Money mistakes are unavoidable issues you have while travelling; it's all part of the journey. But considering I've made every single one of these, I feel like I need to share them in order to help you at least avoid making some of them.


Money Mistake #1 – Not telling the bank where you’re going

All it requires is a phone call to your bank to list all the countries you plan to go to. Yes, I know, it can be a looooong list if you’re backpacking with no exact plan, but try to list as many as you can.


By doing so, your bank won’t get suspicious and block your account if they think it's had suspicious activity.


If this does happen, it’s not difficult to call your bank and confirm it was you to get them to unblock your account, but it’s still a pain, especially when you're in developing countries with unreliable internet and you need to work with business hours and time zones.


Money Mistake #2 – Using the wrong debit card

Please, GET THE RIGHT DEBIT CARD!! I  wasted hundreds of dollars in a seven-month trip because I couldn’t be bothered doing the research to find the right card.


Search through forums, read other travellers’ suggestions, then apply for a debit card which you can use at ATMs to avoid the high fees.

For Australian travellers, I highly recommend the Citibank Plus Debit card. No annual fees, no ATM or conversion fees and it's a debit card meaning it isn’t linked to a credit card, which is more secure in case it gets stolen.


Money Mistake #3 – Not knowing your bank’s fees

I recently called my primary bank to find out the exact foreign currency conversion fee as I couldn’t find the information on their site. Turns out it's 3% for both ATM withdrawals and overseas purchases. I also found out that the conversion fee gets worked into the whole price so you’d never know you were getting charged unless you asked.


They also charge me a set fee of $5 when I use an ATM overseas, on top of the conversion fee and the local ATM's fee. So I’d have to be pretty desperate to use this card in an ATM!


It’s really important to know these figures so you know what you’re really paying when you use it, and once you know you can adjust. For example, you would probably withdrawal the maximum amount if you knew what you were getting charged for each transaction.


Money Mistake #4 – Having an account with only one bank

My husband and I thought we were so smart closing down all our other bank accounts before setting off for good. BUT, it’s really helpful having a few accounts with different banks as a backup option. We lost two debit cards in the space of a couple of weeks and it made it really difficult to withdrawal money.


Have another account open so if for any reason you can't access one, like if your bank blocks your account for suspicious activity, if you misplace your card, or if the ATM just won’t accept your bank, you’ve always got another option.


Money Mistake #5 – Forgetting to change your coins and currency

Always change your coins into notes before you cross the border because usually no one will accept them once you're across.

I generally don't like exchanging currencies because of losing money on the exchange, but if you're not going to use it in the near future then it's not worth holding on to.

If you have euro notes or a strong currency you can use later, hold onto some for backup.


Money Mistake #6 – Exchanging money at the airport

The airport exchange rates are a lot higher than at a standard office in town. They rely on people who have forgotten to exchange their cash and need to do it last minute.

Some people also assume that all fees are the same and buy the new currency as soon as they arrive. Try to hold off until you get away from the airport or withdrawal money straight from the ATM at the airport.


Money Mistake #7 – Not having backup cash

No matter where you’re travelling, always have some backup cash in case you can’t get to an ATM but desperately need money. We’ve found US dollars or euros are widely accepted even in smaller towns and can be converted easily into local currency.


18 Common Money Mistakes While Travelling (and how to avoid them) #travel #backpacking

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Money Mistake #8 – Forgetting to leave your bank details with family or friends


There may be a time when you need an emergency cash transfer but you can’t get to your details in case of poor or non-existent internet connection. If someone you can rely on has these details you can get your transfer ASAP.


You never know what might happen, it could be something totally unexpected like your card numbers get stolen and bank funds drained, or you missed your flight and have no cash left for a new flight, so you’ll feel safer knowing you have someone willing to help if you're stuck.


Money Mistake #9 – Using a credit card/debit card combo for withdrawals


Some ATMs don’t give you the choice of which account to withdrawal from, they just ask you how much you want. So if you have a credit card/debit card in one then they can just take it from the credit account. This is technically a cash advance and you’ll probably get charged extra fees on top of super high interest on the withdrawal amount.


Before you go away, get a Visa or MasterCard debit card which only accesses your savings and isn’t linked to any credit account. That way there’s only one account they can pull money from.


Money Mistake #10 – Paying by EFTPOS in your own currency

In shops overseas sometimes you’ll get the option of paying in your own currency or their local currency. It doesn’t seem like it matters much, but you can end up paying more by paying in your own currency.


For example, if you buy something in India they offer to two choices – you can pay 100 Australian dollars or 5,000 Indian rupees. Paying in dollars would mean the price is the price, you’d get no extra conversion fees from your bank. But if you choose to pay in Indian rupees you’d have to pay the 3% conversion fee on top. It seems easier to choose your own currency and just know what you’re paying, but in actual fact, the currency conversion fee that has been worked into the retailer’s price can be a lot higher than the % your bank charges.


We bought an iPhone from Doha Airport and we got the choice of currencies and requested to pay in Qatari riyals. When I worked out the price difference I realised we had saved $40!! Now we always pay in local currency.


Money Mistake #11 – Taking the easy tourist option

Paying for a tour rather than working out how to do it all yourself is OK to do occasionally, but if you’re going away for a long time the costs can add up.


Tour companies are businesses and it’s understandable and expected that they want to turn over a profit, however, sometimes doing a little extra research and taking a local bus will get you a very similar experience for a fraction of the cost.

You’ll also get really good at working out how the local transport system works so you’ll feel more and more confident each time you do it yourself.


Money Mistake #12 – Letting your guard down


This isn’t exactly a money mistake but it can end up costing you a lot of money. Travelling makes you relaxed and comfortable and sometimes you may forget to lock things.


We had money stolen directly out of our wallet in the room while we were sleeping in a bungalow on an island in Thailand. We’d been pretty good up until then, but after 10 weeks of crazy Southeast Asia we found our peaceful little haven in Thailand and figured we had nothing to worry about.


To be fair, it was just a window we had left open because the heat was unbearable, but we should have locked everything up in our backpacks while we slept. Thankfully nothing else was stolen and we never left anything unlocked again.


Money Mistake #13 – Keeping all your cash in one spot

When you withdrawal money, don’t leave all your cash in the one place. Perhaps you forget your bag on the bus, your backpack gets stolen or a pickpocket gets into your handbag. Dividing your cash and cards up means if something goes missing you’re not left totally dry.


Money Mistake #14 – Not carrying "small money"

Especially in more developing countries, it’s always helpful to have ‘little money’ on you. Forgetting to break the big notes could mean that none of the small stalls will have the change to give you. I’ve even been known to rack up a large bill so I could pay with a big note. It's not exactly a budget-friendly alternative!


At every opportunity you get, break a big note. Think supermarkets, petrol stations, liquor stores – places that receive a higher turnover of cash.


18 Common Money Mistakes While Travelling (and how to avoid them) #travel #backpacking

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Money Mistake #15 – Assuming a travel card is the best option

I got an NAB Travel Card (Australian bank) to try out, but after looking into the costs I realised it absolutely wasn’t worth it.

You have a fee to upload or buy currency, a fee to withdrawal it and fees if you don’t use all of one currency and want to withdrawal it in another currency. For example, if you didn’t use up all the Great Britain Pounds you purchased and want to withdrawal your money in euros, you’ll have to pay to convert the pounds back to Australian dollars then you’ll have to pay a conversion to get euros.


And to top it off you can’t upload all types of currencies so you can only use it in a few destinations. An absolute waste of time, money and energy, in my humble opinion. Although, I’m open to suggestions if you have a great card you can recommend!


Money Mistake #16 – Using unsecured sources to check bank details

Checking secure information, like your bank account or email account, using public wifi means that all of your information is vulnerable; everything you access while connected will be at risk.

I’ve written about a solution for this in #10 of this post so you can learn how to protect your sensitive information online. Otherwise, just be sure to get your own sim card with data included so you don’t have to connect to a public hotspot when logging on to sensitive accounts.


Money Mistake #17 – Forgetting to regularly check your bank activity

One time I noticed there were three consecutive payments on my credit card statement labelled from PayPal which didn’t show on my PayPal statements. They were only for a total of around $25 so it didn't seem worth the bother in calling, but when I spoke to the bank they told me that this is how the hackers do it- they take small amounts, regularly, so it’s not enough to make people suspicious but it adds up over the long term.


Money Mistake #18 – Not having an easy way to pay bills online

I think I had late fees on every bill for a solid year. Not because I was trying to avoid paying them, but because it wasn’t easy.

Work out every single bill you’ll have to keep paying and see if there’s a direct debit option or if there’s a way you can pay it easily via an app. These are NOT the things you want to be thinking about while you’re away. Less bill stress = more fun travelling time.


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18 Common Money Mistakes While Travelling (and how to avoid them) - Breathe Travel

How many of these money mistakes have you made? Is there anything else you’d add to the list? Tell me in the comments!