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Whether you’re a seasoned digital nomad or just planning your first work and travel adventure, you need to be careful that your travels don’t put your personal finances at risk.
When you’re moving from place to place, it’s all too easy to get locked out of your bank account, forget about important bills, or fall prey to common scams against tourists.
Fortunately, you can protect yourself and your money by making a few easy moves before and after you leave. Here are seven steps to safeguard your money and ensure your travels go off without a hitch.
1. Inform your bank and credit card companies where you’re going
Before you start withdrawing money or swiping charges in another country, make sure to notify your bank and credit companies of your upcoming plans. Your bank or lender will put a travel notification on your account, so it won’t be caught off-guard when you start conducting transactions abroad.
If you don’t take this step, your bank might lock you out of your account or your credit card company could put a fraud alert on your card. You won’t be able to access your money, which could be a huge hassle when you’re away from home.
Before you leave, call your bank or set up a travel notification online stating where you’ll be traveling and when. That way, you won’t get locked out of your own accounts.
2. Be strategic about when and where you take out local cash
Even if you’ll be mainly relying on credit cards to make purchases, it’s always a good idea to have some local currency on hand. Using an ATM at your destination is typically your best bet for exchanging money, though you might get a charge from the local ATM and another from your bank.
Find out what your bank charges before you leave so you don’t accidentally rack up high transaction fees. If possible, take out a good chunk of cash at once — but be smart about where you take it out. Choose a safe spot close to your hotel, so you can drop off most of it back at your room or in a safe rather than walking around with a bunch of cash on you.
By being intentional about when and where you take out cash, you can reduce your risk of losing it or getting pickpocketed before you return to your room.
3. Just say no to foreign transaction fees
Along with withdrawal fees from your bank, you could get slammed with foreign transaction fees on your credit card if you’re not careful. To avoid these, use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
You won’t get charged any extra money on your international shopping, and you might enjoy extra perks like travel rewards points, trip insurance, and rental car insurance. Some traveler-friendly credit cards even offer concierge services and access to exclusive airport lounges.
If you’re able, open up a credit card with no foreign transaction fee before you leave to save yourself from unforeseen fees along the way.
4. Read up on common tourist scams so you know what to look for
Unfortunately, tourists tend to be targets of scammers, who will feed you misinformation to get your money. A common scam in Bangkok, Thailand, for instance, involves telling tourists the Grand Palace is closed and convincing them to buy an alternative tour instead (when in fact, the palace is open its regular hours).
People might also try to hand you flowers or trinkets in touristy spots, seemingly for free, and then demand money when you take them. Make sure to read up on common scams so you don’t accidentally fall prey to any and lose your hard-earned money.
And watch out for pickpockets, too. Some thieves will “accidentally” spill something on you and then take your money while you’re distracted. Try to stay aware of your belongings and carry them in a safe way (e.g., wear a cross-body bag in front of you instead of behind you).
5. Don’t sign into private accounts on public WiFi
While public WiFi can be convenient, it’s not very secure. Avoid signing into any bank, credit card or other private accounts when you’re on public WiFi. Otherwise, a hacker could steal your sign-in information and steal your money or even identity.
Protect yourself against online theft by only signing into sensitive accounts on a secure network.
6. Put any recurring bills on autopay
When you’re exploring the globe, it’s all too easy to let bills slide back home. But if you have recurring payments you need to make, you’ll be sorry if you forget them. Not only could you rack up penalties, but you could also destroy your credit score.
So make a quick list of any bills you have to pay, and set up automatically recurring monthly payments if possible. If you have student loans, for instance, you can set up autopay and get a small 0.25% interest rate discount as a result.
By letting your bills run on autopilot, you won’t have to worry about accidentally missing payments or dinging your credit.
7. Design a realistic budget for yourself
Finally, protect your personal finances by creating a spending plan for yourself. Take some time to write down your income and predicted expenses, as well as set goals for how much you’d like to spend and save.
It can be easy to overspend when you’re traveling, since expenses can be so variable and you might run into unforeseen or unusual expenses. But if you have a clear idea of what you’re working with on a monthly or even weekly basis, you can avoid spending so much that you end up in the red.
Following a budget can be tough, especially when you’re surrounded by new temptations. But by taking the time to get a bird’s-eye view of your finances, as well as thinking about your spending triggers, you can take greater control over your money.
Enjoy your travels knowing your money is protected
The last thing you want to happen on your travels is to get locked out of your bank accounts or pickpocketed on your way back from the ATM. By taking steps to protect yourself, you won’t have to worry about money mishaps ruining your trip.
Instead, you can enjoy filling up your passport with stamps, confident in the knowledge that your personal finances are taken care of. And if you do find yourself running low on funds, check out these tips on how to travel the world cheaply.