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How to travel with large amounts of cash

When traveling with a large amount of cash, or other monetary instruments like travelers checks, money orders, and bearer bonds, you should take common sense steps to protect yourself from unwanted attention, and you should also be aware of what legal issues you may have to address.

Travel within the United States
The US has some odd rules about traveling with money. While it is legal for anyone to travel with as much money on their person as they please, there are a variety of laws that were designed to stop criminal transfers of money that may put you at risk to having your money confiscated. Basically, many law enforcement authorities can confiscate cash is they believe that it may be involved with a criminal transaction. It does not matter if there is no real evidence of a crime, it is up to the opinion of the law enforcement representative. The only ways to avoid this kind of hassle is to either avoid traveling with large amounts of cash, or to have along with the cash documentation, for example business receipts from US Money Reserve, or banking transaction records, with you that provides a reasonable explanation for the cash.

Travel to or from the United States
If you are departing or arriving the US, there are no limits as to the amount of money a passenger can carry. However, passengers who are carrying currency, endorsed personal checks, travelers checks, gold or silver coins or bars, or securities that are valued at $10,000 or more must report the amount that they are carrying to US customs officials. Failure to do so can result in fines or confiscation of the money. This reporting requirement applies all the travelers in your group, for example a family. For example, if a family of three is traveling together, and they have $10,000 or more between them, they must to report these amounts.

Travel outside of the United States
When leaving the US, review the customs requirements of your destination country before you travel. Rules will vary by country, so be sure to check those laws and regulations before you fly, and if necessary make alternative plans before you fly.

Protecting your money from theft or other losses
When you carry cash with you on an airline trip, you should take some very basic steps to keep from becoming a victim of theft, or from losing your money by accident.

  • Avoid traveling with large amounts of cash.
  • Keep your cash and other valuables out of public view.
  • Keep your baggage and belongings in sight when passing through a security checkpoint.
  • If your baggage must be searched, insist on keeping your bag in sight.
  • If asked about the amount of money in your baggage by a responsible authority, tell the truth.
  • If you suspect that you have been a victim of theft, contact a law enforcement representative immediately

Tips on using a credit card abroad

In days gone by, taking a holiday overseas meant changing dollars for another currency or ordering a stack of travelers’ checks to cash in while on vacation.

However, consumers are increasingly opting to use credit cards while abroad to save the hassle of having to preorder currency, as well as to avoid the greater risks involved with loss or theft.

For those who opt to use a credit card while on vacation, it is advisable to take a couple of precautionary steps before leaving the US.

First, contact your credit card provider and let them know you will be going to a different country and plan on using your card. There have been instances of accounts being frozen after they were flagged up as possibly fraudulent due to transactions outside the US.

Second, ensure that you have your lender’s contact details, including the hotline for lost or stolen cards, and that you have written your card number and expiration date down. While this isn’t essential, it may help save time when you are in the midst of a crisis.

Credit cards are undoubtedly a very convenient way to pay for items when traveling overseas, but there are some downsides that need to be taken into consideration before using your plastic.

At home in the US, cardholders may be used to paying for purchases on plastic without any additional charges unless the retailer specifies otherwise, but while overseas, there are a number of different charges that can make any transaction more expensive than its cash equivalent.

Interest rates are often hiked up for any overseas credit card use and some firms can charge as much as 2% more in interest, just for the privilege of using the card abroad. This may not seem that much, but this is in addition to the other charges that firms may levy.

Two of the biggest names in credit cards, Visa and MasterCard, both add an additional handling charge onto any international purchases. This is usually in the region of 1% and is on top of the interest rate applicable to the account.

Withdrawing cash from a credit card is seldom a good idea and a policy best reserved for absolute emergencies, as it tends to attract a higher rate of interest or charges from the credit card firm.

However, using your flexible friend to get money from a foreign ATM is even more expensive than back home.

Cardholders can be hit with two sets of ATM fees – one lot from the ATM provider, which is usually in the region of $1 to $3 per withdrawal – and the other from the credit card firm who tend to charge around $2 to $7 for a cash advance from an overseas ATM.

It is not unusual to find the total charges from a foreign ATM amounting to between $5-10 per withdrawal – a hefty sum that soon adds up.

If all of the above weren’t weighty enough, cardholders are often penalized with poor exchange rates.

When an item in a foreign currency is purchased with a credit card, the currency must be converted back into dollars. The exchange rates applied to credit card transactions are notoriously low and usually among the worst conversion rates on the market.

Although credit cards are a convenient choice when going abroad and worth considering for not only their ease of use, but security, it is essential that the additional charges and interest are added onto the holiday budget to prevent a nasty shock when the bill arrives as the suntan is fading.

Financial planning tips for working aborad this summer

Many students opt to take jobs abroad for the summer holidays, or their gap year after college. It’s a great way to earn money, broaden horizons, have fun and experience a new culture.

At the same time, however, working abroad in a foreign country for the first time, managing a new culture and keeping a reign on your finances can be difficult.

Common problems include failing to budget, failing to accurately translate prices into UK pounds mentally when purchasing items, relying on expensive balance transfers rather than setting up an international bank account and withdrawing regular small sums from a UK account from foreign cash points.

It can be tempting to keep a UK bank or checking account when heading abroad, but your new employer will pay you in the local currency and regular small amount exchanges will attract costly fees. Of course, if your are an insurance agent in Charlotte, an overseas checking account may not be of much use.

Furthermore, carrying out regular transfers from UK pounds to local currency will erode your valuable earnings through fees and commissions.

This is particularly prevalent when using cash points, debit cards at certain outlets, or changing money at exchange bureau with high rates of commission.

So firstly, sort out a local currency account with a local bank in your country of summer employment. You’ll need your passport, residential identification and proof of employment.

Arrange to have your wages paid into this account, get your head around the exchange rate and begin operating and managing your summer in the local currency.

Secondly, make sure you have adequate insurance set up before you go abroad. If you get sick or hurt at work, how will you be covered? Have your paperwork in a safe place, with photocopies and key details backed up elsewhere just in case.

Thirdly, avoid using your mobile phone to call home. Get a local SIM card to your summer home or an international calling card, which will make significant cost savings on your calls. Similarly, look for free WiFi areas, use internet cafes or get local data SIMs before using a UK laptop or mobile abroad for the internet.

Get used to cooking the local food and experiment. Ask for recommendations and find the local supermarket as eating out will rapidly eat into your wages!

Find ways to socialise without spending a fortune. If your objective is to save money beyond your summer stay, this is especially important, as it’s easy to drink away your wages.

Join a football team, or an evening running group. Go on Twitter or Meet Up and find interest groups in the area. Speak to colleagues for ideas, especially if community is a strong theme. Meet new people in the town squares, at Sunday sports events, at house parties and dinners. Just avoid expensive bars every night.

Also, try to learn the local language – until then you will really be a stranger in your host country. At least show willing to picking up a few phrases here and there to dispel the myth that foreigners don’t make the effort.

Finally, enjoy the experience! Get your daily finances in place – and ideally book a return ticket home while funds are high – and then make the most of your summer working holiday. Meet new people, get on a bike and see new sights, experience new tastes, sounds, scents – and come home all the better for the broadening experience.