We all need money in order to travel making it imperative that you have all your finances organized before heading out. Let's dive into the steps I would take before leaving the country, hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and be more prepared!
Your Bank: The first thing to look into is the bank in which you hold your checking and savings accounts. Make sure that you won't be charged any fee's while you're traveling for balance requirements, etc. Although it may seem like a small amount, it will add up along your travels. Also check to see if your bank has a toll free international number, don't want to be slapped with an expensive international call if you're already having a monetary issue.
Debit Card: This is the most important card you'll be traveling with, especially if traveling to countries that haven't yet gotten on the credit card train. Unlike the US or Australia, Europe and Asia have many places that only take cash. Most places that do accept credit cards will charge a processing fee. It is important that you have a checking account set up in order to pull out cash whenever needed.
A debit card MUST have a 4 digit pass-code, no more or less will do. Without the code your card will fail at every machine, so make sure this is set up before you leave! You will also need to check and see what fee's you will be charged when withdrawing money from an international ATM. Bank Of America got me good on my most recent trip. I am allowed to withdraw money for free internationally, but in fine print it says that if the currency is not in USD then I receive a 3% fee. Good game, BOA...
It would also be beneficial to look into how you would order a new card in case of an emergency. I can't tell you how many people broke or lost their card in Asia, only to have their bank say they will receive the new card in two weeks. Two weeks!! What in the bloody hell will I do for the next two weeks without money?!? Yup, make sure they have an express shipping rate for you while you kindly borrow, and repay, your friend back.
Credit Card: As Americans we have the ability to apply for fantastic travel reward credit cards. I will include more information on what cards I travel with in other posts, but for now let's outline the details you need when picking a card. First and foremost, the card must have no international fee's. If it does, cross it off your list or you'll get slammed. Next, make sure this card offers rewards while you travel so you can save up points for your next trip (or in my case, the flight home...). I prefer to carry at least two credits cards with me, one card in my wallet and a second in my main pack for emergencies.
Another safety precaution I now take is to set up a 4 digit pin on my credit cards to be used for money orders. The card will charge you an arm and a leg in fee's, but if you need money and lost your Debit Card you can now have a backup plan with the Credit Card.
Chip Cards: The technology in the world of banking has been rapidly changing. Although cards with chips were just released in the US over the last few years, they are required in most places in the world. If you want to use your cards, you need to make sure BOTH your debit and credit cards have chips. If not, please contact your bank and request one that has the chip. Don't leave home without it.
Expiration Dates: One thing people overlook is the expiration date on their cards. Make sure you run through them all before you leave and confirm that you have at least 6 months left after the expected return of your trip. If not, contact your bank and request a new card be sent out. Make this call at least two weeks prior to your departure, some banks are on the slower side when shipping.
Travel Notice: Remember the days when you went abroad and your bank blocked your card due to a fraudulent usage? I sure as hell do, and then you go to call them but they're closed due to the time difference. Guess I'm camping on the hostel couch again... Most banks now have a travel notice you can place on your cards. This can be found on their website or possibly the app, make sure you add all countries you'll be visiting and when so they don't block you while away.
Ordering International Currency: I receive a lot of questions on whether travelers should order currency at home before embarking on their journey. While it seems like a great idea due to a better exchange rate, I give this a hard no. Here's why; you will then be carrying all your travel money with you. If I'm away for a few months, do I really want to put my eggs in one basket? I'll take the worse exchange rate and not stress about holding onto my life savings.
That about does it, feel free to shoot me any questions you have or post in the comments section below, happy to help where I can!