3 Banking Moves You Should Make Before Traveling

Are you planning on taking a vacation? While booking a flight, setting up an itinerary, and packing up bathing suits are tasks many soon-to-be travelers are eager to jump on, setting up your finances before heading off to the airport requires some work.

A thin cash supply and a frozen credit card during your trip can put a damper on anyone's holiday, whether it's a one-week skiing trip to Montana or a three-month adventure across Europe.

Here are three essential things you should remember to do before departing.

Key Takeaways

  • Take a few simple steps to safeguard your credit and bank cards on holidays by letting your lenders and bank know when you are traveling. 
  • It may be wise to carry a mix of credit and debit cards and cash when you go on vacation. 
  • Ask your banking representative if they have ATM partnerships overseas to avoid paying banking fees when you withdraw cash abroad.

Contact Your Credit Card Company

Along with your friends, family, and employers, your credit card company should be on the list of those you should notify when you are leaving, where you are going, and when you plan on arriving home.

Some cards are pretty flexible when it comes to credit card usage abroad, with companies offering perks, including hotel rewards points and no foreign transaction fees when used away from home.

Notifying your credit card company and bank before a trip can help ensure the institutions won't freeze your cards while you are traveling due to suspicious activity.

Whichever card you use, however, take some extra precautions before leaving and call your credit card company to request that a note be put on your file, specifying that you will be using your card abroad for a specific number of days.

A brief phone call to customer service in the comfort of your home beats having a freeze placed on your card while trying to pay for souvenirs in the checkout line.

Notify Your Bank

Banks can also freeze your checking account if there are frequent suspicious withdrawals in a foreign country. One argument for switching to a credit union is that they boast lower fees and better customer service.

However, one of the benefits of managing your finances with a large bank is that many of them maintain ATM partnerships overseas.

Larger banks generally grant customers the ability to avoid bank fees when withdrawing cash and reduce the likelihood of your bank flagging your account for spending overseas. As with your credit card, if you're with a big bank, stay on the safe side and notify them of your trip.

Carry Some Cash

Whether you are staying within your continent or sojourning to remote locales, you should maintain a healthy supply of cash to get you by in your day-to-day outings.

While it may be unreasonable to try and pay for everything—such as your hotel stay —with only legal tender, by and large, you should make sure you take out a set amount of cash and use it more often than your cards.

Carrying physical currency with you is predominately safer than paying with cards—both in terms of staying within budget and reducing the risk of identity theft if you end up visiting a less-than-legitimate business.

Splitting your cash across multiple days may also give you better control of your spending. If worse comes to worst and you end up losing your money, it's marginally better than losing your information and having your entire bank account's funds purloined.

How Do I Manage Money While Traveling?

Today, money can be managed via online portals or the apps of your banks, brokerages, and other financial accounts. Managing your money in terms of expenses while traveling includes making a budget, ensuring that your credit cards or debit cards do not incur foreign transaction fees, and limiting ATM usage as most likely you will incur fees.

What Should I Tell My Bank Before Traveling?

Generally, you should tell your bank the locations you are traveling to and the dates/duration of your travels. This will allow you to continue using your credit cards and debit cards without the fraud detection on your accounts being triggered, preventing you from using your cards.

Is It Illegal to Carry Around a Lot of Money?

No, it is not illegal to carry around a lot of money. You are legally entitled to carry as much money as you would like, though it is not recommended. Money can be lost or stolen and difficult to locate or reimburse.

The Bottom Line

Holidays are a time to focus on desires outside of work and home, whether it's sightseeing or merely taking a break from the 9-to-5 grind. The last thing you want to worry about when you are away is dealing with money stress.

While these three steps aren't as fun as planning out your vacation itinerary, spending a few minutes out of your schedule tying up these loose ends may undoubtedly make the actual trip itself infinitely more enjoyable.

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The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.