MONEY MATTERS

When travelling overseas, a combination of cash, credit and debit cards and travel money cards are a good idea to take.

Regarding bank transfers, be aware that depending on where you are, it could take several weeks before funds come through.

When using ATMs try to do it during working hours as staff will be able to retrieve your card straight away if it gets gobbled up by the machine. 

1. TRAVEL MONEY CARDS

Travel money cards (also known as prepaid travel cards or currency cards) are safer than cash.  They can be replaced if lost or stolen. 

Purchase them when the exchange rate is in your favour, however, I’d recommend to do it at least 2 weeks prior to departure.

You will get a free second card as a backup in case one gets lost or stolen. 

Travel money cards are accepted worldwide and are PIN and signature protected.  They work in much the same way as your ATM card.

The card is usually valid for two or three years so you can keep using it for any trips you make within that period. 

You can load them with different foreign currencies and the card is prepaid so you’ll always know how much you have to spend.

The exchange rate is locked in at the time you load your card and you can re-load while you’re overseas by using BPAY via phone or internet banking.

You only pay a conversion fee once when you prepay the card so you don’t pay a fee each time you buy something in the local currency.

Don’t use ATMs in poorly lit areas.  ATMs are not available at all destinations so don’t rely on them.

There may be a fee to replace or close the card.

Always check with your card provider as to what the features and the terms and conditions are as they can vary from provider to provider.

2. CASH

Check what the restrictions are for bringing money into and out of a country before you leave.  A reasonable amount of foreign cash is wise to have, particularly when you first arrive at a destination.  This will come in handy if you have to take a taxi or bus. 

You may also want to buy refreshments at the airport before you leave, so you may need local currency for this.  A small amount of US dollars can be useful in this instance. 

You may also need cash when shopping at local markets or when travelling to small towns and villages in some countries.

Try not to accumulate too many coins as they can be difficult to exchange.

Banks are generally the best places to change money as they’re safer.  Beware of changing money on the black market as it’s illegal.  There is also the possibility that it could be counterfeit.

On arrival into some countries, you will be required to complete a currency declaration form which you’ll have to produce each time you change money.  You should keep all encashment slips or receipts when you change money as this will enable you to reconvert your money when you leave.  The declaration won’t be sufficient.  Sometimes only a certain percentage of your money can be reconverted.  Other countries won’t allow you to take any of their currency out.

Tearing up any leftover money isn’t an option as defacing money can be illegal depending on where you are.  Also, it’s not always possible to reconvert some currencies when you get back home.  Therefore, it’s better not to convert too much money into local currency.

Be sure to have a little of your own local currency available for when you return home.

Always check what restrictions there are regarding a specific country’s currency.

3. CREDIT CARDS

American Express, MasterCard and Visa are those more readily accepted internationally.  Take at least one credit card with you.  You’ll need one if you decide to hire a car or for guaranteeing a hotel.

By linking your credit card with your bank account, you can make cash withdrawals of your own money using automatic teller machines (ATMs).  Again, don’t use ATMs in poorly lit areas. 

Take at least two cards if you intend relying on ATMs in case one gets gobbled up by the machine or is lost.  ATMs are not available at all destinations so don’t rely on them. 

Visit www.visa.com or www.mastercard.com to find out which ATMs accept Visa or MasterCard.

Keep all credit card receipts and check them against your statement when you return home.

A word of warning.  Credit card fraud is on the rise so never let it out of your sight.

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