Travel Finance: The Forms of Payment You Need When Traveling

It doesn’t matter where you’re going, you are going to need to bring at least a couple forms of payment with you when on the road. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a situation where the restaurant/merchant/hotel/airline does not accept what you have. It’s embarrassing, and not being able to pay for something you need could cause you to waste time. Before you head out on your trip, make sure that you have these three form of payment with you. It’s always good to be prepared.

Debit Cards

This is my favorite item to carry with me when I travel. Debit cards are versatile. You will be able to book almost anything you need. Most hotels, airlines, excursion companies, and merchants accept this form of payment. It is secure and insured, and good all over the world.

Possibly the best part is that the money charged to the card is deducted directly from your bank and you don’t have to worry about a credit card bill when you return from vacation. Everything will already be paid off. You will need to keep track of your purchases and make sure that you don’t overdraft your account. Thankfully it’s pretty easy to see all of your daily purchases online with most institutions.

Check out this list of the best  banks for travelers!

The debit card is also useful for getting cash out of ATMs when you need some real legal tender. Debit cards are very useful and reliable for all travelers. Depending on who you bank with, you may be charged transaction fees for using ATMs, or for international purchases in a currency other than your own. Make sure you know the fees before you start racking them up so you won’t be surprised when they start showing up on your statements. Many banks are different, some have no fees for ATMs and international transactions, and some will have expensive fees. It’s good to know what to expect.


Credit Cards

Until recently I never traveled with a Credit Card. I used my debit card and cash for all transactions, and usually had no issues. Even when booking hotels my debit card would always be sufficient for securing a room and paying any necessary deposits.

About a year ago I was renting a car in Detroit and found out from the company that I booked my reservation with that they would not accept my debit card or cash to rent the car. I was stunned, but they would not budge on the policy. Luckily there was a car rental company across the street that did accept my debit card, but I ended up paying more than double what I expected to pay at the other rental spot. Extra expenses that I had not planned for. I wasn’t happy about the situation, but I was determined that it wouldn’t happen again.

After returning home from my trip, I contacted my credit union to get a credit card for when I traveled. They issued me one, and now I bring it on all of my trips. I rarely use the card, but it is good to have it in case I run into another situation where I need it.

Whether you prefer to use debit or credit, it is a good idea to have both with you when on the road.

Many credit cards offer perks for signing up and bonuses for any spending. If you are diligent about finding the right credit card, you may find a great deal and get some good perks like cash back or free flights, but I’ll stick with my debit card when I can.

Check out this list of some of the best credit cards for travel!

Protect your cards and info

When traveling with debit and credit cards you will want to take note of the phone numbers on the back of your cards. They will come in handy in case you lose your cards, or if there are unauthorized charges that have been placed on them. These cards are insured and can be cancelled at any time if you lose them or someone is using them without your authorization. If one of these things has happened then call up the card companies to have them cancelled and replaced.

If you are traveling out of the country then let your card companies know that you will be out of the country and inform them of where you plan to be using the cards. If you start using your card(s) in a place that you’ve never used them before then the card companies may flag your charges as unusual and could cancel your card. You don’t want that to happen. Let them know before you travel so they don’t unexpectedly shut down your card.


While debit and credit cards have certainly become the norm in many places around the world, cash is still king. It is likely that most places that you travel to will accept credit or debit cards for payment, but there are still many establishments, especially restaurants, that do not accept plastic. If you are not carrying cash, make sure to find out from the establishment if they will accept your card as the form of payment before you order or buy anything. Never assume that they accept credit cards, you’ll be happy that you did.

You will definitely want to have cash for bellhop and valet tips. It’s very unlikely that people in either of these positions will accept a credit card, and there are several other scenarios where you will need cash for spur of the moment purchases.


If you are not leaving the country then getting cash from your bank before you leave is a good idea. There will be no transaction or currency conversion fees. If you need to use an ATM away from home then there could be fees associated with withdrawing your own money. A few bucks here and there probably won’t kill you, but make sure to start the trip with at least a few bucks on your person.

When heading to a country with a different currency system, I still like to bring some of my local currency with me, and get some of the foreign money after I arrive in that country. Buying foreign money ahead of time can sometimes be costly with the additional fees and commissions that are associated with exchanges. I strongly recommend avoiding airport currency exchanges, as they tend to have the highest prices and worst exchange rates. The best place to get foreign money is out of an ATM in that country. Yes, you may get hit with an ATM fee, and your bank may charge you an international transaction fee, but those fees are almost always cheaper than the rates you’ll be getting with a currency trader. You will also be getting the best exchange rate available at the time. It’s the way to go. As always, check with your bank to find out what the expect for international transaction and ATM fees.

You can shop around and find yourself a good deal. You might want to consider keeping a travel friendly bank account  solely for travel purposes.

I left off traveler’s checks and personal checks. You don’t need these items for travel anymore, and there are many places that will not even accept them. When on the road you will be just fine carrying a debit and credit card, along with a little bit of cash. Make sure to be careful with these items and always know where they are. If you lose your cash then you’ll probably never see it again. Credit and debit cards can be canceled and replaced, but it can be a pain going through this process.

Be Organized

You will want to make sure to carry your cash and cards in a good wallet or money clip. Make sure to keep it organized and in a safe pocket in your pants, jacket, travel pouch or purse.



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