Want me to let you in on a little secret? Even after travelling through 35 countries, I still get gut-wrenchingly nervous when I travel. I routinely experience the vomit-inducing feeling when I think I’ve had my wallet or bag stolen. This quickly escalates into the thought that I am going to spend my day scavenging on foreign streets for spare change in order to eat that night. Of course, it has never come to that point… Although I once had a friend in Barcelona who had her wallet and all her money stolen and literally had to busk to afford a metro ticket in order to meet me so I could bail her out.
The reality is that you are a lot more vulnerable to things getting lost or stolen when you are gallivanting across the globe. Instead of plaguing your mind with worst-case scenarios, there are simple precautions you can take to make sure your money stays safe when you are abroad.
If you lose your bank card, keep your cool
I’m sure most people have experienced that moment of sheer panic when you think you’ve had your bank card stolen. Earlier this year, this happened to me when I was in Italy – I went to pay for something and when I opened my wallet, I could not find my Debit MasterCard ANYWHERE. I don’t know what was more upsetting – the fact that I lost my card or the fact I had to walk away from a double-scoop of salted caramel and Nutella gelato. After that, I had to take the time to call up my bank and go through the process of cancelling my card. I kid you not – five minutes later, I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out the exact card I had just cancelled.
Since this rather frustrating scenario played out, I have switched over to Westpac, which has a great system for silly people like me who misplace their debit card on a regular basis. Basically, they offer a Card on Hold feature which means you can temporarily lock your Debit MasterCard for up to 15 days if you think it has been lost or stolen. This means you can have peace of mind that your missing card is secure, without having to cancel it straight away. If you misplace your Debit MasterCard back home in Australia, you can still withdraw cash from any Westpac ATM while your card is on hold using Westpac’s Get Cash feature via the mobile banking app. If you find your card within 15 days of putting it on hold (or within half an hour like me) you can instantly unlock it, which saves the headache of having to cancel and order a new card. Otherwise, once this time is up, you can simply report your card as lost or stolen and it will be cancelled.
Have a backup plan
They say not to put all your eggs in one basket, and the same thing goes when it comes to your money. One way of doing this is to also take a travel money card, and store it in a different place to your debit card. Using your Debit MasterCard as your primary card will give you peace of mind knowing that if you lose it, you can put it on hold for up to 15 days and use your travel money card in the meantime. Another way to keep yourself covered is to only carry the cash you need with you and leave the rest locked up at your accommodation.
Be cautious when using ATMs
When using an ATM, there are few precautions you should take to avoid scams and prevent theft. Firstly, always avoid using secluded ATMs down empty streets and instead try to find machines in busy areas. When taking out money, be cautious of suspicious bystanders that may be watching you enter your PIN. The other thing to be wary of are devices called ‘skimmers’. These devices can be mounted on an ATM and labelled as a ‘card cleaner’ and can capture all the information off your card for someone to steal. Basically, if anything looks suspicious, avoid it. If you feel like you’ve been scammed, use Westpac’s Card on Hold feature to put your Debit MasterCard on hold straight away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Use a money belt
You know one nice thing about travelling? It’s totally okay to choose function over fashion. Hideous sandals and dorky money belts are basically a uniform for the traveller community. Pickpockets can be extremely sneaky, no matter how safe you think your money is in a backpack, handbag or in your pockets. Instead, keep your valuables as close to you as possible… Ain’t nobody gonna mess with you if you are rocking a money belt!
Sure, travelling isn’t always a walk in the park – things can go wrong when it comes to keeping your money safe. But if you follow these tips and keep your wits about you, you should be able to enjoy your time traversing the globe WITHOUT getting stranded with no access to your money (and having to busk your way to a bus ticket or a kebab)…
Use a VPN when using public wifi networks
Equally as important to securing your physical money when travelling is securing your online banking. It’s really important to be cautious if you are connecting to public wifi networks when overseas. These networks can lack strong security protections, which makes it easier for scammers to break into them and take advantage of unaware users. To ensure your personal and financial data stays private, you can use a virtual private network (such as this VPN for New Zealanders) when connecting to wifi hotspots. VPNs increase your internet privacy by adding extra layers of protection.
Would love to hear everyone’s travel experiences and tips for keeping your money safe in the comments below!
This post has been in collaboration with Nuffnang and Westpac.