May 16, 2013 · Education

Au Revoir! Money Tips for Traveling Abroad

As a Quarterlifer, chances are that you or someone you know will be traveling abroad this summer. Whether you’re going to take classes or just to learn more about a new culture, traveling abroad can be a memorable and life-changing experience. Before you hop aboard that plane and bid adieu to America, take a moment to consider the financial aspects of traveling abroad.

Find out where/how you can get money while abroad. Some people find it easy to just withdraw a large sum of cash before traveling and then exchange it for the appropriate form of currency at the airport or withdraw funds once they’ve landed. However, there are two reasons to warn against this.  First, what happens if you need emergency money? How do you get it? Second, traveling with a large amount of cash is dangerous. If you’re going to withdraw a large sum, keep most of it stored somewhere safe, like a hostel locker or your suitcase. Only carry enough cash on you to make it through the day.
A better suggestion is to talk to your financial institution about how and where you can withdraw cash while overseas. ATMs may be few and far between and are likely to charge you exorbitant fees for using them. Generally speaking, credit cards are a safe bet while abroad, but make sure you stay on top of your balance, check to see what foreign transaction fees may be charged and let the credit card issuer know you’ll be out of the country and where you plan to travel. To protect you from unauthorized transactions and fraud, credit card issuers, like Delta Community Credit Union, monitor your credit card activity for transactions that differ from your ordinary spending habits. If they see charges from another country pop up on your account, they may freeze your card and assume it’s been stolen. Trust us, that is not something you want to deal with while you’re in a foreign country. While credit cards are widely accepted in America, you’re more likely to come across a mom and pop owned bakery or shop overseas that might not accept plastic. Before traveling, do some research into where you’ll be and the ability to use credit cards. If you’re worried, just make sure to always have a small amount of cash with you.

Pay attention to the exchange rate. The currency exchange rates fluctuate on a daily basis and can help you or hurt you. If you notice that it’s in your favor one day, take out or exchange some extra money. It’s also important to consider the exchange rate when you’re out shopping. Based on the ticket price and where you are traveling, items may look less expensive than they really are once you convert the price into American dollars. For example, you might buy a new dress for 30 euros and then see a $40 charge on your credit card.

Hostels aren’t scary. If you’re traveling abroad with your school, chances are they’ll set you up with somewhere to stay. But what if you’re just traveling with friends? Hostels are a great option when traveling overseas. They are often much cheaper than hotels and most major cities will have several hostel options. Hostels are known for catering to a youthful crowd, so it’s also a good way to meet new people and learn about several cultures. Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, you can find a private room, or rent beds in a large communal room that sleeps 10 or so people. And if you’re worried about your personal belongings while staying in such a communal environment, don’t be. Most hostels have lockers and safes where you can store your important belongings (extra cash, passport, etc.) while you’re out seeing the sites during the day.

Traveling abroad can be a fun and exciting experience, especially if you do your research before leaving. Make sure you’re prepared for the financial curveballs that might be thrown your way while you’re there, but don’t forget to enjoy your adventure!