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It’s Vacation Time Again, Are You Prepared?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. — Lao Tzu
With summer just around the corner, people across the nation are gearing up for that long-awaited vacation to a dream destination of their choice. Maybe it’s Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone to see Old Faithful. Perhaps you’re dreaming bigger with a trip to the Bahamas, England, or Europe. Whatever your dream destination is, have you planned out how you’re going to carry your cash? While you’re on vacation, you are inevitably out of your comfort zone. That place where you feel safe and protected against pickpockets.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most popular and least popular methods of carrying funds for your vacation purchases. I have put these options in order by security, the least secure method being at the top of the list.

  - Cash
  - Debit Card
  - Credit Card
  - Prepaid Credit card
  - Gift Cards
  - Travelers checks

In the sections below, we will briefly discuss each of the above listed options and list some pros and cons for each category.

At first glance, you might think that cash would be very secure. However, this is the least secure way of traveling with currency. While it might be a good idea to carry some cash, carrying large amounts of cash is never a good idea.

  - You can make purchases even when the vendor does not accept debit or credit cards.
  - Sometimes you can haggle the price for a better deal. Cash makes this a little easier to do.

  - If your cash is lost or stolen, recovery is basically not an option.
  - Some stores no longer accept cash as a payment method.

Debit Card
This option is far better than the cash option in a lot of ways. Debit cards have become a common method of payment for most Americans. Frequently, they are issued as Visa or Master Cards, both of which are accepted world-wide.

  - If you lose your debit card, a phone call to your bank can get you a new one very quickly.
  - Most accounts that have issued a debit card, also come with some degree of over-draft protection.

  - Since these cards are tied to your bank account, a thief could drain your account before you can report it stolen or maybe before you realize it’s gone.
  - Getting them replaced while out-of-town, out-of-state, or out-of-country may take several days or even weeks.

Credit Card, Pre-paid Credit Card, and Gift Card
I clumped these three options together because they are basically the same in principle. Credit cards are often considered one of the safest ways to travel with currency. When traveling, it’s a good practice to carry more than one of each these three options. That way, if you lose one, all is not lost, and you can continue on with your vacation while waiting for a response or replacement of the missing card.

  - Can be easily replaced if lost or stolen.
  - The card can be locked by a phone call or app conveniently and quickly.
  - You can have more than one on hand to make purchases just about anywhere.
  - They are typically backed by Visa or Master Card, both of which are accepted at almost every location globally.
  - Most credit card companies will work with you and reverse some or all purchases that you did not authorize.
  - Pre-paid credit cards and gift cards are not tied to your bank accounts, so the most you could lose is the value that you put on the card at the time of purchase.

  - Credit Cards are a little more prone to losing some, or all of your money since most are directly or indirectly tied to your bank account. But, as mentioned above, most credit card companies will work with you on this.

Travelers Checks
Although modern alternatives, such as credit, debit, pre-paid, and gift cards, appear to have replaced traveler’s checks, all is not lost for these paper relics. Surprisingly, Traveler’s checks still hold some ground when it comes to traveling with money. Most banks, hotels, and embassies will still offer local currency in exchange for your traverlers checks.

If you have never heard of traveler’s checks, there may be a few reasons why. They are outdated, rarely discussed, and rarely advertised. In decades past, they were the quintessential method of carrying moderate to large sums of currency across the nation and abroad.

  - Very secure. Two signature authentication is required. The first signature must be done upon purchase and the second signature in front of the vendor.
  - All traveler’s checks are serialized, so tracking them down or getting them cancelled is a lot easier.
  - They are still accepted at most banks so you can exchange them for local currency.
  - They work in places that are too remote for ATMs, credit/debit cards or in places where the local ATMs are down or out of cash.
  - Since they are not widely known, most criminals will not know what they are or how to use them.

  - Not everyone still accepts these forms of payment.
  - It can be difficult to cash them or use them in a transaction.

In conclusion, the best option is to purchase several Pre-paid and/or Gift Cards for your travels. Don’t put too much on one, spread your travel funds over several of these cards. Most stores, vendors, restaurants, hotels, etc. will allow you to split the payment up using multiple payment methods. Place these cards in various places: wallet, purse, luggage, etc. Just remember to record the card number, expiration dates, and CSV codes, then put that record in a safe place. You may need to cancel one of them. Having this information on hand will make it a lot easier.

Disclaimer: The information posted on blogs and vlogs by City National Bank is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional or legal advice. City National Bank will not be held liable for any loss or damage of any kind in connection with this blog.

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