The Ultimate Guide To Savvy Travel Finance

Dave Dugdale

Whether backpacker or flashpacker budget will often dictate your itinerary. A niggling voice in the back of your mind it sits behind a desk eliminating the things you can’t afford from your bucket list.

Getting creative with the way in which you handle your finances can optimise the potential of your funds.

OK let’s get creative.


#1 Collect Plastic

We all know it’s great to recycle but this isn’t the kind of plastic collection I’m referring too. There are hundreds of credit and debit cards available to us all each offering various benefits.

Make your plastic work for you.

When looking at credit cards:

Ensure your card doesn’t charge you a loading fee. Most credit cards charge around a 3% fee on all foreign transactions but there are those that don’t. Find one that doesn’t and use it when you’re abroad.

Look out for cards that don’t charge an exchange fee every time you spend and check out free services like the CardMatch Tool to find credit card offers and reward schemes that best suit you. For example I always look for options that offer air miles as rewards.

Spend on your credit card whenever possible. Credit cards give more protection from fraudulent transactions and you can often argue your case if you feel you’ve been scammed. Money spent on a debit card is immediately taken from your current account and is harder to recover.

If given the option to pay in your home or local currency while abroad pay in the local currency. Your credit card company will always give you a better rate than Joe Blogs at the souvenir shop.

If you’re travelling as a couple list your partner on your account and apply for an additional card.

Get internet banking to make international transfers and checking your balance a piece of cake.

Savvy Travel Finance Currency

#2 Leverage Reward Schemes

Try and find a credit card with a reward scheme that will benefit you. I have one that converts my spending into points which I can then redeem as air miles.

#3 Consider a Short Term Loan

If travel is a dream you’ve never been able to achieve due to lack of funds consider a short term loan from a well-established and reputable short-term loan leader like Cash Lady.

Loans of this king should only be taken out if you are sure that you can maintain the re-payment structure agreed.

#4 Always Withdraw Cash Using a Debit Card

Debit cards are always preferable when it comes to withdrawing cash. Never withdraw cash on a credit card as you’ll be charged interest from the moment you take the money out of the machine.

Watch out for foreign ATM charges.

Make sure your card won’t charge a withdrawal fee.

#5 Check the Exchange rate

Keep up to date with the exchange rate if spending your local currency abroad. Don’t be tempted to switch off, equate prices to your local currency before you spend.

#6 Take Advantage of the Opportunity to Set Up a Local Bank Account

If you’re travelling in a country on a visa that allows you to set up a bank account, take the opportunity and do so.

Using local currency is often preferable to spending the currency that is sat in the bank at home.

#7 Keep an Eye on the Exchange Rate

If you are able to set up a foreign account watch the exchange rate between your home currency and the one you are currently using.

When the value of your home currency is strongest transfer any money you will need for the duration of your stay into your foreign account. Making a transfer in one lump sum will save you paying for regular small transfers.

Watching exchange rates is a frustrating game. Once you’ve made the transfer refrain from checking the rate again. You’ll only regret your decision if you see the rate has improved a week later.

Savvy Travel Finance Currency

#8 Get a Savings Account

Don’t forget that keeping your money in a high interest savings account while you’re not using it will earn you more to travel with. Decide what funds you don’t need immediately available and find a savings account that works for you.

Remember the longer you can commit the funds to savings the better the rate of interest you will accrue.

#9 Track Your Expenditure 

Don’t spend blind. Know your budget, and manage your spending. Read our Wanderlust Guide to Savvy Travel for some creative ways to save money while travelling.

Read: Wanderlust Guide: Savvy Travel

Utilise your smart phone. Simon and Erin over at Never Ending Voyage have created a seriously savvy app called Trail Wallet that allows you to keep track of what you’re spending.

#10 Invest in Your Stay

If visiting for longer than 3 months I would advise you to invest in your stay, don’t rent a vehicle and throw your money away.

Renting a vehicle while travelling is waving goodbye to funds that could be recycled.

Road trip vehicles in particular are where money invested can be turned into a profitable return if you do your research and buy intelligently. Always consider buying something that you can renovate on the road.

#11 Plan Ahead

Never leave arranging your finances until the last minute.

Check the expiry dates on your cards to ensure they are valid for the duration of your trip.

Airports are the worst place to exchange currency, your bank and ATM card will always give you a better exchange rate.

Consider how you will carry your cards and cash. Have a back up hidden in your luggage or on your person encase your primary source is lost or stolen.

Record the details of your cards in a secure document that you can locate online or have someone email to you.

Contact your bank and give them your itinerary to avoid having your card blocked once you start spending abroad.

Consider carrying a small amount of US dollars. It’s a universal currency that is recognisable all over the world.

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As a perpetual traveller I’m super switched on to savvy ways to make my money go further. If you’d like to add your own tips, leave a comment in the box below.