Best Ways To Keep Your Money Safe When Traveling

Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. Read our disclosure to see how we make money.

How do you keep your money safe while traveling abroad? Before you take that trip make sure you have a plan in place. Read more for some helpful tips.

The following is a contribution from Gary Dek at Gajizmo. 

Summer is here and most of you are just counting down the days to your awesome summer vacation in Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean or some exotic getaway. Vacations are meant to be fun and relaxing, but travelers should always take precautions to protect themselves and their property.

The theft of your spending money and identification cards, including cash, credit cards, driver’s license, and passport, can quickly spoil all your fun and leave you scrambling to get money from home. Smart travelers know how to keep their money safe from pickpockets and thieves while enjoying their vacations.

There are a number of options for safe travel, and using more than one is a way to insure you won’t lose all your money while you enjoy your vacation.

Carrying Cash


While most of us like to carry some cash to cover small expenses and buy items from street vendors that may not accept credit, if cash is lost or stolen, it is irreplaceable and gone for good. The alternatives are traveler’s checks and credit cards.

Traveler’s checks are replaced if they are lost or stolen, but not every business accepts traveler’s checks the way they accept cash. Using credit cards can encourage overspending, especially when you are feeling relaxed and having a good time, but you are not responsible for unauthorized charges if your credit card is lost or stolen.

Although ATM cards have largely replaced traveler’s checks, checks still have some advantages, especially if the ATM is down and you need cash right away. Traveler’s checks can be purchased through banks and are issued by the credit card companies, like VISA and AMEX.

There is a 1% to 5% charge for purchasing the checks and they are not as widely accepted by businesses as credit cards. If you run into many restaurants or businesses that do not accept traveler’s checks, you may have to exchange them for cash at a bank or hotel service desk.

On the plus side, you can convert checks to cash slowly throughout your trip, the checks are fully insured against loss, and are safer to carry in wallets or leave in hotel rooms than cash.

Furthermore, not all credit cards are accepted in all foreign countries, so before traveling, it is prudent to make sure that your credit card is recognized in the country to which you are traveling. Many credit cards have foreign transaction fees of 2% to 3% and higher interest rates apply to cash advances. Before traveling overseas, consider applying for cards that waive the foreign transaction fee.

Additionally, the conversion rate on credit cards may not be as favorable as the rates offered by banks, so inquire with your credit card company beforehand and shop around to compare rates from credit unions vs. banks.

Do Not Put All Your Eggs in One Basket


Are your credit cards, ATM cards, identification, passport and cash all in your wallet, purse, or traveling bag? If so, you are a pickpocket’s dream. It is best to stash money, important documents and your credit cards in different places so if you are robbed, you don’t lose everything at once. One tip is never carry your wallet in your back pocket since it is the easiest place for a thief to access.

Carry your wallet in a front pocket where it is more difficult to reach and plainly in your field of vision. Also, split up your cash by carrying some in a money clip in the other front pocket, a hundred in your sock or shoes, a couple 20s in your back pocket, and some with other members of your group.

Another good way to keep papers and money safe is to use a money belt worn under the clothes for items you do not need to take out regularly.

How about your credit cards – do you know your credit card numbers and the number for reporting stolen or lost cards? If not, it may be difficult and time consuming to contact the company to cancel and replace stolen cards, meanwhile the thieves are spending hundreds or thousands at your expense.

Keep a copy of the front and back of your credit card in a safe place, like your laptop or a pocket in your suitcase. If you save these files on your laptop, make sure to encrypt the files or require a password to access them. In the event that the card is stolen, you will have the information you need to cancel and replace the card immediately.

Cell phones and laptops are also favorite targets for thieves, and if you are like some people, you may have your banking, credit card and other financial information on your mobile phone and/or laptop. To avoid identity theft, make sure that your phone and laptop are password protected to keep your personal information exactly that – personal.

Do not keep written records of passwords with phones and laptops since this negates your security. If your phone or laptop is stolen, take precautions by changing account information.

Never Flash Cash


A day of shopping at street markets can be lots of fun, but make sure you never take a large amount of cash out when paying a vendor. Keep your money split up and take out only as much as you need to avoid unnecessary attention.

One way to accomplish this is to carry a small amount of cash in your wallet or handbag, and keep the rest in a money belt or your sock for emergencies only. Find a private spot, like a restroom, if you need to get extra cash from your money belt.

FYI ladies – it’s not a good idea to keep any valuables in a handbag or purse since they are easy to grab. Try to wear clothing with pockets and keep your valuables on your person. If you must carry a bag, one with a cross body strap is best. This goes for laptop and camera cases, too.

Be especially careful in buses and taxis that require a group of people to be in close proximity. It is the perfect time for pickpockets and thieves to rifle through your purse while you mistakenly think someone is shifting their feet or crowding your space.

How do you keep your money safe while traveling abroad? Before you take that trip make sure you have a plan in place. Read more for some helpful tips.

Stay Safe With Your Money


Whether you are on vacation or at home, it is best to avoid secluded ATMs. Instead, use machines that are in public places. Try to make transactions during the day since even busy locations may be deserted late at night or early in the morning.

Most hotels have ATM machines in their lobbies and the machines are also found in shopping malls and other high traffic areas. Drive up ATMs offer more security than those which stand alone and are hidden from the street. Take a friend if you are concerned for your safety since most robbers prefer easy targets and will not attack two or more people.

Using sensible precautions can help make vacations a fun break from daily routine, but it is important to remain alert to the physical and financial dangers that can occur when traveling. In addition to using caution with cash, be sure to monitor credit and bank accounts since using a debit or credit card for payment can give identity thieves all the information they need to steal your money and ruin your credit.

The last thing you’d want is to end a beautiful, happy vacation and come home to find your good credit history destroyed in a week.


Gary Dek is a former investment banker and private equity analyst. Don’t hate him – he had nothing to do with the mortgage crisis and the recession. He writes at and is always looking for ways to make and invest money.

Editor’s note: Gary offers some very practical and important to follow tips to keep your money safe while traveling. As someone who has traveled abroad, keep an eye on those credit cards to make sure you’re not surprised when you get home.


The following two tabs change content below.

John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • AverageJoe says:

    Great advice! Keeping your head about you while dealing with money on vacation can keep your dream from becoming a nightmare.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Keeping money safe when travelling is one of the most important things people can do when going on vacation. I actually get a bit paranoid about it so I definitely follow all these tips. Flashing cash is definitely the worst thing you can do.

  • Greg@ClubThrifty says:

    Good advice Gary! I think these are good tips whether you are traveling or not. I also am a big proponent of using your room safe if you have one. There is no reason to leave things out in plain view.

  • Michelle says:

    Good post! I’m always afraid of something happening to our money when we are on vacation.

  • Matt Becker says:

    Good stuff here. We just recently traveled to Costa Rica and used many of these tips. One we didn’t use was keeping cash split up in different places, which I really like. We tried to keep a minimal amount of cash on us at all times and primarily use credit cards. Like Greg, we used a room safe to store cash and other things we didn’t need while we were out, though I felt like those weren’t necessarily as safe as they seemed.

  • pauline says:

    I have an awesome 0% on foreign transactions card. I like it because with a 3% fee there is often a minimum so you end up withdrawing a lot of cash, while with that card you can withdraw small sums and never risk much.

  • Nick @ says:

    We used to travel a lot with traveler’s checks, which are automatically insured. We haven’t done it in a while but it was pretty effective.

  • #Broke Millennial says:

    I would add, call your bank and make sure they’re aware your traveling overseas. I’ve had more than one friend forget to do this and have his or her credit/debit frozen after making the first transaction.

  • anna says:

    I do the same exact thing with money – stash them in various pockets, and since I usually have buttons in my back pocket I make sure to button them up. That way I’m not bummed if I lose a huge stash. Great tips!

  • Sean @ One Smart Dollar says:

    I usually like to take a lot of cash with me when we travel. If we are going international then I will have even more so I don;t have to worry about foreign transaction fees on my credit cards. I usually will place cash in a bunch of different places through my things so that it’s not all together. This helps me feel safer in case something gets lost or stolen.

  • Savvy Scot says:

    I always take a couple of cards with me ( very little cash) and ensure that I only ever have one on my person at a given time. I’m willing to make those extra trips to the ATM as a means of limiting the amount of cash I take out each time.

  • Alexa says:

    Great tips! I have the problem of sometimes being too trusting. I try to make a point to not leave my purse in sight or leave it in the car when I am stopping somewhere. I am so used to carrying a purse though that just using my pockets to hold money feels weird.

  • Budget and the Beach says:

    I don’t think too much about this stuff while in the US, but I do use as many precautions as possible overseas. I follow Rick Steves advice quite a bit and so far so good! Now I just really need to get my ass somewhere again!

  • Lindsey @ Cents & Sensibility says:

    There are some good tips here – I hadn’t thought of splitting up my cards and money. Usually I keep it in a zipped purse that I maintain a death grip on at all times – your way sounds better.

  • Derek @ says:

    Here are some other tips:

    If you are traveling with another person, split your money up between several of you. Also, maybe only bring one or two credit cards versus all of them.

    Also, keep your CCs or money in the hotel safe (if you have one) and only take out the amount you’ll need for the day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *