14 January 2015

Getting Your Finances in Order Before Travelling

When you're going away for more than a couple of weeks, you'll need to take care of the looming finances. It may seem obvious to think about getting some cash in the local currency, but have you thought about these other things?...

For Home

  • Cancel standing orders and direct debits. These will catch you out, especially if the amounts are small as you won't notice them when you've got an income, but you could soon be overdrawn if you are going to empty your current account on to a travel card. Examples: magazines, gym subscriptions, phone bills. charity donations.
  • Close unused bank accounts. This means that you won't pay unnecessary banking fees.
  • Inform the bank you're going away. If your bank sees suspicious activity they may block it as a security measure - how are they supposed to know you're in Japan, when all other transactions are within a 10 mile radius of your house?
  • Ask your bank how much they charge to withdraw cash and make purchases abroad.  It may be extortionate, but it's good to know in case it's your only option.

For Travelling

  • Get yourself some currency.
    • Compare currency here. It's a fab calculator to work out the most economical way of getting currency.
    • Make sure the notes are crisp and undamaged (particularly important for places like Myanmar where they will only except pristine notes).
    • Ask for a variety of nominations, including much smaller amounts.
    • Get some US$ as this is widely accepted and needed for bribes - small denominations.
    • Get some currency for your first stop.
    • Allow plenty of time - delivery options may give you the best rates and some currencies are not available at every Bureau du Change.
  • Get a travelcard.
    • Do you need a travel card that covers single/multiple/all currencies?
    • Will you be using the card to withdraw cash or as a card? Some travel cards will charge you each time you withdraw cash.
    • Order the extra card (normally a few pounds extra). You can either give this to your friend/family member to send to you in case of an emergency OR keep it with you when travelling. Keep it completely separate from other cards and cash. The cards operate independently, so if something happens you can inform the travel card company and they will cancel the original card and move the funds across.
    • Write down all the details to enable a friend/family member to top the card up on your behalf.
  • Consider a credit card for use when travelling.
    • You may get better exchange rates.
    • Booking tours etc. with a credit card may cost you an extra 3% or so, but it will offer you more protection should anything happen. This page here is so useful and even helps you work out if it's even worth applying for one, based on the likelihood your application will be accepted.
  • Take £100 as another back up. For when you've run out of currency, you've snapped your travel card, your credit card is in your main backpack not your overnight bag and anyway there isn't a ATM machine in sight. Most places will change £s and if you never use them, there is no fear of losing money due to commission and exchange rates. You can never had too many options.
It is so important to get your ducks in a row before you leave - you want to enjoy travelling and not contacting the bank to access your well earned spending money. Your Mum doesn't want to get 'that phone call' either.
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