How to deal with money abroad? That’s something we didn’t even think about too much, when we first started traveling in 2012. Right now we have spent abroad most of the last 4 years. And until last week – when we received our Revolut debit cards – we only had Latvian bank accounts and MasterCard debit cards from Swedbank Latvia. And that’s it.
Actually in most of the situations you don’t really need anything more. And you will also be fine doing like we did for all these years. Yes, it costs more, but it’s not that big money anyway.
Ok, let’s go more into details now!
Keeping Money Safe Abroad
For all these years, since our very first long term trip abroad, we both have had 2 bank accounts each. Simply to keep our money safe while traveling. And this is what each of us have right now:
- 1 bank account with MasterCard debit card. This is the card we use daily. We use it for everything. For all payments, including online payments, cash withdrawals (only in Latvia right now, before – all cash withdrawals abroad and in Latvia). We keep only about 200 EUR on it, topping up when necessary;
- 1 bank account from the same bank without bank card & with all the money. Previously we had a MasterCard debit card for this accounts, too. Only for emergencies, though. In case other bank card is lost, broken, stolen or isn’t accepted in ATM. This card we kept hidden somewhere in the bag. But right now there is no need for it, because we have Revolut MasterCard debit cards as second bank card.
- Revolut account with MasterCard debit card. With about 200 EUR on it, topping up when necessary. For all cash withdrawals abroad and probably for most of the future payments abroad as well.
Why 2 Accounts? Why from the Same Bank?
We have 2 accounts because of safety reasons.
As I already said, on the card we use daily we mostly have only about 200 EUR. This way you don’t really have to worry too much, when withdrawing cash from that only-one-in-the-whole-town and dodgy looking ATM.
But 2 accounts from the same bank – because of almost instant money transfers between accounts.
Revolut – What’s That
Revolut is a money application with a prepaid debit card (if you choose so). You can also choose a virtual debit card, if you plan to use it for online payments only. And you can choose both.
All in all Revolut is a regular MasterCard debit card.
You can pay with it everywhere, where they accept MasterCard both online and at the grocery shop next door as well. To use your Revolut card you need to top it up. And topping it up is easy and very fast. Happens in few minutes from my Swedbank Latvia account.
To top up Revolut you need to enter your bank card information, click a button and wait a moment. Done!
What makes Revolut so cool is their fees.
With a free account you can withdraw up to 200 EUR/month without any fees. Their regular fees are smaller than the ones of my bank, and probably yours. Revolut uses interbank money exchange rates (better than the ones banks mostly use).
They support 120 currencies.
And, yes, you can set up your account in less than a minute and it doesn’t cost you a cent. Card delivery to Europe starts from 6 EUR.
Go to revolut.com and get yours for free!
You may also want to take a look at the N26 and Transferwise.
Check out this Transferwise vs Revolut comparison.
How to Carry Your Money Abroad
If you have a bank card, which like Revolut, lets you to withdraw cash without paying big fees:
- Take a little bit of cash with you for a day or two;
- Exchange it after arrival or withdraw cash (local currency) from the ATM once you arrive.
Otherwise I would recommend you to take at least a few hundred euros or dollars in cash to exchange them once you arrive.
It’s always good idea to have some 100 – 200 euros or dollars in cash hidden somewhere on you. Just in case things go wrong or you simply can’t find where to withdraw or exchange money, when you need it. Everyone knows euros and dollars and it shouldn’t be a problem to find someone, who can exchange, for example, 10 or 20 bucks for you.
Right now I have 3 wallets:
- a regular wallet, where I keep my bank cards and most of the cash. I don’t carry this wallet around with me;
- another wallet with cash and card or cards I’m using daily, which I carry around with me;
- Zero Grid neck wallet (check it out on Amazon) / neck pouch. It’s my main wallet, when I’m hiking. And sometimes also when sightseeing, mostly if I don’t really know the place or don’t feel safe there. Then I would put some cash in my pocket and the rest – in my neck wallet.
Una also has 2 wallets. One bigger, that she mostly isn’t carrying around with her and another – smaller, for day to day use.
If you are looking for a wallet for traveling, check out this our article!
How do you deal with money abroad and while traveling?
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.