How to not lose all your money when traveling internationally

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Taking a vacation is exciting, but how do you manage it so that it goes smoothly financially? There are certain risks that may rear their ugly heads and are best to nip in the bud. Here are some tips for traveling internationally that will help you avoid money mistakes and the stress that comes with them.

But before we get into it… We are financial advisors in Morristown, NJ, providing financial advice for New Jersey residents as well as folks across the country. Before we get started, you may want to check out these financial planning blogs we’ve written:

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Let’s get into it!

Vacations get put into the mental category of “fun and relaxation” in our minds. So, it’s no surprise that people spend a ton of time thinking about how to maximize enjoyment and little time, if any, thinking about the risks. Here’s what you should know to make your trip abroad go smoothly, from a financial standpoint.

Keeping foreign exchange costs low

If you are traveling abroad and need cash in a foreign currency, just go to the ATM and withdraw cash. Doing it this way, you’ll get a better exchange rate than executing a foreign exchange transaction in your home country before you leave.

When trying to keep foreign exchange costs low, consider whether to use your credit card or just pay cash. It’s sometimes better to deal in cash instead of putting charges on your credit card when you are in a foreign currency. Shockingly, certain credit cards charge you a fee for swipes abroad, and will give you a bad exchange rate on top of that! Make sure you do research and figure out if your credit card gives you a raw deal when transaction business abroad. We’ve seen the cost of spending money in a foreign currency increase by as much as 5% for these reasons.

Know what your travel insurance actually covers

The jury is out on whether or not it makes sense to purchase travel insurance. These policies usually cover expenses related to trip cancellation or delay, such as storms, medical emergencies, or work obligations. They may also cover lost baggage. Unless your policy states as such (and usually you have to pay for this coverage option), you can not cancel the trip for any old reason. For example, if you have an annual physical that you didn’t realize you scheduled during the trip, travel insurance is unlikely to cover it.

Read the fine print!

These policies can be expensive so think about if it’s worth it before you buy. This is not just a good tip for traveling internationally, it’s also a great piece of financial guidance. Nobody likes reading the policy, but you really should if you want to make sure it’s designed to do what you actually want it to.

Take more than one credit card

It’s a simple thing – bring a back up credit and/or debit card – but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget. With all the excitement of being in a new place, it’s easy to leave your credit card at the restaurant.

Or what if it gets stolen? The replacement won’t come in time, so make sure you take a backup.

This is good advice, not just for those taking a trip overseas but for any time that you take a trip.

Tell the bank you are traveling

Some banks have alerts set up so that accounts get locked when charges happen in an unusual location. You can let the bank know in advance that you are traveling as a precaution. You can even do this online in some cases. Also, check your account settings and make sure you don’t have international charges blocked.

Don’t fall for verification schemes

When traveling abroad, a friend of ours got a text to confirm a transaction he just made. Seconds later, he got a phone call. Taking it as legit, he provided information to verify his identity. It turned out to be a very intelligent schemer and he became the victim of fraud.

He’s not alone – many people would have fallen for this. The scammers have gotten way savvier these days and can harp on even the most subtle of our psychological weaknesses.

Not all identity verification requests are real – they might be a scheme. Confirm what your credit card company’s process is beforehand so that if you do get a verification request you can be sure it’s not somebody trying to take advantage of you.

Did our tips for traveling internationally help at all?

We hope that these tips for international travelers have helped you to prepare for your trip, from a financial standpoint.

We are financial advisors in Morristown, NJ serving the local community and beyond. If you have questions about managing your money in a way that jives with your plan to retire in New Jersey or elsewhere, or (like us) are just plain old Bruce Springsteen fans, reach out and send us a message.


Metz, Jason. (26 October, 2023). What Travel Insurance Does Not Cover. Forbes.

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