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Tips for Traveling Internationally with Money

Traveling is a wonderful experience, however, knowing whether to use credit card, cash, debit cards, or a Travel Money Card is not always easy.

Credit Cards

Depending on where you’re headed, your credit card might be the safest bet. One of the big bonuses to using credit cards is that theyautomatically convert foreign currency to your domestic currency.  Some other things to consider include:

  • If you lose your credit card, you don’t lose money, as long as you cancel right away.
  • Credit cards tend to have better fraud policies than debit cards.
  • Do make sure your card doesn’t charge any foreign transactions. 
  • And don’t forget to let your card company know you are traveling.


Cash is still king in many countries. Although most developed countries widely accept credit cards, there may be rural areas or villages that don’t. Foreign Currency

Cash can sometimes get you a discount. Credit card companies can charge local stores up to 10% of a purchase to provide credit card access. Many stores don’t mind giving that discount back to those who offer to pay in cash. Always ask if there’s a discount for paying in cash. 

Many countries don’t tip for the same things we do, but when they do, it’s easier to tip in the local currency.

Getting the local currency can be fairly easy. Most major international airports have a currency exchange center or kiosk. Some larger banks also offer the service to members, and there are some websites where you can do an online exchange of money and they will mail you the foreign currency. Unfortunately, Madison doesn’t offer too many places to exchange money. You can exchange some major currencies at BMO Harris bank if you are a member. Since Dane County Airport is not an international airport, they don’t offer currency exchange, however, Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport and Chicago O’Hare Airport do offer currency exchange services.

Debit Cards

Debit cards are not usually the preferred method when traveling abroad. They don’t offer the same security as credit cards and international ATMs can charge huge fees. If you use your debit card, it’s better to withdraw a large amount at once instead of incurring many fees. 

Travel Money Card – the new traveler’s checks

Visa offers a Travel Money Card that you load with cash and use as a credit card. A great way to stay on budget or if your credit card has high international finance charges. Also, if lost or stolen you can get a new card issued to you. 

Keep Your Money Safe

And remember to stay safe. Pickpockets and snatch-and-grabs are a very real occurrence in many countries, with tourists as prime targets.

A money belt can keep your money and documents secure when traveling from one city or hotel to another. A good money belt with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) blockers to keep your credit cards safe will range from $25 to $10 on Amazon

Also, try not to keep your money all in one place. Unless you are traveling from one hotel to another, just take what money you need with you for the day and leave the rest secure in your hotel room’s safe. Keep some spending cash or a credit card handy in your pocket or purse. And don’t flash your money around. 

Happy travels!