8 Travel Money Mistakes You Are Probably Making

Travel Tips

travel money basics

Which mistakes are you making when it comes to travel money? These could be costing you big time. Don’t throw your money down the drain. You could be spending it on MORE travelling, which is what we all want am I right? In this blog I will detail some common travel money mistakes people often make and how to avoid them.


This blog contains affiliate links. If you click on them, we make a little pocket money. It won’t cost you though, don’t worry. We only recommend things we’ve used or would use next time. We want to help you to travel smarter, not try and sell you stuff you don’t need. 


Are You Making These Travel Money Mistakes? 

1. Wasting Money By Using The Same Bank Card As You Use At Home

travel card

Get cards with no foreign transaction costs and no foreign cash withdrawal fees. Here are some of the best travel debit and credit cards you can currently get. Because of our awesome cards, we get cash out, largely fee free.


Most standard banks charge international fees, so if you are using a standard bank card, you most likely will be paying shed loads of fees. There are 7 different types of fees you can end up paying to access your own money abroad.


But why should I care about bank fees? It’s only a couple of quid each time.

Yes, it usually is only a couple of quid or less. Each time you use your card. And it all adds up to quite a lot.


When I was travelling previously, 6 months into my year away, my Metro Bank card suddenly had its terms changed, meaning I had to pay fees on all non-EU transactions (previously free). My only backup card (HSBC) also charged fees and I couldn’t take out fee-free cash with my credit cards.


So I paid 6 months’ worth of fees which totalled about £600 (almost $800 USD) in bank fees. Over a whole year that’s £1200 ($1,560 USD). Which is a couple of months worth of travelling in South East Asia, I know what I’d rather do.


You don’t have to pay the fees, so why would you?


Find out more about all the bank fees you could be paying if you use your card whilst travelling.


2. Just Using Any ATM: Not Researching Which ATMs Charge Fees

cash machine travel

When you are at home you tend to avoid those terrible ATMs in pubs that charge you £2 to take your money out. Right? So, why when abroad do many people use ATMs that charge them ridiculous fees?!


In most countries you can avoid the ATMs that charge you to take your money out, by simply researching which ones are free before you arrive. We’ve even compiled a whole list of free or low cost ATMs in the countries we’ve visited for you.


3. Exposing Yourself To Hackers: Accessing Your Online Banking Using An Insecure Network 

vpn whilst travelling

On your WiFi back at home, it’s pretty safe to access your online banking. However, when abroad on hostel, airport and other more public WiFi networks, it’s a whole different can of worms. We all tend to worry about our beloved phones, cameras and wallets being stolen whilst travelling, but don’t tend to think about electronic security as much. Your bank details can be stolen through public networks. To protect yourself, get yourself a VPN. We highly recommend Express VPN.


4. Getting Cash BEFORE You Arrive In A Country 

cash travelling

This could be the right decision, but it really depends on where you are going, your own currency and how much risk you are willing to take carrying all that cash around with you.


A few questions to ask yourself are:

  • Does your own country have a strong currency? If your own currency is a strong one and in demand, you are better off waiting until you arrive to exchange the majority of your money as you will likely get a better rate in your destination than back home. Basically you have sexy money that everyone wants.
  • Does the country you are visiting have a closed currency? India and Nepal have closed currencies. This means theoretically you cannot get that currency before you arrive in the country or bring it in / take it out of the country. In these instances you will either have to bring a different currency or withdraw cash from an ATM on arrival.
  • Is the currency you want hard to get hold of? Some countries have currencies that are hard to get hold of or rarely requested in your own country. Therefore the rate of exchange a exchange bureau or money changer will offer you in your own country will be crap. You are better off waiting to change or withdraw money on arrival.
  • Does your country have a rarely used or an ‘undesirable’ currency? In this case you will not get very good rates changing money in either your own country or the one you are visiting. You are better off taking a currency in higher demand to exchange on arrival (usually US Dollars or the euro) or withdrawing cash from an ATM instead.



Most money changers don’t accept coins and some notes aren’t accepted (e.g. old or really dirty ones and strangely the paper 5,000 Vietnamese dong note).



5. Not Getting ANY Money Before You Arrive

getting cash before travelling

Getting a little bit of the currency beforehand isn’t a bad idea though. Cash is still king in almost everywhere we have been outside of Europe and North America, so it is always useful to have some.


For short trips or the first country on our longer travels we look to take some local currency if available, usually a day or two’s worth only as the rates will not be amazing back home. This is to cover things like visas on arrival, transport from airports, accommodation, a bit of food and to buy a local sim card.


You can opt not to do this and just change it on arrival but airport exchange bureaus won’t give the best rate and are sometimes not open if you have late night arrivals. Or ALL the ATMs in an airport are not working (seriously Manilla?!). So this is ‘just in case’ money.


6. Not Researching Money Changer Scams

money changer scams

Whilst the majority of money changers are honest and provide a good service (even those ones in wooden shacks!), a minority won’t have any qualms in looking to rip off unsuspecting tourists. Don’t let it be you! Here are some tips on money changers:


If a rate is too good to be true, it probably is.


Watch out for fake, wrong or out of circulation notes. Google what the different notes are and what they look like. I have actually been fobbed off with change given in out of circulation notes in the UK. I have heard of others receiving fake banknotes in Vietnam. Also some large value notes can look very similar to low value notes (yes, I’m looking at you US Dollars!)


Google the common money changer scams unique to the country you are visiting. I have fallen victim to a scam in Argentina when I wanted to change a $100 bill into pesos. The money changer swapped it for a $1 bill with a bit of sleight of hand after I placed my money under the glass partition. I only had hundreds so know he did this. After much arguing in broken Spanish, using the few swear words I knew, I realised I wasn’t going to see that money again.


I later found out this was a common trick (I wish I had done my research!). One way round it is to count the money out in front of the changer on your side and confirm the amount and rate you are getting before sliding the money over. Then count what you receive before you leave.


Money changer scams (and standard scams) vary from country to country so do your research beforehand on the common ones.


7. Carrying Around Loads Of Cash

carrying too much money travelling

I think it’s best not to be Mr (or Ms) Money Bags. But are you willing to carry around large sums of cash on you? If not, then you may be better off sticking to ATM withdrawals. This becomes a balancing act as ATM fees in some countries (like Thailand and Argentina) can be hefty and you don’t want to be taking £30 out each time…


Remember that you can be scammed or robbed in ANY country so don’t expect to be safer back at home than in another country. Developing countries often get a lot of flack for being more risky when it comes to robbery, but I’ve heard lots of stories of friends being robbed in London and Barcelona.


Always remember to spread your cash out in various places (except checked baggage) to reduce the risk of theft. To keep your cash super safe, here are 10 awesome travel safety and security products we recommend.



8. Not Having Emergency Cash

travel safety
Keep your money safe using an Active Roots Anti-Theft Security Belt

Carry some emergency cash in US dollars, as this is the main currency in some countries, the unofficial currency in a lot more and widely accepted in almost all other countries.


This is in case you find yourself up sh*t creek without a paddle at any point and it should be discreetly stored away (perhaps in a secret money belt). A couple of hundred each should be more than fine.


If you are looking for further ways to keep your cash and your valuables super safe whilst travelling, we recommend these products.



Explore More In Our Ultimate Travel Money Guide:

Avoid these 8 silly travel money mistakes, and become more travel money savvy. The more travel savvy you are the more you can travel!


We’ve compiled a whole load of comprehensive blogs focusing on travel money. What are the best travel debit and credit cards? What are these weird international bank fees I keep getting on my card whilst travelling? Our in house (or hostel as we are travelling) we are here to offer tips and guidance on managing your money whilst travelling.


travel money guide

8 Travel Money Mistakes You Are Probably Making

Credit Card Or Debit Card: Which Should I Take Travelling?

Travel ATM Fees: Stop Wasting Money At Foreign ATMs

7 Fees Banks Charge You When Travelling (And How To Avoid Them!)

Best Travel Debit Card UK: Don’t Waste Money Whilst Abroad

5 Best Travel Credit Cards UK: Stop Throwing Your Money Down The Drain

Best Travel Debit and Credit Cards USA: Are You Focusing On The Wrong Thing?

A Debit Card & Credit Card Combined: Honest Review Of Curve Card

Travel Money: Are Credit Card Reward Schemes Worth It?

Be Travel Money Savvy: Pre-Paid Travel Cards and Travellers Cheques Aren’t Worth It





These posts are up to date as of December 2019 and will be updated periodically, but always check with the companies mentioned and keep an eye out for new ones I haven’t mentioned. I’ve mostly focused on all things UK based. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any tips from your country you would like me to include.


This is what I’ve found to be suitable for our needs. Yours may differ and so the Ultimate Travel Money Blogs can only be taken as a guide rather than constitute personalised financial advice. Please get in touch if you have any specific questions and I will do my best to answer them.


Your friends are probably making these travel money mistakes too. So if you found this blog helpful, do share the loooove! 


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