Cash, Cheque or Credit?

Travelling with money overseas appears like a daunting experience. The the variety of choices available are good for the average jetsetter are great, and I hope to reveal some relevant information.

Firstly my rules: Don’t carry too much cash; keep a record of your travellers cheques (in the US, they call them ‘checks’); know what your getting charged.

Given some great exchange rates (at the time when I was writing this) if might be worth locking in the good times while they last. As I’m heading to the US, soon, whilst I‘m not as confident in the future trends, I’m very happy to have locked in some above-par rates in recent times.

So, the easiest thing people can do is to exchange at the airport right before the head off, into their currency of choice. Whilst it’s convenient, you’re probably exchanging at a lackluster rate and having to pay commission on top. Although on a recent trip to Hong Kong, the Travelex didn’t charge commission – that was within the airport.

Another similarly lazy step is to use your existing credit/debit card. Most ATM cards are on “Maestro” or “Cirrus” – which means you should be able to use them internationally at place that accept them. Mastercard and VISA are more widely accepted. Again, convenient, you don’t need to set anything up, but your bank/issuer will charge you. My bank Westpac charges 3.2% on top for using a debit Mastercard. Check your issuer for your credit cards.

Travellers cheques and cash should be arranged at least a couple of weeks before your departure. Although if you have months to spare, be wise and take advantage of the money exchange market, although at present the volatility is of concern. (But hey remember US-AU prices have never been this high for a while.)

And finally, the best option for the long term: I opened up a bank account here in the US – and it was a relatively pain-free experience. I will need to pay $25 to close it within six-months, but it was free, and you get a VISA debit card with it. I did a telegraphic transfer through my bank, and received the cash the next day. Too easy, but again, depends on how long your going to be here.

Happy travelling.

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