Nadia is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer based in Dublin.
We’ve come a very long way from travelers’ cheques, I haven’t pre-ordered foreign currency in years and since contactless came around? Well, I rarely use cash at all in some countries any more. Take a city break to London, for example, you can use your card on the Tube, for your morning coffee and all your shopping on Oxford St. But at what cost?
Blinded by the ease of not having to plan and letting my bank do the calculations and conversions for me, we have all probably paid over the odds for a lot of the stuff we’ve spent our hard-earned cash on, with bad exchange rates and added overseas charges. I know I’ve turned a blind eye to these, for convenience sake, but all those costs add up, so here are some easy tips to keep on top of your holiday cash.
Separating holiday funds
First of all, it makes sense to separate your “holiday money” from the rest of your funds, doesn’t it? It helps you keep track of your spending and you’ll be able to see exactly what’s available. A pre-paid card makes it much easier and safer as you can pre-load your holiday money on to it before you go and see your balance online whenever you want.
Check in with your holiday spending when hopping countries
On my recent trip to New Zealand, there were a lot of logistics to look at, like domestic flights and car hire, as well as day-to-day expenses like accommodation and eating out. I don’t like to plan too far ahead because it just takes the spontaneity and fun out of travel. If I’m thinking of taking an internal flight, I’ll set up a price alert on Skyscanner, it often helps me decide where and when to go next, knowing I’ll get the best deal. That doesn’t mean I can just ignore my budget though (unfortunately), so it’s handy to be able to see what I have available in the currency I’m using and not pay extra charges using my current bank account abroad for all these transactions.
No changing back currency
As someone who isn’t great at managing money, it’s great to be able to see everything at a glance and separate anything and everything else that’s going on at home like direct debits for household bills coming out of my current account. I can convert it to the currency of the next place I’ll be travelling to and switch between currencies, so I don’t waste a penny.
Better value on local excursions
I tend to get a feel for a place before organising trips and tours while travelling. You can get caught out by booking these ahead online, often paying over the odds and being taken advantage of. Before you get to a place, you’ve no idea really what’s really available in terms of excursions and what the price on the ground is. I’ll always try and haggle and negotiate in the local currency when it comes to things like boat trips and guided tours, talking to other travellers and getting word of mouth recommendations is usually the best way to find hidden gems.
Hold out for those last-minute discounts
Tour operators nearly always need to make up the numbers on trips and if you leave it until closer to departure time, you’re more likely to get a discount. It’s handy to be able to pay for these trips in the local currency, you’ll be better at negotiating a deal when you don’t have the added confusion of trying to convert the amount back into Euro in your head.
When I’m travelling in Europe, there are still times when I need to use cash to pay for stuff, like lunch at local food vans or in markets or for street food. The currency card allows me to withdraw cash from an ATM but, as with using any card in a foreign country, there is a fee but with you’re An Post Money Currency Card you don’t get hit with an adverse exchange rate fee too. These are all the things that usually add up and unnecessarily eat into your holiday money, a few quid here and there that you could be spending on a bottle of local beer or a souvenir instead!
The safety of a second An Post Money Currency Card
One of my main worries when I’m travelling, especially on solo trips, is that I’ll lose my ATM card. It has actually happened to me in the past and leaves you in a bit of a predicament. To have the back up of an additional card for the same account (for free I might add), really puts your mind at ease. As with all important travel documents and cards, I keep duplicates in a separate place, so if I lose one there’s always a plan B. Also if you lose the card then you just phone the emergency number (remember to put it in your phone) and they can either issue a new card or wire money to you wherever you are in the world through Western Union.