Spring break is around the corner, how is your travel account balance looking? Even if it is dwindling a little, don’t sweat it! Buy your ticket to Tanzania or New Zealand, throw on your monopoly man “Like a Boss” T-shirt, and heed a few pointers for rocking your finances abroad.
1) Setup a Charles Schwab Checking no foreign transaction fees.
Normally ATM fees run you $2-3 USDs on the ground and then some back at home from your bank. With this checking account you will be reimbursed ALL foreign transaction fees each month. Go to their website and setup the account!
2) Be intentional and honest with yourself about how you spend.
If you are a shopper, planning a trip to Florence, give yourself permission to spend on those fine Italian leather boots. However, make sure you allocate enough money in your budget to buy the boots, have some dinner and a place to sleep! I always like to “highball” my finances when I travel; that is, if/when I am saving before a trip, I round up $5-10 more on every cost to give myself wiggle room when the trip rolls around.
3) Understand the currency you are working with.
Many travelers set out, assuming the USD is high and mighty. While the USD is accepted in many places without batting an eye, it comes at a price. Most restaurants will accept your USDs to pay a tab, but will give you change back in local currency, which is usually rounded down. As a rule of thumb, always take time to research the in-country currency and use it. Know how much a hostel room costs, a bottle of coke, and a bus ticket. For my trip to Central America, I carried a small finance notebook and had written down a conversion table, so I knew how many cordobas was equal to $5, $10.
Also, if you’re feelin’ financially frisky think in terms of currency exchange. Want to travel to Southeast Asia and Australia next fall? Grab an Australian work visa, earn their dollars by working in-country, and finance a HUGE portion of your Asian jaunt with dollars from Uncle Sam and Oz.
4) Get a rockin’ travel credit card
The Amazon credit card is great, if you are shopping on Amazon. I recently signed up for the Capital One Venture Rewards card and haven’t looked back. Many travel forums tote it as the best credit card for frequent travelers as you get double miles for every purchase. I am already knocking out previous bus tickets with this bad boy. The key to having the right credit card is again, sitting down with yourself and asking critical questions like, “Am I a frequent flier?” “Can I spring for a yearly fee?” “What sort of rewards do I want?”
On a similar note, while researching travel credit cards, read the fine print before you purchase crazy amounts of supplemental trip insurance. Most credit (and debit) cards offer lost baggage insurance and trip delay/cancellation coverage. Knowing that info about your card beforehand could save you a night’s stay in a hotel if you elect to not purchase trip insurance through your airline.
5) Know the language=don’t get hustled on the haggle.
This tip goes right along with knowing the currency you are dealing in. Not only is learning the local language an amazing way to meet new local friends, it is also a fool-proof way to ensure you won’t get hustled as a tourist. Language is your bargaining power, if you can speak it confidently.
When I was studying in Italy, this woman at the market always yelling things at me in Italian as she put my groceries in my bag. She would point at my wallet, scream to the heavens, and I went home with less and less euros. About three weeks of language class in, I was able to demand my Italian grocery lady stop charging me obscene amounts of money for tomatoes and prosciutto. She was impressed and we actually became really good friends, less euros involved.
And there you have it–some handy tips for managing your finances abroad.
What are your best budget tips?