Are you unsure about how much money to carry when traveling? We have got you covered, with answers to all of your questions about traveling with cash from our readers. You’ll also learn how to keep your cash and cards safe so you can enjoy your vacation!
Traveling with Cash
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Travel Fashion Girl help! A reader asks:
I’m traveling from the U.S. to London, and my fiancé and I are a little lost on what is best for carrying money. He wants to carry a couple thousand dollars to London and exchange when we get there. I, on the other hand, would rather carry a smaller amount, and then take out money from an ATM when we arrive in London. However, I know there are a lot of transaction and ATM fees that come with this option. Please advise on what would be best!
Any time you travel, you have a lot to plan for and think about. What to do about money during travel — such as when and where to take it out — can be confusing. It’s important to keep your cash safe without sacrificing convenience or costing too much in fees. We answer these questions about traveling with cash for you:
Should I Take Out Money at My Bank Before I Travel?
Particularly if you’re traveling to a remote destination, you want to have at least some cash on hand. This is useful and handy in case your ATM or credit card isn’t working or you can only use cash.
For example, say an ATM machine is down at the airport, and you need to take a cab from the airport to your hotel. Having cash on hand will hold you over until you can use your card.
What’s the Best Way to Carry Money While Traveling?
Keeping your money safe is more of a precautionary measure than something you should be paranoid about. In almost nine years of full-time travel, I have only had something stolen once, and it was my fault because I left $500 in cash on the unlocked exterior pocket of my backpack. While most travelers enjoy their adventures without trouble, it’s still good to follow a few tips to keep your money safe while traveling.
When carrying cash on you, don’t carry it in a pocket or in an open bag. I recommend using an anti-theft device. I’ve tried a lot over the years, and I’ve found two main anti-theft devices I like to use to protect my items.
The best way to carry cash when traveling is to use a money belt for cash and a bra stash to store credit cards and additional cash if needed. One reader says, “I wear a bra stash pocket with my ID and two credits cards, as well as extra local cash for emergencies. It makes me feel better and safer!”
Another reader says, “I wear a money belt on my butt across my hips and under my underwear. It sounds bulky, but it’s a lot cooler in the summer months!”
Read how to wear a money belt with a dress!
How Much Cash Should I Carry When I Travel?
While you want to take some cash with you to your destination, we and our readers recommend not taking too much.
One reader says, “I made the terrible mistake of listening to my boyfriend, against my better judgment, and someone stole $4,000 I had in cash.”
Another shares, “You don’t need to take that much cash unless you are going to really remote areas. I used credit cards everywhere we went. I usually take $500 to $700 max.”
If you’re headed to a popular destination, like a big European city, you may only need $100 or $200. However, you might want to take more cash if you’re headed to a rural or remote location.
During your travel, you should only carry enough cash in your wallet each day to cover that day’s expenses. Keep extra cash and credit cards in a secret money belt or bra stash.
Watch this video with anti-theft travel tips!
Should I Use Cash or Card When Traveling?
Most travelers like to have a mix of both, and there are benefits to both. There are plenty of credit and debit cards that either don’t charge international fees or charge minimal fees. One of the best is Charles Schwab, which doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees or ATM fees, no matter where you are in the world. With this debit card, you can get foreign currency at an airport ATM upon arrival!
One reader says, “I have a Charles Schwab account, which lets me take local currency out of ATMs around the world and refunds any potential fees. It is the very best option for frequent travelers, and I recommend it to everyone.” Another reader adds, “Get a Charles Schwab account for travel only, and they will not charge ATM fees. Then use the ATM as you need to to get cash out.”
Most destinations in Europe accept and prefer credit cards, too. If you don’t have a card like the Schwab one, you also likely will want to bring your ATM card so you can take out cash. Not all shops or restaurants will accept cards.
Read about how to avoid theft while traveling!
How Do I Get Money at My Destination?
There are a number of places where you can visit an ATM or bank to take out or exchange money. Exchange rates are typically best at your destination. Research ahead of time to see which ATMs are available at your destination airport and what their fees are.
ATMs at airports usually don’t have great exchange rates. Airport currency exchange booths are particularly notorious for offering bad exchange rates and are definitely not the best place to exchange foreign currency.
If you must use one of these, only exchange or take out a small amount of money. Then, use a bank or ATM at your earliest convenience. Once you’ve settled into your hotel, look for a nearby ATM machine or bank where you can withdraw the remainder of the money you need, and store it safely in your accommodation.
You also can contact your bank before your trip to ask for recommendations. They also can suggest banks and types of ATM machines that offer the best rates.
Traveling to a top destination like Paris or London? Check out my packing e-books!
How Do I Keep My Money Safe While Traveling?
The best way to travel with money and keep your cash safe is with anti-theft travel accessories. As mentioned above, we and our readers are fans of using money belts and bra stashes. Here are our favorites.
Best Bra Stash
Secret bra stashes have completely changed my travel safety strategy. I created my own version, the Compass Rose Secret Bra Wallet, to be soft and comfortable enough to wear even in the heat and humidity of Rome in the summer. This is the ONLY bra stash made with an extra long strap to fit DD+cup sizes and a range of bra band widths. PLUS, it’s also the only bra stash with RFID protection.
Fasten it to your bra strap, on your bra band under your arm or in between your bra cups, or attach it to your belt loop tucked into your pants. You can even attach it to some underwear styles, too. Tuck it in underneath your bra for extra security — that’s how I wear mine.
Follow these steps if you are pickpocketed when traveling abroad!
Best Money Belt
While there are a variety of brands offering security accessories, our readers love the Venture 4th money belt. It’s made with RFID protection and water-resistant ripstop nylon. It also offers a variety of neutral colors to blend in seamlessly underneath clothing instead of brights that can show through your tops.
Make sure you don’t wear the money belt outside of your clothing. It’s not a fanny pack, and it advertises to thieves exactly where to find your cash. Travel money belts are meant to be worn hidden under your clothing.
Here’s our list on the best money belts and anti-theft travel accessories!
Best Anti-Theft Bag
It’s also best to travel with an anti-theft bag, which you can use to carry your other belongings. These anti-theft travel bags are specialized travel purses that have safety features like lockable zippers, slash-proof materials, and sturdy straps to prevent thieves from breaking in. We and our readers rave about Travelon for offering some of the best theft-proof bags.
While Travelon has a number of styles, we love the brand’s anti-theft cross body with two pockets. It has a slim design featuring slash-proof fabric, an adjustable, cut-proof shoulder strap, and zippers with a latch for extra security. It also comes with RFID blocking card slots.
You can also try one of the top anti-theft travel bags!
Best Travel Wallet
It’s important to note that anti-theft products don’t replace your need to use a wallet. Keep enough money for the day in your wallet and use an anti-theft product such as a money belt or bra stash to store EXTRA cash and cards only.
We love this wallet because it offers RFID protection and has so many slots for easy organization. It’s slim but longer, so it can double as a clutch for a fancy evening out.
Find out how to wear a neck wallet while traveling!
What are your tips for traveling with cash? Share your comments below!
For more anti-theft travel tips, please read:
- Best Money Belts and Anti-theft Travel Accessories
- The Best Anti-theft Travel Bags for Women
- Best Passport Holder Will Protect Most Valuable Item
- How To Keep Your Passport Safe While Traveling
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