Before You Travel - Money and Credit/Debit Cards

Things To Do Before You Leave - Part 1
Money and Credit/Debit Cards

In most countries, today, automation is common and chip-and-PIN credit-card technology is standard, so you need a compatible credit card as well as cash.  In some countries, U.S. dollars are an official or unofficial secondary currency, so it's wise to have a few dollar bills at the ready.

Notify your bank that you will be traveling and using your debit and ATM cards in your countries of travel. Ask if your Personal Information Number (PIN) will work overseas. Four-digit PINs work in most countries so if your PIN has five digits, see if you can exchange it for a four-digit number, as many foreign ATMs do not recognize a five-digit PIN.

Discuss with your banker how to transfer money and complete the paperwork necessary to open any accounts that you will need to make this happen.  Open a safety deposit box to store important documents and items you will not be traveling with.

Notify your credit card companies of your travel plans and the dates and countries you will be going to.  This ensures that your charges will not be summarily rejected, if the bank spots transactions in an unfamiliar location, and assumes your card is being used fraudulently and shuts it off.  Find out how to get new credit cards if your cards are stolen or misplaced.  Credit cards are very convenient for several reasons, they provide a detailed record of your purchases, you are generally not liable for charges if the card is stolen and you can get travel insurance if you charge air travel and rental cars.

Always try to convert some of your money to the foreign money of your destination.  Avoid doing it at airports because they overcharge on foreign money exchange because of the convenience factor.  You also do not want to arrive at your destination, and have no money whether it’s because the airport doesn't have a money exchange booth or you arrive when everything is closed. 

Take enough foreign money to be able to pay to get you to your destination from the airport, pay for your hotel or Airbnb, and have enough cash for the first couple of days to give you time to find an ATM.  Large bills are not easy to exchange in many countries because they tend to be counterfeited more often and most merchants especially street vendors do not have large sums of cash.  Carry a stack of smaller bills and hide a few large bills in a money belt to exchange in an emergency.

Never assume that things will go the way you want them to.  Plan and be prepared to have enough foreign money before you get there, knowing where you'll be staying in advance, the necessary precautions to take, etc.  Lastly, keep copies of your important documents and information, like your bank’s 24-hour telephone and your account numbers.


  • Great article, Jim. One question I’ve been asked by a number of folks is: How about traveler’s checks? As I’m sure you know, they are obsolete and generally unuseable abroad. Merchants will not take them. You might want to mention this in one of your articles.
    Thanks for posting!

  • Good Information. Looks like I have some planning to do.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published