Personal Finance

How Much Cash Should I Take On My Next Vacation?

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 5 minute read

How long before your next vacation? You’ve earned a break after all your hard work this year. Despite your high levels of anticipation for your upcoming vacation, it is essential that you make careful preparations and observe a number of safety measures. After all, losing money can quickly ruin any vacation. Pickpockets frequently prey on travelers; if you’re not careful, someone could easily steal your wallet or purse.

Make sure you aren’t a sitting duck. Some easy precautions to take when traveling with cash are outlined below.

How to Protect Your Money While on Vacation

  1. Use credit and keep cash to a minimum.

When traveling, it’s not a good idea to rely on credit as your primary payment option because it can increase the risk of overspending. Using cash helps you stick to your budget because you have no choice but to make purchases inside that currency’s limit. However, if you drop your wallet or have it stolen, you might potentially lose all of your vacation money and be left with nothing to show for it.

However, you are not responsible for any fraudulent purchases made using a stolen credit card. If your debit card is lost or stolen, don’t worry; your bank will reimburse you for any unauthorized purchases (though it may take a few days). So, bring some cash, but don’t carry too much on your trip.

Always have one or two credit cards on hand, and set a daily spending limit to ensure you stay within your budget while on vacation. You should only make charges that you can afford to pay in full the next time you get a statement.

Before leaving, research the most common methods of payment there; in some countries, for example, a Discover Card may be nearly useless. Check the website for your credit card company to see a global acceptance map.

Keep in mind that certain credit card companies will charge you a fee of 2% to 3% just to change the currency. You should try to get a credit card that doesn’t charge a fee every time you use it in a foreign country.

  1. Use the Multi-Stash Method

Never keep all of your cash in one place, even if it’s only your wallet, because it’s risky. Instead, you should divide it up and hide varying quantities of it in different places. You may, for instance, put some cash in your wallet and the rest in a sock or shoe inside your suitcase. Or, if your hotel room has one, you can use the safe to keep your cash secure. 

While sight-seeing, if you need to bring a large sum of money, consider having a friend or travel companion carry some of it.

Don’t be a fool and leave your credit cards or cash laying around the hotel room. Theft can happen anywhere in a hotel, as housekeeping staff can enter your room if the door is left unlocked, and other guests can do the same if they find an unlocked door.

It’s not necessary to take out the entire amount of money you’ll need for your holiday at once because there are probably ATMs close to your hotel or resort. The best location to keep your vacation cash is in the bank; just take money out when you need it.

  1. Write Down Your Account and Support Numbers

If your debit or credit card is lost or stolen, contact the company as soon as possible. Naturally, if you don’t have access to your account information or the customer care number on the back of the card, reporting the card stolen is a challenge.

It’s smart to be prepared for the worst case scenario, so make numerous copies of your credit and debit card front and back, or jot down your account and customer service numbers. Don’t store this data with your payment card details. There are many ways to do this, including leaving a copy in the hotel safe, on your laptop, or with a friend.

  1. Avoid Secluded ATMs

Any ATM that isn’t easily visible from the street or surrounding businesses invites difficulty, as would-be thieves will have an easier time breaking in and making off with your cash. You should withdraw money from ATMs in convenient locations, such as your hotel or a popular public area.

Never go to vending machines late at night or very early in the morning. Use drive-up ATMs if you have access to a vehicle. Make sure the car is running and the doors are locked, and consider bringing a friend along. One’s personal safety is increased when accompanied by another, and there is safety in numbers.

  1. Keep cash hidden from view.

Although it is enjoyable to relax and have fun when on vacation, you should always be alert of your surroundings. Never bring out big sums of cash in public, whether you’re shopping, going on an expedition, or dining at a restaurant, as this can attract unwanted attention. 

Have your cash in order and just bring what you’ll need for the day before you leave the house.

  1. Use a Money Belt

There is no safer place than on your person for money or credit cards. When traveling, a money belt is a must-have safety item. These belts are designed to rest snugly across your hips or belly button thanks to the zipped cloth pocket.

Place the belt around your waist before putting on any clothing. Not only should you store your cash and credit cards here, but also your identification documents like a passport or driver’s license. If you keep your money in this pouch and zip it up, you won’t have to worry about being robbed.

  1. Protect Your Devices With Passwords

Theft or loss of a mobile device might compromise financial and other sensitive data stored on the device. Someone might potentially access your financial data and use it for their own nefarious purposes, such as making purchases using your credit card or bank account. 

Password-protect each device to keep information secure, and set devices to automatically lock after a minute or two of inactivity to maximize security.

Bottom Line

How you deal with your cash while on vacation might either raise or lower your probability of theft. Thieves anticipate that visitors would relax their guard and are prepared to make off with their wallets and credit cards. Try to limit the amount of cash you carry at all times, use good judgment, and keep close tabs on your financial accounts.

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