I don’t know if I am just an oddball, but I charge everything to my credit card. And I mean, everything, when I could. I just don’t like to deal with loose change, period. When I am out and about, I don’t carry much cash. I might carry a little more cash (generally no more than $100) when I travel out of the state. I don’t personally see the need to carry too much cash when you can go to an ATM if needed.
What About When Traveling Abroad?
It’s slightly different when I travel aboard, though not by much. I tend to get a couple of hundred of dollars in the local currency (in small denominations) before I travel. That way, I can hit the ground running and have cash to pay for taxi and other incidentals.
I’d also carry my ATM card since the exchange rates are more favorable, along with at least two no-fee for foreign transaction credit cards, just in case. This has never failed me — at least until earlier this year.
What Went Wrong?
It’s no excuse, but I had tons of things to take care of before flying out to attend my grandfather’s funeral. In the rush of everything, I completely forgot to set a travel alert with my bank.
Things started off fine. I had some local currency on hand for incidentals, and I was even able to withdraw $100 from the airport’s ATM machine at arrival.
The next time I tried, my request got rejected. I checked my available balance. It should have worked.
I realized I forgot to notify my bank and I promptly went online to add a travel alert. I tried again a couple of hours later.
Rejected. Checked my available balance again. I should be able to withdraw.
Since I only have one ATM card, I called up my bank. The rep looked through my account and confirmed that everything was in order. He assured me that he could see my travel alerts, and that he removed and cleared any holds/security alerts. He said I should have no problem withdrawing from an ATM.
I tried to take money out the next morning at a ATM machine near the hotel. Rejected again. Ugh. I checked my balance again. Yes, I have available balance.
Stopped by another ATM machine. Also rejected.
Finally, I gave up trying to get money out of the ATM card. Luckily, I had some cash that I exchanged with the hotel’s front desk.
The worst part: It turned out that I got charged every time I checked my available balance. It’s a “transaction” fee (those darn fine prints that I apparently didn’t pay enough attention to).
Remember to set a travel alert with your bank before you travel.
It’s also probably a good idea to exchange a little more in local currency before the trip even if the exchange rates aren’t as favorable. Or carry a few more bills for unexpected hiccups with the plastics. Just in case.
I should add that I recently came across a news story where CBP seized about $58,000 in life savings from an Albanian family at the Cleveland airport. Contrary to beliefs, it’s not illegal to carry large sums of cash. However, if you’re going to carry more than $10,000 in monetary instruments when traveling in and out of the states, you need to declare the asset with CBP.
Of course, if you are carrying $10 million in currency through airports, you really shouldn’t be too surprised if you end up getting investigated or arrested.
Do you have any particular system that has worked out really well for you when you travel aboard? Sound off below!