Top 5 ways to Avoid Obnoxious Money Issues While Traveling

Photo credit: Erica Simone Photography

When we’re at home, at our bank address that is, we can take for granted how easy it is to make everyday transactions, changes, or replace a demagnetized card.

When we’re traveling it’s sometimes VERY difficult to take care of something that would have taken no time back at home.

Being stuck in the middle of nowhere with the equivalent of $3.25 in Chinese Yuan is not a pleasant thought.

Let us run you through a few easily avoidable scenarios and their solutions so you can avoid obnoxious money issues while traveling:

  1. Lost Bank Card
  2. Out Of Budget
  3. Robbed and Broke
  4. Post Trip Credit Card Debt
  5. Machine Ate My Card


foreign currency


I lost my bank card, had it stolen, or worst, my bank card is demagnetized and I have no access to my money!! WTF?!?!!?


  • Have multiple bank accounts, this is especially important if you’re traveling alone and don’t have a significant other or friends to bail you out. Avoid bank fees by having a free bank account. You won’t be using your secondary bank account everyday, so you don’t need any fancy bells and whistles like no international ATM fees. Keep a decent amount of money  (A grand don’t come for free, but it can get you out of most situations) and only use it in case of emergency. Replace it as soon as it’s spent.Having a credit card with you can have a similar effect, but will probably cost you a lot more in cash advance fees. Try to keep your credit card only for point purchases or purchases that you can’t make with your bank card.
  • Have the contact information for someone trustworthy back at home that can receive mail for you should the necessity arise.
  • Don’t keep your bank cards together, that kills two birds with one stone, first, you’re less likely to have them both stolen at the same time, second, you’re less likely to have them both demagnetized at the same time.
  • Always make sure you put your bank card back in your wallet when you’ve finished your transaction.
  • Keep fresh unfolded, unwrinkled, US dollars (or Euros, depending on your location) on you for emergencies, long enough to get you through the waiting period for getting a new card sent to you in your part of the world. The more remote the location the longer your card will take, but the cheaper the cost of living, and vice-versa… $500 should get you comfortably out of any situation, but you can probably make do just fine with $250… time to discover the pleasures of street food and dorm rooms!!!
  • Write down your banking information in your address book in an encrypted way so you have the phone number of your bank as well as your account number, but someone would not be able to know that it’s your bank information.


  • Depending on your bank and location the solution can be quick and painless or long and strenuous. If you’re somewhere with a limited or non-existent mailing service, it can be difficult but not impossible.
  • Most of the time you’ll call your bank (the number is usually on the bank of your bank card, so if you lost it and you didn’t write it down you’re shit out of luck, hopefully you have access to the internet.) So, call your bank, tell them you need a new card rushed to you ASAP at your current address. If you’re like me and you don’t have a current address and the card needs to be sent to a PO box, your bank won’t like that, so have it sent home where someone can sign for it and then forwarded to your PO-box.
  • Make sure that you can still sign in to your online banking if they cancel your old card, or to give you another solution if you can’t.
  • This is much easier to do if you informed your bank ahead of time that you were traveling for an extended period of time, and given them the name and address of your emergency contact, and made sure they actually put all that info on file. Banks don’t like new information, it’s hard to process and doesn’t fit into their pre-recorded scenarios. The less curve balls you throw at them the less friction you will run into.
  • Hopefully you still have your crisp emergency stash… ration it wisely.

About Jade Adele

With an eclectic background in neuroscience, research, journalism, and design, it's safe to say Jade's still a little bit confused as to what she wants to be if and when she grows up.


  1. Oh boy.. I can’t understand people who travel on credit. I know at least a couple of backpackers who first spend on travel and then go to work for several months to pay the bill. Wouldn’t it make more sense to do it the other way around? I’d enjoy my travels way more knowing I’m using my hard earn money, without having to worry about what comes up next!..
    Good tips! :)
    Zara @ Backpack ME recently posted…Top 13 Travel Experiences of 2013My Profile

    • Right there with you Zara! But to each their own. It’s hard for some people to save up sometimes, and I can understand how the motivation of paying off debt could get one to buckle down more effectively than the more abstract goal of saving.

  2. Learned this lesson while traveling with a student group. The bank ATM ate a student’s Visa card. It was Sunday and we were just visiting for the day.
    Lesson 1: If possible, only use the bank ATM while the bank is open.
    Lesson 2: If you can locate a commercial bank you can draw money off your Visa card without using the machine.
    Lesson 3: On short trips I overpay my Visa before leaving and use that card as a Debit card while away.

      • Hello Jade,
        Thanks for the comment.
        We were in Siena on a Sunday but it was close to the end of the trip so I just loaned money to the student. Upsetting, but not a disaster. Nonetheless it was a lesson regarding weekend travel that was never forgotten.
        I’m a high school teacher in Nova Scotia. Our European trip is intended to introduce students to the roots of our culture (London, Paris, Florence and Rome) and to simply give them the confidence to travel independently. Many do.
        On Twitter @papapigeon (Our tours are called Pigeon Tours)

    • Traveler’s cheques, does anyone even use those anymore?!!?

      Having credits cards is great, if you know how to use them well, they definitely can work to your advantage, with points and everything. Unfortunately most people slack in the department and end up paying more in interest than they get back in points.

      I’ve been knows to be guilty of this!

      I’m glad you’re on your game!
      JadeAdele recently posted…Planning a Road Trip in the US, your ULTIMATE resource guideMy Profile

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