The best way to spend money overseas
Latest figures show that out of a population of over five million people, there were over seven million international departures per year from Singapore. This means, simply, we are an island of season and experienced travellers, with many people travelling abroad several times every year.
What are the best ways of carrying money on one of our many overseas trips? As any traveller knows, it pays to know your options, and to have several alternatives available in case the worst should happen.
Travellers Cheques: These used to be virtually universal and accepted virtually anywhere but are increasingly falling out of fashion. On a recent trip to continental Europe, it was shocking to find how many big-name banks refused AmEx Traveller’s Cheques, leaving us to exchange them at a very poor rate in our hotel. However (bar unhelpful exchange fees), their value is guaranteed, and you will have them replaced immediately if lost or stolen.
Credit cards: No matter where issued, most cards are members of one of the world’s big credit card organisations. Visa and MasterCard are accepted virtually anywhere, and you’ll have no problem if you have an AmEx charge card too. The only real look-out is that your bank may charge you unreasonable rates for foreign currency transactions, or may block your card if they think your card is being used abroad for no good reason. In both cases, check with your issuer before you travel.
The good news is that some cards do not charge currency conversion fees at all, making credit cards the obvious choice for travellers. Most Singapore cards now have a chip implanted – vital if you’re visiting Europe where these are virtually obligatory.
If you have a debit card, you should still be able to use your card in the same places as credit card users. But check whether your card will actually work abroad – some accounts are not connected to the global Cirrus or Plus networks. Your card may proudly declare its Visa or MasterCard credentials, but may not work elsewhere. As always, tell your bank you’re travelling, so you don’t suddenly find your card blocked by a nervous issuer.
Cash: It always makes sense to carry some local currency to get you through the opening days of your trip. It’s a mistake to rely on cash machines or travellers cheques straight away, especially if you arrive in the middle of the night, or during a public holiday.
You might find that you’ll be charged extra for ATM cash withdrawals abroad, and once again, make it part of your travel plans to find out. That being the case, try to keep as many of your transactions as possible “on card”, while leaving cash for small value transactions, tips and a back-up.
Many people worry about money when travelling. However, with an inter-connected bank system, you should never have any worries with cash while abroad. A bit of sensible planning should ensure that you’ve got your card in your wallet, and all will be well.
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