airplane piggy bank

I budgeted my trip really well before I left, but I didn’t account for all these bank fees and now I have to go home early… This shit blows!


  • You’ll want to do your research (I can’t do it for you banks are different every where in the world, sometimes even state to state, or depending on their promotions that month)
  • You’ll want to open a bank account specifically for your travels. You’re looking for minimum fees, maximum reward. (aren’t you always)
  • You need to know that most banks charge up the @$$ for international withdrawals so you need to find a bank account that is charge-free or budget another 2.5-7.5% of your budget just on bank fees (that’s calculated at a minimum of $5 and a maximum of $15 per $200 withdrawal, $5 from your bank per transaction, $5 from the bank who’s ATM you’re using, and $5 for the international fee… $200 is an average of the maximum that ATMS will let you take out at once) If you’re like me and you really don’t feel like giving your bank a free 7.5% of your spendings, you’ll need to do more leg work and make more initial sacrifices. Not all banks, but at least one in your area, will offer some kind of premium international type bank account that waves all transaction fees… If you’re lucky they even refund the ATM’s fee. Usually these bank accounts require really good credit or for you to leave an specific amount on your bank account untouched, or both. If you’re in the US, try Schwab.
  • So prepare well and make some extra cash to leave untouched on your account so you don’t have to fork out too much dough on the road. This money can also serve as an emergency rescue fund. Two-for-one bonus. Be very careful to leave that money on the account, if you can, put a hold on it, because they won’t think twice about charging you extra for your mishaps.Also, having one of those specialty bank accounts will probably do a better job of protecting you from fraud. (remember to check your bank accounts often to look for signs of foul play)
  • While you’re at it, make sure your credit card is top-notch. Look for something that has car insurance, this is VITAL to saving money if you’re going to ever need to rent a car in the modern world (which will probably happen) Look for something with rewards because you can cash those in for hotel rooms to recover from a long trek in the jungle. Look for something with no cash advance fees, if possible. And lastly, and probably least important if you use your card properly, look for something with low interest rates.
  • You might not find everything in the same card, but since you’re opening two bank accounts, you can apply for two cards and get the benefits you’re lacking in one on the other. 


  • There is no solution to this problem. If you spent all your cash it’s time to go home. Please, please, PLLEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAASE, pretty pretty pretty please, DO NOT start pulling out the credit card, you will severely regret it later. (trust me)
  • What you can do once you realize this is happening before it’s  too late is revise your budget, your lifestyle, or get a job while you’re on the road.
  • If you’re at the beginning of a long journey, you might consider going home just long enough to open a more useful bank account.
  1. Lost Bank Card
  2. Out Of Budget
  3. Robbed and Broke
  4. Post Trip Credit Card Debt
  5. Machine Ate My Card


  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

    1. 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.

      1. 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)

    1. 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

  3. This post was very useful! I spend last October in Argentina and in my last week I was in Ushuaia. I didn´t have much money with me but I had my credit card, so I wasn´t that worried… however, once I checked-in in the hostel I was staying they only accepted ‘fresh money’. As a result, I got only 150 pesos (+- 10 euros) for 3 days, so I went to get money from the ATM. It was really hard because apparently in Ushuaia sometimes ATM don´t have money and my card was not accepted in many machines… only on the second day and after 12 AMTs I made it!!!! Now I know that next time I should take two different credit cards… :)
    PedroL recently posted…window #608My Profile

  4. Thank you for the very informative article Jade!
    If I may suggest one rather important point to highlight to your readers would be the following. Be careful of what some travellers may at first hand consider to be “relatively” safe storage options. For example, luggage with regular zippers are not at all safe! These can be easily opened with something as simple as a ballpoint pen and resealed without ones knowledge
    If available I would suggest enquiring with your hotel about the availability of safes in rooms and even safes located at the reception desk. Even if such safes are available, remember that to avoid problems with guests loosing their access code or safe keys, the hotel security or management will typically have spare keys securely locked away. Just to be extra safe ensure that you keep a small, light-weight, tamperproof, lockable container or bag that can be placed inside such a hotel safe. It doesn’t have to be heavy-duty, it only has to serve as a deterrent. ;-)
    I trust the above adds value to you and your readers :-)

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