Updated: Jul 17, 2024

The Best Ways to Travel with Money While Abroad

Find out which are the best ways to travel with money while abroad or overseas, including how to protect your payment options and what to do if you lose one.
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Traveling overseas can be an amazing experience.

One reality of international travel is that it can be very expensive, especially if you travel to certain parts of the world with high costs of living.

When you’re traveling, you need to have some way to pay for goods and services.

If you are traveling abroad, this article will discuss the different ways to can plan to have access to money while you travel.


One of the easiest ways to use money when you travel internationally is to use cash.

Just like in the U.S., you can pay with cash nearly anywhere. You don’t need to worry about the store accepting cards or fiddling with your checkbook to write a check.

You have a few options when it comes to getting cash for your trip.

One is to visit your local bank branch and ask for a currency conversion.

Many larger banks will keep some major foreign currencies, such as Pounds, Euros, or Yen on hand for customers to withdraw. The downside of this strategy is that many banks offer poor conversion rates and charge fees for the service.

On the other hand, your bank may waive fees for good customers, making it the best place to convert currency. It’s worth checking just to be sure.

You can also bring US dollars to the airport and convert the currency at the airport before you depart or after you land. Major international airports should have multiple locations to convert currency.

Even if you plan to rely on other forms of payment, it’s worth bringing some cash along with you.

It can serve as a backup form of payment and is good to have while you learn the ins and outs of using your preferred payment method in a new country.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are a great way to pay for purchases while you’re traveling abroad. They should work just like they do in the United States.

Simply swipe your card or use the chip and the purchase will be paid for.

The card issuer will automatically do the currency conversion for you.

Typically, the conversion rate will be the interbank exchange rate, plus a small fee, meaning you get one of the best rates possible. You also get the benefit of credit card perks such as extended warranties.

One thing that you need to watch out for is whether your card will be widely accepted in the country you’re visiting.

Many countries are more reliant on cash than the United States.

For example, Japanese consumers use credit cards for just 17% of purchases. Americans use credit cards for roughly 33% of purchases.

Some card networks are also more popular than others outside the United States.

While Visa and Mastercard are accepted in most places, you may have trouble if you rely on a Discover or American Express card.

Do some research to see what cards are used in the country you’re visiting.

Also, look at the terms and conditions of the card that you plan to use while traveling. Some charge significant foreign transaction fees every time you use your card overseas.

Also read: The Best Credit Cards for Foreign Travel Expenses

Consider bringing just foreign transaction fee-free cards or apply for one before you leave.

Here are a few credit cards you might want to apply:

Debit Cards

Debit cards are an important tool to have when you travel abroad. They can be used to make purchases in a pinch, and also give you an easy way to withdraw cash while you’re abroad.

Most debit cards let you use foreign ATMs to make a withdrawal in the local currency.

The downside of this is that you’ll have to pay all the relevant fees, including currency conversion fees, out-of-network ATM fees, and any fees charged by the ATM’s owner. Still, having the flexibility to withdraw cash is worth it.

Debit cards also represent a danger while you’re traveling. If someone is able to steal your card, or clones the information on it, they can easily empty your bank account.

You’re not likely to be keeping a close eye on your bank account while you’re on vacation, so you might not notice until it’s too late.

Try to keep your debit card on your person or locked up in your hotel room at all times. Ideally, keep it in a pocket sealed with a button or zipper to make pickpocketing difficult.

Traveler’s Checks

Traveler’s checks are a good emergency backup source of cash while you’re traveling.

To get a traveler’s check, you’ll need to speak to your bank or a popular issuer like American Express or Visa.

While you’re abroad, you can use a traveler’s check to withdraw cash in the local currency. This can work even if you’re unable to find an ATM that’s working or accepts your debit card.

The downside:

These checks come with fees and don’t get the best conversion rate, so they shouldn’t be used as the default plan. Instead, consider them a backup.

What to Do if You Lose Your Wallet?

Losing your wallet when you’re living at home is a difficult experience, but losing your wallet while traveling, especially if you’re overseas, can throw a massive wrench in your plans.

While nobody wants to lose their wallet or plans to have it happen, preparing for the possibility can help you minimize the impact it has on your trip.

Before you leave on your trip:

Take inventory of everything in your wallet.

Make a list of each credit, debit, and loyalty card that is in the wallet, as well as anything else that you keep in it such as pictures or notes.

For each of your cards, note the account numbers and the phone numbers on the back of the card.

It might be a good idea to write the list on physical paper and transcribe it to a note on your phone. This list will help you identify whether anything is missing from your wallet if you misplace it for a short time only to find it later.

If you do lose your wallet, the first thing you should do is disable any credit or debit cards that were in the wallet. This is where the list of account numbers and phone numbers comes in handy.

Ask the card issuers to cancel the cards and issue new ones. If possible, see if one or more companies can expedite the card to the place you’re staying. That will get you some access to money for the remainder of your trip.

The next step you should take is to file a police report in the area you lost the wallet. Even if you don’t believe the wallet was stolen, this will start a paper trail, which can come in handy in the future. Plus, if the police find your wallet, they might be able to get it back to you.

Next, contact the local U.S. Embassy.

The Embassy will be able to help you get some money and deal with paperwork related to the loss of your wallet. They can also help you contact someone at home to get help.

When you get back from your trip, you can take your time to get all of your cards replaced and reactivated. If you want to, you can set up fraud alerts with each of the major credit bureaus and get a copy of your credit report.

This will help you fight against any potential identity fraud that someone who found your wallet may perpetrate.

How to Fight Against a Lost Wallet or Theft

It’s not something people like to think about when they travel, but tourists, especially international tourists, are prime targets for pickpockets and other criminals.

You’ll be out of your element and in a location you’re not familiar with, making it more difficult to avoid theft.

The easiest thing you can do to avoid becoming a target is to avoid making yourself an easy or obvious target.

Don’t wear headphones or walk alone at night or in areas you don’t know well.

Don’t flaunt your money or wealth, and generally try to fit in with the locals.

You should also take some measures to insure yourself in the event that you are targeted.

Try to keep some cash and a card separate from your wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you won’t be left completely high and dry.

Also, try to keep your belongings on your person at all times and secure your wallet in a sealed pocket of your jacket.


Traveling can be an amazing experience but dealing with foreign money can be difficult.

Make sure you plan ahead so that you’re prepared to pay for souvenirs, tours, and other things while you travel.