Hey Lifehacker, I will be travelling to the US later in the year. I wondered if you have any advice about managing finances for a trip, particularly the use of travel credit and debit cards rather than my own cards, and the best way to plan ahead give the potential dip in the dollar predicted. Thanks, States I’ll Be In
New York picture from Shutterstock
In no particular order, these are our tips for how to organise your money if you’re headed to the USA. (Most of them apply to any trip overseas, but there are a couple of US-specific nuances.)
- While you will be able to pay for many things using credit or debit cards, make sure you have a reasonable supply of cash as well, including quite a few dollar bills — you’ll need these for tipping. Cash also helps for really small purchases, or if your card doesn’t work for some reason.
- Take more than one card with you. That covers you if you lose a card, it gets stolen, your bank suddenly blocks it, or it just doesn’t work for some reason. (If you’re especially paranoid, keep the card in a different location to your main wallet.)
- There’s a lot to be said for using a separate travel card which you can preload with US currency. All the major banks offer these now; popular choices for Lifehacker readers have included the 28 Degrees MasterCard, the OzForex prepaid travel card and the Qantas Cash Card. The first advantage is that you can set your travel budget in advance and avoid overspending. The second is that you’re not using your regular credit card, so if there is a problem or your details are misused, you won’t have to cancel any regular payments on your normal credit card.
- The other big selling point for these cards is that they are actually credited with US currency, so you won’t pay conversion fees and you can potentially load them up a time when the exchange rate is healthier. That’s still something of a gamble — currency movements are unpredictable. However, planning for your holiday by regularly setting aside money is a useful strategy in any case.
- Make sure you notify your bank that you’re going overseas — otherwise your transactions may be flagged as unusual and your card will be blocked.
Be sure to check out our broader guide on the top 10 things to remember when travelling to the USA. Enjoy your trip!
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