swapping countries then this is normally one of the first things we do when we cross a border.

We always use ATM's as well as they seem to ahve better exchange rates than exchange rate people or hotels. I dont know much about uk banks and rates though... Reply to this

9 years ago, May 10th 2012 No: 5 Msg: #156044  
We used a FairFX card. No fees, and decent exchange rates. Pretty easy to top up (online). Can also use it to make purchases online. Reply to this

9 years ago, May 10th 2012 No: 6 Msg: #156045  
Oh, my mistake, I think there's a £1 charge for ATM withdrawals, but I always take out a wedge so don't really notice it. Might look into the Norwich & Peterborough account though 😊 Reply to this

9 years ago, May 13th 2012 No: 7 Msg: #156114  
That doesn't sound a bad option and looking at the blogs you've produced i'm pretty much going the same locations so sounds like it might be a good idea to look at the Fair FX card. £1 a withdrawal i imagine is cheaper than nearly all banks so seems worth it as well Reply to this

9 years ago, May 15th 2012 No: 8 Msg: #156248  
We used the Norwich & Petersborough card. There are 2 options for this card, the 5 withdrawls per month as Sophie and Dale mention and depositing £500 into the account per month. We had the latter. We had all our travel money in our main account that we use at home and we transfered money to it from there, this covered the £500 per month issue and didn't keep all our money in one place either, which I felt was safer.

We both got the account so that we had two cards to use as there is a limit on the daily withdrawl of £250 instead of the usual £300. This card is excellent with zero fees and perfect exchange rates. We used it throughout South America, New Zealand and Indonesia with no problems.

The only issues we had with this card was getting it in the first place. It was a pain but I think it was down to an error with our address and nothing else. Also, now that we are back, I don't want to close the account in case we go travelling again or simply to use on holiday, so each month I transfer £500 from my main account into it, then once its in there I transfer that same £500 to Rob's N&P account and then from there back into our main account. This covers the £500 per month deposit issue. Internet banking is excellent! If you don't deposit £500 you will be charged £5 (which would prob still be better than using any other card!) and they do charge it! (silly Tina). They also now have the faster payments so the money is in there within 2 hours, this is a new thing as while we were away it was a real pain sometimes as it took 3 days.

We also have the Halifax Clarity credit card. This card can be used anywhere in the world with no fees. If needed, when withdrawing money from an ATM using a credit card ther are usually very high fees but with this card you only get charged the interest rate which can work out lower than any of the other debit or travel cards, as long as you pay off the balance quickly.

Both these cards were a god send for us on our trip and I am always stunned when people don't try to get them for their trips as it will save you a lot of money.

Tina Reply to this

9 years ago, May 19th 2012 No: 9 Msg: #156387  
I also travel with card since I can get use of the points that I will going to earn and convert it to travel rewards. Check this out to know what I mean <snip>

[Edited: 2012 May 19 12:02 - The Travel Camel:11053 - No dropping commerical links on this forum, thanks]
Reply to this

9 years ago, May 19th 2012 No: 10 Msg: #156404  
B Posts: 287
Hello! Great question. I always make sure if I have some local currency on me when I arrive for taxis, incidentals, street snacks - this works for most places but there are the exception(s) like Mongolia where you cannot get their currency in advance. Most international airports have kiosks that will provide most currencies as you get your flight.

I never carry large amounts of cash on me, or if I have to, I make sure I have it squirreled away in all different spots on my person and luggage. Usually I just have enough to get me by for say a weekend or unforeseen holiday.

I depend mostly on ATM's nowadays and I consider the fees just a part of traveling with peace of mind. I let both my bank and credit cards know where I am so they don't freeze my accounts - they are also aware I will not make huge cash withdrawals at one time or buy anything from stores/restaurants using a card, so that helps with them determining fraud.
Reply to this

9 years ago, May 20th 2012 No: 11 Msg: #156415  
That brings up another very important question. Informing your banks of your whereabours. I currently have accounts with 2 different banks and will be using both when i travel to spread the risk, will keep all money with one and transfer online as and when before i need to withdraw. Off course with the ideas here i may have another couple sources of money before i go.

If your away for say a year as i will be and don't have a specific plan of where you'll be when as i'm only setting specific dates for the first couple countries i'm going to, what do you say to the banks. Do you just get a contact of them to email or something every couple weeks letting them know where you are? Last thing i'd need is to be in the middle of China with frozen bank accounts Reply to this

9 years ago, May 20th 2012 No: 12 Msg: #156418  
This is another reason I used a pre-load card. When I called my bank to inform them of my travels, they said they didn't need to know. Not sure what that meant. Also, two months in to my trip the bank informed me they'd be sending me a new card - an 'upgrade' - which meant my existing card would be cancelled (even though I'd told them about my trip). Without my pre-load card I would have been in deep trouble as I was away for a year.

As for carrying cash, we took out a weeks worth of money at a time. We always carried our cash around with us - thefts from guesthouse rooms are far more common than street thefts. You also need to plan ahead a little and think about the availability of ATM's. I got talking to a chap in the 4000 Islands in Laos who only had a few pounds left in cash on him (why he was carrying £'s I'll never know). He didn't realise there were no ATM's in the area. He didn't have a credit card, so couldn't get an advance on that, and he didn't even have enough money for the transport to get to the next town with an ATM. Bad times. It's always good to have a plan B - I hid a $20 note in my backpack in case of emergencies. Reply to this

9 years ago, May 20th 2012 No: 13 Msg: #156424  
we use Halifax clarity and it is great - we pay maybe 1,5 pound a month in fees and we always get the best exchange rates from them;-) really recommend it as within our 8 months of travelling we had no problems with it at all;-). Happy planning Reply to this

9 years ago, May 26th 2012 No: 14 Msg: #156813  
Other cards that I have been using is AMEX and the I convert points to travel rewards <snip>
[Edited: 2012 May 26 22:20 - The Travel Camel:11053 - No dropping commercial links, thanks]
Reply to this

9 years ago, May 27th 2012 No: 15 Msg: #156825  

We both got the account so that we had two cards to use as there is a limit on the daily withdrawl of £250 instead of the usual £300

Just a couple of things to note about Norwich and Peterborough current account as my parents have one.

First - the £250 daily withdrawal limit is per account, not per card like other banks. My parents found this out the hard way when they had to withdraw money to pay for their accommodation and were left very short and we had to withdraw from our account to cover the difference for them. So if you are planning to use two cards on the same account for withdrawing to stock up for quite a while on the road this will be troublesome.

Also be aware that the only number available for contacting the N&P is an 0845 number - they do not provide another number even when you are calling from overseas, again my parents had to call them and even using the cheap Skype call credit it cost a lot to call! My Mum asked for a landline number and they refused to give her one.

My parents also have the Halifax Clarity card but as it's a Mastercard not all ATM's accept it, so don't rely on it as your only source of funds.

The only other bank which offers fee free withdrawals is Santander's Zero account, but you need to either have a mortgage with them or a minimum maintaining balance of savings/investments of £10,000 and if it drops below the £10,000 they start charging for withdrawals.

We only ever use ATM's but do have about $40 emergency money for those 'just in case' moments!
[Edited: 2012 May 27 07:47 - Donna and Neil:22231 ]
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9 years ago, May 27th 2012 No: 16 Msg: #156840  
Sorry I should have written 2 accounts instead of 2 cards. I took the advice Donna and Neil gave on a similar thread before we left and we applied for an account each to overcome the £250 a day withdrawl limit. Buying our camper van in NZ was made a ittle more difficult with this limit as it took that little bit longer to get out all the money we needed.

I had to contact them a few times but I emailed them through their internet banking site and they called me on my mobile (even although I would have preferred they had just emailed me back).

I have this number for calling them from abroad but I never used it as far as I can remember and haven't tested it out.

+44 01733 372372

[Edited: 2012 May 27 22:16 - Tina and Rob:122956 ]
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9 years ago, May 28th 2012 No: 17 Msg: #156886  
We travelled with Halifax Clarity cards (MasterCard) and a Santander Zero Credit Card (also MasterCard). Both offer fee free withdrawals and use overseas, but you pay interest on the withdrawals, which can be kept minimal if you bank online and pay off the balance every couple of days... literally £1-£2 a month....

We found them to be perfect, apart from in Mongolia when finding an ATM that accepts MasterCard and not just visa very hard, we did find one eventually though. All other countries we've visited, finding an ATM that accepts MasterCard is easy.

We also carried 2 Barclay's account cards (where we normally bank) for emergencies as the fees they impose for use abroad is horrendous and also a Nationwide flex account card for emergencies as they used to be free but now aren't. but it's what we had.

When we left we had two Clarity cards (same account though), one Santander Zero, one Nationwide and two Barclays...

A month into our travels someone split one of the clarity cards while putting it into a machine in a hostel (grrrr) it still barely worked so we thought we'd use that as a last resort and switched to the other... 1 Down!

Another couple of months later my Nationwide card got stolen and the account cleared out (£500, refunded back by Nationwide very quickly, Bravo Nationwide), but no more card in our possession, two down!

Months later in Indonesia I left the other Clarity Card in an ATM (What an idiot). Called to cancel and as its the same account for both cards the other card which was split would now no longer work either. 3 down!

We were then left with the Santander Zero card as the only 'good' card to use. I withdrew cash in Bali at the airport before we left to pay for the departure tax, arrived in Perth 4 hours later, used it in an ATM at Perth Airport and it was promptly cancelled. 4 down!

It was 2am, there's no free WiFi at Perth Airport so we couldn't use Skype to re activate it and we didn't have any money between us to pay for a phone and no other way to get money other than the Barclay's cards. We were hiring a car though, so used the Barclay's card to secure the car, but thankfully no payment is actually taken, drove to a 24 hour McDonald's to use their free WiFi to reactivate the Santander card and then we were actually able to get some money to pay for stuff... by this time it was 3-4am.... 😞

My advice.... Travel with several cheap ways to get your money, and even take the cards you do have even if they charge stupid amounts, just in case!!!!!! Maybe even keep $100 in US stuffed in a sock, just in case everything fails!!! 😊
[Edited: 2012 May 28 19:41 - MichaelnFaye:21816 ]
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9 years ago, May 31st 2012 No: 18 Msg: #157032  
For those Americans out there planning or traveling the world Charles Schwab has been amazing. They refund all ATM fees and you actually make 1% on the funds in your account since they are a brokerage firm. The times we've had to call to take care of anything they have been more than helpful and we've never had a block on our card.

As for the rest of the money, we tend to keep more cash (give or take $250 USD) on us than other travelers...the "emergency" money has come in handy more than a handful of times. Say, when the ATM eats your only debit card because the backup has been scanned somehow, bank account cleaned out and hence canceled. And the other was in a wallet that got robbed so it was canceled as well...you just never know and it's better to be safe than sorry. You can always be creative with ways to hide money as others have pointed out.

Hope that helps, happy planning and enjoy your trip.

Reply to this

9 years ago, June 2nd 2012 No: 19 Msg: #157082  

Hello, when we journey we normally take enough money with us to appear that we can get a cab and maybe last a day or so, then we always take away enough money to last around 3 to 5 times, every 3 or 5 times...sort of the same as what we'd do at house. Not enough that if you missing it or it was thieved it would be a issue, but enough you can do something out of hte normal. If we're changing nations then this is normally one of the first factors we do when we combination a boundary.
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9 years ago, June 5th 2012 No: 20 Msg: #157200  
For those americans out there, Capitalone has a 0% foreign transaction fee on purchases overseas (and dollars spent go to points that can be used for tickets eventually) In the US there was a recent class action law suit (imagine that) that paid out "A Lot" of money and as a result credit cards are required to let you know how much they charge for foreign transaction fees which can often be 1-3% of purchases. For those cards that charge 1% but you get 1% cash back, it can be a no lose situation, but I prefer capital one.

I am a big fan of ATM cards, but my ATM does not charge an exchange rate fee and I get back my first $20 or so of ATM fees, so usually not an issue. You should check fees of ATM and consider using another bank if travelling for a long period and your personal bank charges too much for fees/exchange rates.

I personally never bring local currency and use ATM at airport. I prefer using those ATMS that don't "ingest" the card, but simply swipe. Not always an option, but when it is, I prefer. I also like to use ATM's that are associated with bank that is open, instead of a random one, but that may be just psychological. Reply to this

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