Saturday, 19 March 2011

Bulletproof your finances while traveling

Bill Boyer

If an American Express Card is so wonderful, why do you also need a Visa? Unfortunately, once you get out of the United States, very few places accept American Express. This is where the more universally accepted, but less helpful in the event of an emergency, Visa comes in handy. Visit the Visa website to compare the rewards offered and choose the one you like best. If you want to be really safe, consider getting a Mastercard as well. While Mastercard is not as universal as Visa, it is accepted in some parts of the world where Visa isn't.

In addition to credit cards, you also need an ATM card when traveling abroad to get cash out once you have arrived at your destination. This may be the same card as your credit card if it can be used as both. It is risky to carry a lot of cash, so it is best to get cash as you go in the local currency. In addition, paying with cash in another country can save you in terms of conversion rates. Stores sometimes come up with their own conversion rates if you decide to pay via credit card, making it cost-effective to pay in the local currency.

Next, make a copy of the front and back of each credit and ATM card that you bring. If you happen to lose any of your cards, you will need to call each of the companies to report a stolen card. Also, as mentioned above, the hotline numbers on the back of your cards can be extremely helpful, but only if you know the number. This is even more important if you do not anticipate having internet access.

Lastly, you need is a small amount of cash. Only bring enough to hold you over until the next time you can access an ATM (perhaps $100) to limit your risk of theft.

Before you leave on your trip, call each of your credit card companies to let them know when you will be out of the country. Otherwise, they might see an expense from Madagascar and immediately shut off your card because they assume that it has been stolen.

None of the tactics suggested above cost any money (except the actual trip). However, most people simply travel with cash and one credit card because they are ignorant of the benefits of using a combination of credit and ATM cards. Build yourself a rock-solid personal finance system by traveling safely so that you can put your money to good use.


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