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Cash or Card? What is the best way to take money on a trip?


Cash or Card? 

What is the best way to take money on a trip?

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We talk to clients a lot about money and it’s a very individual thing for most people.  For instance, I always take a bit of cash, my debit plus card (as this can be used at most ATM’s and points of sale now) and my credit card.  I don’t see much value in cash cards like the Mastercard cash passport or the Air NZ one card anymore.  I always let my bank know I’m going overseas to avoid having a freeze put on my card and I don’t hold high balances on the cards I take with me.  That way if I do lose them, it’s less likely that I’ll get scammed out of all my money.  Most banks offer apps nowadays where you can put a “stop” on your card if you lose it.

I’m also a believer that sometimes people get so caught up in getting the “best rate” for exchanging like $1000, that they drive themselves nuts over losing $8 or $10 on an exchange rate conversion.  If you’ve converting tens of thousands of dollars, yes it is very important that you get the best rate down to the last cent.  But if you’re talking small numbers, just go to the airport and do it there—save yourself time and stress. 

I’m a big fan of ordering my money off of the Travelex website and having it waiting for me on the day I depart.  When you order it online to be ready for you on date of departure, they don’t charge any fees.  Additionally, if you don’t spend it all and want to change it back when you get home, you bring your original purchase receipt and they will change it back free of charge.  For me, this is much simpler and leaves me one less thing to do the week when I’m prepping for a trip.

If you do use your debit card or credit card overseas, many eftpos machines will now ask if you want to pay in the local currency or your home currency.  It will even do the conversion for you on the machine.  Always choose the local currency as the rate is better and you will pay less.

Finally, I do think that if you intend to get foreign currency, it’s best to get it before you leave NZ (if you can).  Some people will disagree and say that it costs more, but when I get to my destination, the last thing I want to be doing is looking for ATM’s or exchange booths and having to negotiate things in a foreign language.  I would much rather hit the ground running and start enjoying my trip.

Ultimately we need to remember that exchanging cash and using credit cards or debit cards are all services that we are expected to pay for somehow.  It’s annoying because it doesn’t feel like we have anything to show for it, but if you think back to years ago when travelers cheques were still the main form of secure travel currency, we really have come a long way.  And I think it’s worth the small extra fees we have to pay to do it.




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