Preparing your finances for travel

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This article was originally published May 2018 and has been updated.

Whether you’re playing tourist in your own province or embarking on a cross-continental backpacking trip, there’s one thing you’ll need for certain: money. While it’s important to do your research to know the most Instagram-worthy coffee shops or the coolest museums to check out, one piece of trip planning you should also be thinking about is planning your finances. Of course, setting a budget is important, but there are a few other things you should be keeping in mind too before you turn on your out of office.

Give a heads up

Let your financial institution know you’ll be travelling and make sure you make note of emergency numbers to call in case something happens like losing your debit or credit card. If you’re not a frequent traveller, it’s also a good idea to let your financial institution know they can expect to see transactions outside of your usual province, so your cards don’t get flagged for suspicious activity.

Do your research

It might also be a good idea to do a quick search to see if your financial institution has branches where you’re travelling. For credit union members, this might mean doing a quick internet search or using the Ding Free mobile app to find the nearest credit union. Even though your specific branch might not be present, credit unions are part of the largest ATM network in Canada. 

Be in the know

Read the fine print to see if there will there be lofty transaction fees for withdrawing funds abroad. Often, you will be charged by both your own financial institution for the withdrawal, as well as the issuing financial institution and double service charges can add up. And then there’s the exchange rate. It can be hard to do that math in your head on the fly, so you might want to consider downloading a currency conversion app to help you out. That way you can avoid any big surprises when you get home and review your statement. 

Cash and more cash

There’s an old saying “cash makes no enemies” and this is especially true for travel. Always travel with cash. In fact, it’s a good practice to make sure you leave home with some currency from your destination country. ATMs can be hard to find, especially if you’ve just had a long day of travel and the only thing standing behind you and sweet, sweet sleep is a taxi ride that is cash only. Cash also comes in handy if there is trouble using your credit/debit cards because you’re out of country, or worse, if you somehow lose them. Having cash on hand will mean you’ll still be able to afford dinner and your hotel room until you can secure a new card.

Travelling with cash can seem risky, so stow your money in separate places on your body and avoid carrying large bills.

Looking for more advice before your summer travels kick-off? Whether you’re going for a week-long trip or extended travel, get in touch with your local credit union today.