One of my favourite things about travelling is exchanging my Canadian dollars for the currency of whichever country I’ll be visiting. There’s something about getting different coloured bills which sometimes come in ludicrous denominations that gets me excited about travel.

I’ve already covered the best ways to exchange your money, but some people wonder how to keep your money safe when travelling? It’s a serious concern considering that as travellers, we tend to carry more cash than we ever would if were at home. These tips should help you feel more secure regardless of where you’re visiting.

Only carry as much cash as you need

I know this sounds obvious, but way too many people travel with too much cash on them. I’m not sure if this is because they don’t have access to a safe in their hotel or if they think it’s safer to have the money on them, but it’s never a good idea to have a lot of cash on you. Generally speaking, you should only carry what you need for the day and you should try to separate your money. That means keeping some cash in your wallet and a little extra in a separate pocket or your bag.

Use credit whenever you can

I’ve been on week long trips where I spent less than $100 in cash. This is possible because I used my credit card the entire time. I personally prefer credit cards since they’re accepted at most merchants and I don’t need to carry as much cash on me. In case I lose my main travel credit card, I always have a backup one for emergencies. The other reason I prefer credit cards is that they give me no liability insurance. That means if my cards are stolen and used, I’ll likely get a refund as long as I can prove that I didn’t make those fraudulent charges. My preferred travel credit card is one with no foreign transaction exchange fees.

Protect your cards

Despite the fact that your credit cards will likely protect you due to fraud, you’ll still want to protect your cards as best you can. When using a foreign ATM, make sure you’re using one from a major local bank. You’ll also want to look for signs of tampering such as loose connections where your card is inserted. Extra steps you could take which may not be necessary include using a Radio-frequency identification (RFID) protected wallet and changing your PIN when you get home.

Use accessories to keep your money safe

When people ask how to keep your money safe when travelling? The most natural response is to use a money belt. I personally am not a huge fan of them because I find them awkward, but I do admit they keep your money hidden. Another option that happens to be more fashionable is a scarf with a hidden pocket. To keep your money and luggage safe in your hotel, pick up one of bags or accessories from pacsafe. Their product is aimed at keeping all your stuff theft-proof.

Don’t overspend

Part of keeping your money safe when travelling is by not giving it away. Always do research into the customs of every country you’re visiting. If it’s customary to tip 10%, don’t leave 15% or 20% unless you’re getting exceptional service. I’m not implying you should be cheap, but just know the local customs. Other things you’ll want to look up are things such as if it’s normal to haggle on prices at markets and if there is any tax refund for tourists. One other tip is to find out where grocery stores are located so you can pick up cheap water and food when you need to. In a sense, saving your money is keeping it safe.

Final thoughts

If you take all of the above steps, there’s no need to stress out when you’re on the road. You’ve done all you can and if you happen to lose your money or credit cards, try not to freak out. Take the usual steps to recover you can and try to enjoy the rest of your vacation.

How to Keep Your Money Safe When Travelling

9 Comments

  1. Brian G on June 1, 2017 at 6:40 am

    Hi Barry, nice piece, short and sweet so I’ll expand here. If you wish to lock in your exchange rates for credit cards, I would suggest the Air Canada Conversion card which is a multi-currency card that can hold up to ten major currencies http://www.acconversion.com . I used it to buy some Hong Kong dollars earlier this year before the Canadian dollar dropped for my birthday trip to Hong Kong this fall. Canada Post has also introduced a multi-currency card recently but the fees are horrendous so stay away from that one.

    • Barry Choi on June 1, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Hey Bryan,

      Thanks for the feedback. I looked into the Air Canada Conversion card when it first came out and at the time it was universally panned. It had quite a few fees and you were sort of at the mercy of the CIBC exchange rate. However, since then it seems like they dropped a lot of the fees associated with the card and with Chase already dropping the Amazon card, this may be a good choice.

      As long as CIBC is charging less than 2.5% on the spread, this could be a decent card, but I’ll stick to my Amazon card since I have it.

      Also good point about the Yoda line, I’m totally keeping it in.

  2. Brian G on June 1, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Oh I almost forgot, nice Yoda line in the last sentence “Take the usual steps to recover you can” 🙂 Leave it; it makes the post stand out. All the best!

  3. Stephen on July 12, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Funny I’ve had my credit cards hacked three times. With losses for the cc company. Never had cash stolen. Use a money belt under my shirt or hotel safe.

    • Barry Choi on July 12, 2017 at 9:56 am

      Stephen,

      If your credit cards have been compromised three times, you may be a victim of identity theft. Have you been monitoring your accounts via credit bureaus?

  4. Pearl on October 27, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Just returned from Central Europe. Had to change for euros in France which I did here . Needed Hungarian, Austrian, and Czechoslovakia currency and didn’t want too much extra. I found these counties accepted Canadian cash easily, no commissions at the exchange houses.large expenses I used my credit card but ended up changing twenties and fifties to gage as I went along. This seems to be a common practice in these countries.Even with the slightly lower rate for cdn currency I didn’t have to exchange twice and lose more.

    • Vineca Gray on October 31, 2019 at 8:09 am

      Pearl, this is very insighful. Thank you!

  5. Vineca Gray on October 31, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Great read. The ‘tip’ tip is super. Also, thank you very much for the introduction to Pacsafe – a beautiful brand with fantastic security solutions.

    Cheers!

  6. Deborah S. on October 31, 2019 at 10:45 am

    “When using a foreign ATM, make sure you’re using one from a major local bank.” Some further tips: use the ATM that’s in the bank lobby or just outside, they have the lowest likelihood of tampering. Take your card back IMMEDIATELY when it comes out; some will swallow your card if you don’t take it right away and then it’s lost (happened to me). Finally, take your time; put your money and card away and secure them BEFORE you step away. And happy travels!

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