Finance on the Road

There’s nothing worse than not having access to your money while you’re traveling. Make sure you prepare yourself before the trip!

Planning ahead

If you expect to be traveling internationally in the upcoming months, consider a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. Also look for a bank card that will refund your ATM fees.

Look for credit and debit cards that offer perks that will be useful during your extended international travel. Find a bank that offers an ATM card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and will refund your ATM fees. Traveler favorites include the Charles Schwab Investor Checking card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa. You can find a great breakdown by by our friends at Traveling 9 to 5.

As your travel nears, be sure to call your bank to place a travel alert on your cards. This is pretty simple: just call the phone number on the back of your card and tell them that you’ll be traveling. They will ask you where – and it is helpful, but not necessary, to include exact dates. Throughout the course of our trip, our plans have changed, so we have been calling the bank periodically to update our itinerary.

When you’re packing, make sure your cards are secure. And, it’s a good idea to carry one or more of your cards and some cash in separate baggage. Don’t forget to take some US dollars with you as they are useful around the world – on our trip we have found them most useful in Argentina, Georgia, and SE Asia. It’s worth picking up a money belt so you can hide some money and cards on your person.

Dealing with problems

Expect problems while you’re on the road. First of all, your cards may not even be usable. Even some first world countries, such as Japan, don’t always accept international cards. Make sure that you always have some of the local currency on you.

Be sure to monitor your email or voice mail, at least once per week for messages from your bank. On many occasions during our trip, we have had to call to verify charges. Once, there was actually a fraudulent charge on my credit card.

If there is fraudulent activity on your account, your card is lost, or your card is stolen, be sure to contact your bank as soon as possible (that is, if they haven’t already contacted you). On the back of your card there is often a number you can call collect if you’re traveling internationally. However, this may be more difficult than you’ve bargained for. Explaining a collect call in a language you can barely communicate in is very tough. We’ve found that it is easier to use Skype if you have a decent internet connection. If that’s still not do-able, then it is possible to buy a phone card.

Receiving a replacement on the road

It can be very challenging to receive a replacement card on the road. When a fraudulent charge had been identified on my card, it had to be replaced immediately. We were wrapping up our time in Istanbul, Turkey and about to embark on a 15-day Greek Island hopping tour. We would be in Athens for one night at the beginning of the 15 days, which would probably be the easiest place to get the card by mail. Not exactly the optimal scenario to receive a credit card on the road.

Luckily, Chase was willing to overnight the card at no additional cost. The particular agent that I was speaking with had a very hard time understanding where the card needed to be sent. I struggled through that call, but made sure that they had the hotel’s address correct (after five tries…). I couldn’t believe it when they actually had the card waiting on us when we checked in!

Tracking spending

Our trip was the first time we’d be traveling for such a long time with only our iPads. We found that the most useful tools to keep track of our spending were Numbers (Apple’s spreadsheet app) and Mint. We will provide some more financial information as our trip comes to a close.

  • aaronogan


  • Great tip about credit cards without foreign transaction fees. I didn’t even realize that these existed when I was planning my trip. I learned later on, and I realized that It definitely could have saved me a lot of money!

    • Same here – we also didn’t know about them when we were planning so now we are spreading the word!

  • How do you like Mint? Adam & I keep hearing its name popping up and are wondering if we should use it too. I worry about giving someone all of my financial info.

    • It’s been great for budgeting and tracking spending against that. It also has some good tools to set up financial goals and see your progress. One drawback that we’ve found is that it is impossible to add both of our Chase accounts because it duplicates the joint accounts. Since we only have a couple separate accounts we’ve chosen to only use one Chase account (and forego a complete picture of our finances).

      As far as privacy and security go, I feel fairly safe using the service. It’s run by Intuit, the creators of TurboTax. Be sure to check out their Privacy and Security Policy and choose a strong password. I also found this article in the NY Times outlining their security practices.

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