There’s nothing more thrilling than planning the perfect trip. Well, other than the trip itself, perhaps. But the sense that an incredible adventure is waiting for you just around the corner evokes an unparalleled feeling of excitement; Who will I meet? Where will I end up? Will I know if she’s actually a woman? etc. Needless to say, dreaming up answers to these sorts of questions can be great fun, but such wistful ruminating can often lead to less exciting yet rather important things being overlooked, especially things concerned with finance. So we’ve listed five ‘banking’ things to check off your to-do list before you hit the road.
One: Tell your bank you’re leaving
This is of paramount importance. Up there among any traveler’s worst nightmares is touching down in a country, and popping your debit/credit card into an ATM only to find that in doing so you have just automatically frozen your account due to ‘suspicious’ or ‘unexpected’ activity. This happened to me in Vancouver, Canada and I was unable to make a withdrawal for three days. If you plan to make any international payments, make sure you set up the possibility in advance.
Two: Have some local currency with you
This doesn’t necessarily need to be done via your bank (Marks & Spencer usually have a good rate), but having some local money to hand upon arrival is incredibly helpful- the last thing you want is to be left with no choice but to exchange cash at an airport’s Bureau de Change where rates are anything but reasonable. What’s more, if you end up doing the latter, you will more than likely end up with bulging note-stuffed pockets: a pick-pocket’s dream. Alternatively, you can use international banks, allowing you to deposit and withdraw in different countries around the world.
Three: Cancel any unnecessary direct debits
Consider what you already pay for on a regular basis that you won’t be needing when abroad. Mobile phone insurance, for example, often needlessly eats away at travellers’ bank accounts. Cover under your travel insurance will be far cheaper and any claim made with your existing insurance company will be void anyhow. It’s not worth trying to kid them with a lie when you get back. They’re pretty good at spotting a fraudster.
Four: Set up an emergency payment plan
Though the world is probably a lot safer than you think, something can always go wrong. Whether for some reason you don’t get paid money you are due, have spent your last cent without realizing it, or (in the highly unlikely event) you are marched to an ATM and ordered at gunpoint to withdraw all your money, you must always, always have a safety net in place. Ask a friend or family member if they can add you as a payee to their bank account in the event that you need money quick.
Five: Clear your debts!
Perhaps easier said than done but interest rates on outstanding loans or overdrafts only get worse the longer an account remains unfunded. If you are unable to pay off such arrears, then the problem could be temporarily solved by taking out another interest-free (initially) loan or overdraft and pouring all that money into your original loan/overdraft account. It may seem like little more than a Band-Aid but you’ll be glad of the money saved.
You’ll probably find that there is an abundance of other ‘banking’ things to consider before you go, so a good chat with your bank manager would probably serve you well. After that, you’re all set. Bon voyage!
WRITER: Josh Taylor