Having easy access to the local currency when traveling in foreign countries can sometimes be difficult and sometimes seem impossible. Every country in the world has preferred payment methods and not all of them coincide with your own payment options.
You often hear from people that credit cards are accepted everywhere; while this is mostly true, there are particular places in the world where you will find it quite difficult to utilize your credit card to make purchases. For example; a year ago, I was traveling in Japan, I wanted to withdraw some of the local currency so that I could pay for my meals at smaller food joints like ramen noodle houses. Well, I must have spent 4-5 hours searching for an ATM that would accept my common credit card brand, each machine kept rejecting my card saying that “your card is not accepted”. I was in a new country, I was getting quite hungry, thirsty and lost. All I wanted to do is get myself a belly-filling meal with a cold drink to wash it out on that muggy day, but I was stuck working out this dilemma instead. Eventually, I spotted an uncommon Japanese bank and crossed my fingers that my card would dispense cash. Well, my prayers were answered and voila! After 5 or so hours of ‘suffering’, I felt free again, free to enjoy all the luxuries that this beautiful country had to offer me; but for a short time, I truly did feel like a prisoner, restrained away from my own finances.
Japan is not the only country where I ran into these kind of troubles, but also, I found myself in a similar dilemma when I visited: Peru, Cape Verde, Russia and Kuwait. The best way to avoid these kind of problems is to research ahead of time which banks accept the credit cards that you are in possession of in the countries that you plan to visit. Another option is to have your currency changed over in your home country prior to your arriving at the foreign destination.
Thankfully, there are plenty of countries out there that are up-to-par with options in regards to making your own money available to you. Based off my own travels, I would have to say that you’ll never have any troubles when traveling throughout North America (Canada and United States), or most of Western Europe (France, Germany, England, etc). As the world grows closer to each other with communication and technology, so does everything else.
Working as a Flight Steward, I often have to deal with catering agencies around the world to prepare food for our crew and passengers. One of my biggest concerns is not only the quality of food, but also, the accepted method of payment. I often favor when the catering agencies can facilitate an easy transaction by invoicing my unit, although there are many catering agencies out there that want their money upfront, therefore, they request payment to be made through a major credit card. Now, where this becomes a real problem is when the catering agency wants the entire payment in cash, upfront. Often, we find that many countries in the Middle East region (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc) like to have cash for their services upfront and no other way. It’s not always fun to have to carry a large sum cash imprest with you and be accountable for every single dollar – it’s just stress that can be avoided.
When I travel for leisure and it comes to utilizing foreign currencies, I prefer to keep the cash low in my wallet and rely more on my credit cards. Why? Because if I’m robbed or pick-pocketed, I’ll never see that cash again. If my currency remains on my credit card and the card requires a PIN to access the funds, then for the most part, my funds are protected and secure. On top of that, most people would probably realize pretty fast that their wallet is missing-in-action; you can call your bank and have your account locked out from anyone who tries to access your funds, or even have your funds transferred over to another secure account which the credit card itself would not be able to access. Although there is no perfect system, for me, utilizing a credit card is the most secure system as it buys me time to protect my hard-earned dollars and more often than not, your bank will work out an option with you to access your funds as you’re on the road and travelling.
What we need is a system that is universally accepted no matter where you travel, which provides such a high level of security, that it would be impossible for anyone to steal your money. A system where if you lose your card, you could go to any bank in the world and have a new one issued to you. What we need is a stress-free, secure and reliable money dispensing/payment option for the convenience of every consumer, but especially, travellers!