The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make with Your Money Traveling Abroad

    by Sidney Hunt
    Published: July 10, 2024 (1 week ago)

    Traveling abroad can be an exhilarating experience, offering new cultures, cuisines, and sights. However, if you’re not careful with your finances, your dream vacation can quickly turn into a costly nightmare. Here are some of the biggest mistakes travelers make with their money when traveling abroad and how to avoid them.

    1. Not Informing Your Bank

    One of the most common mistakes is failing to inform your bank of your travel plans. Banks monitor transactions for unusual activity, and foreign purchases can trigger a fraud alert, potentially freezing your account.

    How to Avoid: Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel dates and destinations. This can often be done online or via a phone call.

    2. Relying Solely on Cash

    While carrying cash can be convenient for small purchases, relying solely on it can be risky. You risk loss or theft, and currency exchange rates can be unfavorable at some exchange kiosks.

    How to Avoid: Use a mix of payment methods. Carry some local currency for small expenses, but rely on credit or debit cards for larger purchases and keep them secure. Choose cards with no foreign transaction fees.

    3. Using Airport Currency Exchange Services

    Airport currency exchange services often have some of the worst exchange rates and high fees, costing you more than necessary.

    How to Avoid: Exchange a small amount of money at your bank before you leave or use a local ATM upon arrival for better rates. Additionally, consider using a travel credit card that offers good exchange rates and no fees.

    4. Ignoring Foreign Transaction Fees

    Some credit and debit cards charge foreign transaction fees, typically around 1-3% per transaction. These fees can add up quickly over the course of your trip.

    How to Avoid: Before traveling, apply for a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Many travel rewards cards offer this benefit, making them ideal for international travel.

    5. Not Checking Your Phone Plan

    Using your phone abroad without an international plan can lead to exorbitant roaming charges. Many travelers return home to find unexpected bills in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

    How to Avoid: Contact your phone carrier to discuss international plan options before you leave. Alternatively, consider purchasing a local SIM card or using Wi-Fi for calls and data.

    6. Overlooking Local Laws and Customs

    Different countries have different rules regarding tipping, bargaining, and the use of certain currencies. Ignorance of these customs can lead to overspending or offending locals.

    How to Avoid: Research local customs and laws regarding money and tipping before you travel. Guidebooks and travel websites often provide this information.

    7. Not Keeping Track of Your Spending

    It’s easy to lose track of your spending while enjoying your vacation. This can lead to overspending and unexpected debts when you return home.

    How to Avoid: Use a budgeting app to keep track of your expenses. Set a daily spending limit and stick to it. Keep receipts and monitor your accounts regularly.

    8. Not Understanding Dynamic Currency Conversion

    When using your credit card abroad, you may be offered the option to pay in your home currency instead of the local currency. This is known as dynamic currency conversion, and it often comes with high fees and poor exchange rates.

    How to Avoid: Always choose to pay in the local currency when given the option. Your credit card company will typically offer a better exchange rate.

    9. Failing to Have a Backup Plan

    Travel mishaps can happen, from lost wallets to malfunctioning ATMs. Not having a backup plan can leave you stranded without access to funds.

    How to Avoid: Carry multiple forms of payment, such as an extra credit card, and keep them in separate places. Consider having a small emergency stash of cash hidden in your luggage.

    10. Overpacking Your Wallet

    Carrying all your credit cards, IDs, and other important documents can be risky. Losing your wallet could mean losing access to all your funds and personal information.

    How to Avoid: Only carry the essentials: one or two credit cards, an ID, and some cash. Leave other valuables in a secure place, such as a hotel safe.


    Traveling abroad can be a memorable and enriching experience, but financial missteps can quickly dampen the adventure. By being aware of these common mistakes and taking proactive steps to avoid them, you can enjoy your trip without unnecessary financial stress. Safe travels!


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