What is the Best Way to Access Money Abroad?

Our team of expert travel staff travel a lot. And when we say “a lot,” we mean “a lot.” With all of their travels there is one thing that really never changes no matter where they go – how to access money abroad. We have found that the best way to access cash overseas is by using plastic; in the case of our teen travelers, we recommend that they use a pre-paid debit card or an ATM card linked to a checking account. This allows international travelers to withdraw local currency from ATMs in their destination. Depending on your bank, they may charge a small ATM withdrawal fee and possibly a conversion percentage, but your bank will always give you the best conversion rate for the day. If you are old enough to get a credit card, these cards come with zero foreign transaction fees.

To Exchange or Not to Exchange?

If you are thinking about going the money exchange route, then think again! This can cost up to 20% in exchange fees in comparison to the minimal fees that you may incur by using a card. Another plus side to using ATM and/or debit cards is that they can be used in stores with card facilities if travelers don’t want to have too much cash on them. And always remember to notify your bank of the destinations where the card will be used before travel!

How Much Money to Spend?

The amount of money spent on a program depends primarily on the program duration (i.e. more money will probably be spent on a 21-day program than an 11-day program) and its destinations (i.e. shopping on Rue de Rivoli in Paris will usually cost more than haggling at the night markets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok). The general rule of thumb for TFT programs is $200-$300, with a little less needed for shorter programs and a little more needed for longer programs. How money is spent is entirely up to the individual – some travelers might be really into purchasing souvenirs to bring home to friends and family, while others may want to spend a little extra on trying out local snacks between meals. Wherever these interests lie, it’s always best to plan ahead and make sure that an amount has been discussed and decided upon before starting any trip.

What If the Card Stops Working?

Not to worry! If a traveler’s card stops working at any point, the first thing to do is call their bank and find out if and why a hold has been placed on their card. After answering a few security questions (such as the last place where the card was used and how much the amount was for), it’s usually fairly easy to get the card reactivated. In the meantime, the TFT office is able to work out a plan for a cash advance for any teen travelers who need access to money in the meantime.

How About Traveler’s Checks?

How about them Cubs? But in all seriousness, please do not send traveler’s checks with your teen traveler. Not only will you lose money, but they are also a hassle to convert. So avoid traveler’s checks and converting money and keep things simple by using plastic on any upcoming travels!