Stress-Free Vacation: 4 Financial Tips for Traveling Abroad

Planning an international trip? These financial traveling tips will ease stress and remove worry from your vacation plans

By Johnson Financial Group

We offer banking, wealth and insurance, using a team approach to provide our personal and business clients with responsive service and comprehensive solutions for their unique financial needs. Partner Content

From places to stay, to modes of transportation and alluring excursions, many details go into planning a trip abroad. While traveling internationally is an opportunity for adventure and relaxation, before packing your bags, make sure you’re prepared financially so your trip is worry-free. Courtney Searles, SVP, Private Banking Regional Manager in Madison and Anisa Dunn, SVP Wealth Sr. Fiduciary Manager in Racine have a few practical tips for traveling abroad to help you feel confident wherever your travels take you:

4 Financial Tips for Traveling Abroad

1. Choose your payment methods

We recommend taking multiple payment options on your trip, including a credit card and your destination’s local currency:

  • Credit cards: With many countries moving toward automation, credit cards offer a convenient and secure payment method overseas. In some countries, credit cards are the only form of accepted payment. Remember to have a backup card on hand in the event your card is lost or stolen. Keep your cards, along with copies of other important documents, in a separate place like a hotel safe or security vault.

Be aware of foreign transaction fees that may be associated with using your card internationally. If you’re unsure whether foreign transaction fees apply to your card, talk to your local banker about the best credit card choice for you and your travels. Additionally, be sure to review expiration dates and any transaction limits that may apply.

Tip:Some credit cards offer travel concierge service, discounted rates or the ability to utilize points on travel and entrance into airport lounges. Joining any of the rewards programs for the airline or hotel companies you frequently use can lead to discounts or perks offered.

  • Cash: In addition to a credit card, it’s important to have the local currency on hand for incidentals or situations where cards may not be accepted. This is even more paramount if you’re traveling to a remote location where small vendors may only accept cash in the local currency. Visit your local bank before traveling to avoid incurring additional fees that you may find at exchange services at an airport or ATM overseas. To learn more about JFG’s foreign currency exchange services, contact your local advisor. Depending on where you plan to travel, your bank may need to order certain currencies, so give yourself enough lead time before your trip.

Tip:If you plan to shop for local artwork, food or souvenirs, you may consider having extra cash on hand. This cash will be useful for shopping and in case of emergencies, especially if you’re traveling to rural or remote locations where cash may not be as readily available.

2. Share your travel plans

In advance of your trip, leave a copy of your itinerary with family and friends so they are aware of your whereabouts. Make sure to notify your financial partner and credit card companies with key details of your trip too, including planned destinations, dates and payment methods you plan to utilize. This will help ensure your financial partner doesn’t flag the card for potential fraud. The last thing you want is a suspended card while you’re traveling abroad.

Travel notes can be added to your debit card through the Message Center in MyJFG.

3. Research ways to save

Upfront research can help save you money — and potential headaches — on several aspects of your trip.

  • Places to stay: Take advantage of affinity programs and travel points or consider alternative cost-saving options like Airbnb.
  • Exchange rates: Exchange rates and the expression of monetary units can vary from country to country. For example, the United States uses periods between dollars and cents, whereas some countries use a comma.
  • Value-added tax (VAT): Some countries have a VAT or other tax that only residents are subject to. You may be eligible for reimbursement of VAT taxes on purchases in some countries.
  • Food: Traveling outside the city center can provide a more authentic and inexpensive dining experience. Your hotel may also offer a concierge lounge or free breakfast.
  • Transportation: Know key tips and tricks related to transportation in the specific county you’re visiting. How are you going to get from place to place? What can you expect various modes of transportation to cost? Be aware of city travel cards that may offer discounted entrance into tourist attractions or transportation.
  • Local tipping customs: Expect tipping customs to differ depending on your destination. Some countries automatically include a tip in your bill, whereas other countries don’t allow tipping. Make sure you understand cultural expectations, so you don’t pay more than needed. 
  • Book excursions in advance: Reach out to your hotel to ensure you’re booking with legitimate, trustworthy vendors.
  • General hours of operation: Learn about cultural differences in business hours of operation and holidays to ensure your travel plans aren’t interrupted.

4. Protect yourself from fraud

While traveling, take steps to stay on guard against common scams. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Use ATMs with surveillance, monitor your surroundings and watch for skimming devices.
  • Set up transaction alerts through MyJFG.
  • Understand situations where you have bargaining power, such as street markets or local souvenir shops.
  • Be leery of anyone who approaches you trying to sell something. It’s likely a scam.
  • Keep your passport and other valuables secure — pickpocketing can be a concern in certain areas. Store any valuables in a locked safe.

Looking for more travel tips? Read up on our  vacation-saving strategies or contact an advisor today.