Travel money tips: How to keep your money safe while travelling

how to keep your money safe while travelling

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Whether you’re going abroad to backpack long-term or heading out for a quick week in the sun, knowing how to keep your money safe while travelling can be a game-changer. Getting the below tips and tricks firmly in your travel to-dos can mean you can then focus on the real fun of being away from home rather than endlessly worrying about your next risk. It pays to be a money-savvy traveller!

I’ve written this as a guide to keeping your money safe with a nod to Latin America, but the vast majority of these money tips can be applied to the rest of the world, too.

Card & contactless payments are becoming more widespread in Latin America, but in certain countries or regions cash is still very much king.

Let me know if you have any other tips for how to keep your money safe while travelling by adding them to the comments!

After this post on how to keep your money safe while travelling, don’t miss out on these posts:

How to keep your money safe while travelling:

1. Make good use of your safe or locker

It’s an obvious one, but not always a well-used one!

If you have a safe or locker in your hotel room or hostel dorm (and you really, really should), actually use it! Only take as much cash with you as you’ll need for that day and leave the rest somewhere very safe.

It’s always best to keep at least one spare card in a safer place too, so that if something does happen out and about you’re not left high and dry.

Don’t do this without a solid padlock if you’re using a dorm locker, and the same goes for private rooms in hostels. The only time I’ve ever had cash stolen in Latin America was when it was stashed away in a pocket of my backpack in a private hostel room that only staff had access to.

how to keep your money safe while travelling

2. Never exchange currency in-person

Changing cash for another currency at an exchange bureau or through your hotel is one of the quickest ways to lose money. Instead, sign up to a bank that offers a travel debit card.

You’re going to want a travel card that does not charge account fees, FX fees or commission, and that you control online through an app. Check out RevolutCurrensea, Starling, or Monzo.

These cards have saved me sooooo much money over the years.

3. Bring more than one travel card

Aside from the risk of losing a travel debit card, I’ve come into a few other situations where for whatever reason a second card on hand, like when my card was cloned in Argentina and I couldn’t load it up again as the people will my details would just spend the money immediately (I actually had to wait 2 weeks till my new travel card got couriered out to my next destination in Chile).

I’ve also seen friends’ travel cards not working with certain banks, so to keep money safe while travelling, it’s always a good idea to have several debit cards with different companies.

Travel cards are almost always free, so stock up and keep a little on each!

4. Check ATM charges

Lots of Latin America still runs on cash rather than card payments, so you’re going to need to withdraw from a cash point at some point. Not all ATM charges are made equal, so make sure you enter a new country knowing which banks will give you the lowest (or free-est!) rates for withdrawing cash.

During my travels, I’ve been busy compiling the best Latin American ATMs to use for a Revolut card to reduce or avoid charges, and I find that this list works for lots of other travel card brands, too.



5. Top up little and often

While theft and muggings aren’t the everyday occurrence for travellers that some would have you believe, they do happen, and sticking out as a foreigner is one reason someone might be targeted (this is why you should never flash your cash, and always leave gadgets at home).

Should the absolute worst occur and you find yourself needing to give everything over or being taken to an ATM to take all your cash out for the mugger (the most important thing to remember if being mugged in Latin America is never EVER resist or try to be a hero), you’re not going to want to have all of your life’s savings in one account.

Top-ups little and often from a main account to your travel card account can be a bigggg money-protector here.

Personally, I never ran into any direct trouble like this, but still use this little-and-often-top-up rule religiously just in case.

And like the cash in your wallet, only top-up what is necessary on your travel card each day – I normally have about 2-3 days’ budget on at once so I also have a buffer for other types of emergency.

6. Use local currency even if USD is accepted

In some countries, such as Costa Rica, both a local currency and USD are accepted interchangeably. This sounds great, right?!

However, if you pay in USD, not only does the amount tend to be rounded up, but any change will be rounded down and given in the local currency, too. This means that with every transaction you’re chipping away at your spending power.

7. Don’t visit ATMs at night

In a region where poverty grips the vast majority of citizens, many roads aren’t lit and a lot of the police simply do not give a monkey’s arse, visiting an ATM after dark is not an entirely great idea.

Stick to daytime hours in well-populated areas to take out money securely in South America (leading to my next point).



8. Withdraw at shopping mall ATMs

Rule number one in Latin America is not to flash your cash, let alone count it out in public.

Thankfully, most shopping malls and banks in LatAm have little rooms or at least separated sections where you can have a little privacy to use the ATM. They’re often also guarded in the daytime, so they add a lot more safety.

I really recommend against using the standard hole in the wall ATMs on the street on Latin America, especially if you’re alone. Always put your cash into your wallet or purse before leaving the safe space.

9. Invest in an RFID-blocking wallet

Contactless cards are great, but they are open to scammers who take RFID payment machines out with them and tap them against people’s pockets in crowded places.

I’ve heard of this happening distantly, but never actually met anyone who was a victim of it in Latin America. However, it’s always good to be cautious, and with tech quickly reaching developing countries there’s little reason this scam couldn’t become more prominent.

And RFID wallet is an easy way to block the contactless signal and save you from this risk, and they’re not very expensive, either.

how to keep your money safe while travelling   how to keep your money safe while travelling

 

So those are my tips on how to keep your money safe while travelling! Again, if you think I’ve missed any good ones, please add them in the comments section for others to take them on-board 🙂

 

Now that you’ve finished this post on how to keep your money safe while travelling, don’t miss out on these posts:

 

travel tips latin america

 

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how to keep your money safe while travelling

Last Updated on 13 March 2023 by Cuppa to Copa Travels

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