How Best to Carry Your Money

The best way will be the combination of U.S. dollars cash, host country cash, credit cards and traveler's checks that fits the crime/fraud profile for the host country and your own personal comfort levels.

The worst way is to put all your eggs in one wallet and carry only credit cards, or only cash.

Assuming we are not in a high fraud, high crime country (and unless you work for CNN, why would you go there?), I like to get off the plane with enough local currency already in my pocket to get me from the airport to the hotel with enough left over for dinner. That way if everything starts falling apart, my family and I can be reasonably sure of a bed and a full belly to give us the stamina to tackle whatever went wrong.

If the place is reasonably safe, I prefer to bring along most of my cash as cash, not traveler's checks. You often get a poorer rate of exchange for traveler's checks, and more and more places require all sorts of ID before they will cash the checks. That means I have to both carry around my ID (And risk losing the ID. Never mind the TV commercials, you try getting traveler's checks replaced with no ID. If it is your passport that was lost, we can help you—follow this link.) and share a lot of personal data with every merchant I meet. While some banks and American Express may sell you the checks for free if you are already their customer, other sources will charge you for the checks.

I will still bring along some money in traveler's checks. Half are in my name, half in my wife's name. I carry half of hers and she carries half of mine to minimize the impact of one of us losing a wallet or purse.

You can never, ever expect to cash a personal check abroad. If someone is for some reason actually willing to take a personal check from you, written on your bank at home in U.S. dollars, one of you is likely about to be cheated.

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