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How to Prepare for Long-Term Travel: Part 1

By Meredith McCurdy on Apr 23, 2017

So you've made the decision to throw on your backpack and take your work on the road. Or maybe you're taking a sabbatical to plan your next business venture and see the world at the same time. Either way, “Oh the places you'll go,” said Dr. Seuss. But there's so much to do before you leave!

Banks and Playing Your Cards Right

Cash is king in many countries, so you want to be able to access it without paying fees. Typically, withdrawing from an ATM will provide a better exchange rate than exchanging cash. And I prefer the security of a card rather than carrying cash that could be lost or stolen.

Debit Card Tips:

  • Find a bank with no foreign exchange fees and low fees for using a foreign and/or non-affiliated ATM. Call your bank to confirm your current fee structure.

  • I recommend Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account that has no foreign exchange fees and reimburses ATM fees charged by other banks worldwide. In a year of travel I was reimbursed more than $100. The catch is you must also have a Schwab One brokerage account. You may also consider Citibank with no fee for using Citibank ATMs in 40 countries.

  • Consider having two checking accounts. Maintain a primary account for your normal deposits and bills, and a travel account for your travel cash. Link the primary account to your travel account so you can easily deposit money. Why? Because in some countries, debit card skimming (or copying your debit card number and recording your pin) is common. This happened to me, one day my money was there, the next day it was gone. But I was using my “travel” account, so they could only steal the couple thousand dollars in that account, while most of my money was safe in my primary account.

Credit Card Tips:

  • I carry at least two credit cards: one in my wallet, and one hidden somewhere else for emergencies.

  • Avoid fees! Get cards with no foreign transaction fees.

  • I love playing the points game. Many credit cards have large sign-up bonuses and the points are transferable to a travel loyalty program or can be used to purchase or credit a purchase of a travel expense. Check out these credit cards with no foreign transaction fees and no annual fees: BankAmericard Travel Rewards (1.5 points per dollar spent) or the Capital One VentureOne (1 point per dollar spent).



This is Part 1 of a 3-part series by Meredith about preparing for long-term travel. Read Part 2 here


Meredith McCurdy is returning to the U.S. after a year of globetrotting. A sports marketer, yoga teacher, and wanderluster, she loves helping others take the travel plunge.


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