The following content was originally featured on Alchemy Global
When you’re travelling abroad or working in an unfamiliar country, it’s vital that you keep your money as safe and secure as possible.
This is because as well as having to familiarise yourself with using a ‘new’ currency, it’s a fact that foreigners are far more likely to be targeted by the likes of thieves and pickpockets. These can strike before you even have a chance to notice, and this makes them an especially large risk if you’re carrying cash, cards, or anything else you wouldn’t want to lose.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a target. According to Bruce Rosenberg, COO of HotelPlanner.com, keeping your cash safe while traveling comes down to a few key rules. He says: “Keep cash and credit cards in separate pockets or bags, and always carry small bills; $20’s, $10’s, $5’s and singles for tipping. Not every establishment accepts credit cards.
“It’s also important to keep an emergency fund in a third location. I usually stash away $100 and one credit card. In the event that you lose your credit card, or even your wallet, make sure you have a copy of each card hidden somewhere. You can even snap a photo with your mobile phone and upload it to a cloud-based server.
“Lastly, always call your primary credit card to let them know you’re traveling, and to make sure you have funds available to cover credit card holds when checking into a hotel or renting a car. You don’t want to be surprised when you arrive.”
Here’s what else you need to know to ensure your money is kept safe when travelling abroad…
Travel Tip 1: Do your research before you travel
Be prepared before you leave by conducting as much research as possible. This can be easily done by using open source websites, like HM Government’s Travel Aware, which has a wealth of foreign travel advice for a range of countries around the world.
As a first step, you should start by being aware of the exchange rates. You can then choose to change your currency before the trip, or forecast where and when you’ll be changing it when travelling. When conducting your research, you should also take into consideration other factors, such as black market exchange rates versus the US dollar, whether the local currency will be worthless in certain countries due to hyperinflation, and whether you will be able to convert this money back to the original currency again (if needed).
Using credit or debit cards is also good for larger transactions, although you’ll need to find out which types (e.g. Visa, Debit, and American Express) are accepted. Another thing you should keep in mind is that some cards will add a fee of up to 3% on anything you buy, so check this before you travel.
Additionally, there’s a few things you should be aware of when you’re asked to pay in local or home currency when abroad. Firstly, you’ll pay a 5pc mark-up by paying in British Pounds at foreign shops, restaurants, and hotels, instead of opting for the local currency. This is thanks to a little-known option known as ‘Dynamic Currency Conversion’ (or DCC). This add-on is completely legal, and it’s operated by companies that profit by converting your bill using a poor exchange rate. As a result, they pocket a fee on each and every transaction.
You may also face bank charges for using your debit or credit card in a foreign shop, and these charges will normally apply whether you pay in sterling or the local currency. This is something to be aware of as a 5pc mark-up would add £50 in avoidable charges to holiday spending of £1,000. This will also be on top of the charges from your card provider. More information can be found in this useful article on Holiday Money from The Telegraph.
It’s also a good idea to let your bank know when and where you’re travelling to in advance; if your bank notice ‘suspicious activity’, you could easily get your card blocked. To help avoid fraud or card cloning, we suggest not letting your card out of your sight; this means that, for example, a waiter or shop assistant should always process transactions in front of you. You’ll also be protected if you buy faulty goods, or if something you ordered isn’t delivered.
As an additional tip, you should check individual countries for how much cash you’re allowed to carry before travelling. Normally, £10,000 of any currency will need to be declared.
When it comes to insurance, it should ideally cover three main areas; cash, fraud, and theft. However, it’s important to note that you may well have access to this through a premier account; just make sure the values are suitable.
Travel Tip 2: Take extra precautions when out and about
Theft is a risk wherever you go, although you should be extra cautious when in an unfamiliar country. As we’ve already explained, foreigners are a prime target for pickpockets, so make sure you know the areas you need to take extra precautions when visiting (such as travelling in groups, sticking to advised routes and daylight hours, and using taxis instead of walking).
When it comes to public transport, you can stay safe by using a fully trackable transport provider, such as Uber, if it’s available in the country you have travelled to. Alternatively, ask a concierge at the hotel to arrange your transport for you.
You can also protect your money and other belongings by utilising money belts underneath clothing, and keeping your rucksacks and bags in front of you. It’s very easy for a seasoned pickpocket to bump into you and slide a wallet from your back pocket, or even cut a hole into your bag if it’s kept on your back.
To avoid becoming a target, keep your valuables out of sight as much as possible, and dress neutrally. You don’t want to stand out as a tourist. However, if you do find yourself a target of a robbery, the best advice is to not to run or resist, and always hand over something.
You should also have a selection of payment methods available (such as card, cash, and pre-paid cards) as back-ups, although you shouldn’t have all of them with you at one time. Another option to consider is traveller’s cheques, which are pre-printed cheques for fixed amounts that you can exchange for cash or use to pay for things while you’re away.
If you do choose to use traveller’s cheques, do bear in mind that you’ll need to sign each one as soon as you receive them. Once this is done and you want to spend them, they work much like the banking cheques you would use at home; simply write the name of the person you’re paying and countersign the cheque. This is important as it’s proves you’re the person who bought the cheques, though you may also need to show your ID. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep your passport with you just in case!
When you’re out and about, you should ensure you lock the doors and windows before leaving your room or hotel, and keep valuable items out of sight. This is because hotel staff can also be a theft risk.
While you’re in the room, consider installing a door wedge to prevent intruders from entering. As well as simple rubber door wedges, there are also more advanced options to choose from, such as a wedge with an enabled alarm. This will sound when the door is opened.
Alternatively, you could use a door jammer that will prevent people from entering the room even if they have a key! This is a particularly good precautionary method as even hotel staff will be unable to enter your room without permission.
If you don’t feel comfortable leaving cash, cards and other valuables open in your room, there’s always the option to store items in the room’s safe (if one is provided) or with the hotel’s reception. However, the latter should be done at your own discretion. Our advice would be to do your research before you travel; online reviews are a great tool for this.
If possible, also take advantage of your hotel’s luggage storage, and their access to tourist route taxis and other modes of public transport.
Travel Tip 3: Be prepared in the case of an emergency
No matter how prepared you are, sometimes emergencies do happen. Therefore, you need to have a back-up plan in place.
Firstly, keep calm. The most important thing to do is ensure you’re safe before you take your next steps, which will be to let a personal contact know what’s happened. This should be your family, as well as a member of your office team.
You should also write down the contact details for your bank and cards, and don’t forget to take this information away with you! Most people will read these details from the back of the card, but this will be too late if your wallet has been stolen.
Other precautions you can take is to also write down the contact details of the Embassy or Consualte, as well as leaving a spare card at home with a friend or relative. In the event of the worst happening, this can then be sent to you via the likes of DHL or FedEx.
Your next step will be to report the incident to the local police (which can be done through your hotel), and then review if your credit or debit cards need to be cancelled. If they’ve been either lost or stolen, this is the best course of action to take to ensure the safety and security of your money.
Stuart Nash from Alchemy Global says: “Travelling the world, exploring new places, and meeting new people can enrich our lives. However, we should always be mindful that even with the best of intentions, accidents and unfortunate situations can occur. In order to minimise the risk of being a victim, always be prepared through pre-travel research, having situational and cultural awareness in different countries, and always travelling with the correct level of insurance cover in place.”