The Best Ways to Pay When You Travel
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The life of a global traveler is a complicated but rewarding one: You get to see new places, meet new people, experience cultures that you have never dreamed of. Yet the further you tread from your homeland, the more technicalities you need to take into account. The biggest hassle of them all, especially if you come from a country like the Philippines with a currency that is unique to the place as opposed to the Euro or the US dollar that might carry some traction outside of US borders as well. So what to do when you find yourself on the ground and need to pay for the basics, like a hotel booking or a meal?
Credit and Debit Cards Are Still Going Strong
The convenience of plastic money is irreplaceable. ?ou do not need to carry cash around and even if your card gets stolen it is much easier to save funds by quickly cancelling it than trying to track down your lost bank notes. According to a 2016 research conducted by Worldpay that was published on Skift, 76% of US travelers, 62% of Australian travelers and 58% of travelers from Brazil used credit cards to buy vacation packages, while 58% of Germans and 50% of Americans use them for booking airline tickets.
Most credit cards and debit cards will charge a small fee for transactions or for withdrawing cash abroad, but this in most cases will still be less expensive than changing money. It is worth it to shop around a bit if you are a frequent traveler to exotic places. Depending on your location, some banks may offer specialist credit cards that waive transaction fees or offer significantly lower rates.
You can also avoid some fees by using your card to pay online. Pre-book hotels and costly activities like scuba diving before you depart using web banking. You can even book a table in some hotels by paying online, especially if you are into fancy dining. Always check to see that the websites you enter your banking details into are secure – especially if you are booking a small hotel for a layover night in an obscure city you know nothing about.
Look for the lock icon on your transaction page and make sure that the website complies with PCI DSS requirements. These stand for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, a set of security safeguards agreed upon in 2004 by Visa, MasterCard, Discover Financial Services, JCB International and American Express to prevent banking data theft and fraud. In simpler terms, PCI DSS certification ensures that the site is safe to give your card details to.
Old-Fashioned or Alternative?
Of course, paying with a card can prove tricky when you visit remote and exotic places – a common problem for travelers that enjoy getting off the grid. In cash-driven economies, it is better to do as the Romans do and make sure you have cash on you. Even in more hectic places, carrying a bit of cash is a wise option for an emergency, the occasional cab ride or tips. Make sure that you avoid paying too much by planning in advance and staying clear of last-minute airport exchange rates.
According to a UK survey, Brits could save £1.3 billion ($1.85 billion) every year by not making the same obvious and avoidable mistakes: Planning ahead could save them 1.7 billion and another billion could be salvaged from steering away from airport currency services and avoiding card transaction fees.
Last but not least, alternative payment options like PayPal offer the convenience of secure transactions and seem to be on the rise, too. According to the same Worldpay survey, 95% of credit and debit card users stated that they would use the alternative payment option that they are most familiar with if they were given such an option.
Alternative payment methods are especially popular among younger travelers: 35% of Germans aged 18 to 25 use PayPal to book airline tickets. Even though alternative payment services are globally on the rise, they might be more or less widely used according to the country you visit, so make sure you check beforehand to avoid frustration.
There are many options for travelers to pay, whether in advance or on the ground, and choosing the best one will depend on the country you come from, the country you visit, your income and your personality. Just make sure to plan a bit ahead and be ready to adapt!