How to Best Protect, Manage and Access your Money While Traveling Abroad

In this article I am going to explain how I maximize security and eliminate fees when accessing my funds while traveling abroad. By linking a PayPal account with both my primary savings/checking account and a separate Charles Schwab checking account, I eliminate a single point of failure from leaving me stranded somewhere. You can open both PayPal and Charles Schwab accounts free of charge.

I have separate debit cards for all three of the accounts mentioned above. However, I primarily only use the Charles Schwab debit card while abroad, since this card reimburses all ATM, foreign transaction and currency exchange fees. If I do use the PayPal debit card to make a purchase, I will receive an email immediately documenting the charge. I only keep a small amount of funds in the PayPal account, and use it primarily as a back-up. If my Schwab card was lost or stolen, I could log into my PayPal account and transfer funds out of the Schwab account and then access them using the PayPal debit card. Likewise, if my PayPal account became compromised, I could transfer its funds to either of the two other bank accounts. And in the situation where my wallet with both the Schwab and PayPal cards is stolen, I will still have the third card and thus access to my primary bank account.

The card tied to my primary bank account I try to never use, and carry only as a emergency backup. I do this both because this card is tied to the account where I keep the majority of my money, and because this bank charges me fees when I use this card abroad. I also keep the primary account, Charles Schwab and PayPal cards in separate locations. When on the move, I keep one with my passport around my neck and the others in my wallet. While in a city, I leave one in the hotel and the others come with me in my wallet.

I further protect myself by paying for almost everything with cash. I get cash from ATMs using the Schwab card (no fees!) after checking that the machine does not have a card scanner attached to it. I find that giving one of my cards to a random taxi driver or waitress to be an unnecessary risk. If I have to give a card, such as when checking into a hotel, I give either the PayPal or Schwab card.

Note: Still remember to notify your personal bank, Charles Schwab and Paypal that you will be traveling before you depart.

Also note: Paypal is unavailable in certain countries. I learned this only after arriving in Ukraine, and although I could log into my account, I was not allowed to transfer funds into the account while operating from a Ukrainian IP address.

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