Aside from your passport, this is definitely one of the most important things you have on your person when you’re on the road. Without it, you are pretty immobilised and having the right cards in your possession can make your travel a whole lot easier.

Handy Hint: Go for an international bank that will have ATM’s in several locations around the world. This means less fees

Before you go:

  • Take a picture of your card, front and back. Email these images to your email and label them for easy searching if ever you need them. Also a good idea to have a print out of this too in case you are out of reach of wifi.
  • Credit cards aren’t great, the payback is never worth it when you are a budget traveller but it’s sure better than nothing when you’re stuck. Keep it just in case you need it.
  • Have only €/$1000 in your checking account and transfer from your savings as you need it. If you get caught by fraud, you won’t be missing out on a whole lot.
  • Open a second account and place some money in it. Splitting your funds is safer and if you lose one card, you have a backup!
  • Call your bank and let them know where you are going so you don’t get caught in the airport not being able to use it in any of the ATM’s

While on the road:

  • Get into the habit of always grabbing your card from the machine before you go. I left mine in an ATM in Yunnan, China and had no card for 2.5 weeks. Not an ideal place to be without one.
  • Keep you card in a place where it won’t get bent, cracked, scratched or damaged. Seeing some travellers let it wander freely in their pockets is asking for a damaged card. Take care of it.
  • Where possible, keep it in a safety deposit box in your hotel or hidden carefully in your room.
  • Don’t let ANYONE come near you when you are using your card at an ATM. It’s doesn’t matter how much you know or trust them. This is your money. A backpacker I met in India said a travel buddy he’s been on the road with two weeks was the most likely suspect to have skimmed his card. You just never know.
  • If your card gets stuck in the machine, put an “Out Of Service” notice on the screen, check around for emergency numbers to call or head to a local branch. When in doubt, use a machine attached to a bank. If anything goes wrong, you’re not far from help. In Laos, mine was retrieved in 10-15 minutes from the bank it was attached to. They simply just opened it up and gave it back to me there and then!
  • Don’t let it out of your sight. When using it, cover your pin and don’t leave the card/details exposed.