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Traveling Abroad? How To Access Your Money in an Emergency

GaudiLab / Getty Images/iStockphoto
GaudiLab / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Traveling abroad for any reason — whether it’s for work, school or holiday — can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. After all, you’re going to a different country where many things could be different from what you’re used to. And even if you go somewhere relatively similar to home, you’re still sure to find something new wherever you go.

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That’s why it’s important to be prepared before you travel. Get your finances organized and have a realistic travel budget in place. It also means you should know where and how to access your money in the case of a financial emergency. After all, emergencies can happen to even the most seasoned, best-prepared travelers.

Here are the best ways of making sure you’re prepared for anything and can access your money quickly and securely while abroad.

Enroll in Online Banking

Many banks have online and mobile banking services. Provided you have a secure internet connection, you can use this service to monitor your funds and make quick transfers.

“The first thing you need to make sure of is that you’re enrolled in online banking,” said David Triana, account executive at Delight Labs. “If that is an option, your first point of contact should be family and friends. Services like Zelle can immediately wire funds to your bank account from family and friends if you’re in a dire situation and need funds immediately.”

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Use Local ATMs

If you have a debit card on hand, find an ATM and withdraw money from your account.

“Cash can easily be withdrawn internationally at bank ATMs, instead of independent ATMs, with debit or credit cards, as the fees are much less and the likelihood of a bad actor skimming your card information is less,” said Alise Saunders, owner at Tales From An Untamed Soul.

The same can be said for certain credit cards, especially those from major credit card companies.

“Credit cards like American Express allow for a limited cash withdraw from eligible ATMs,” Saunders said. “American Express can assist you, through their Global Assist Hotline, to find an ATM, get an interpreter, get a message to someone back home or even an English-speaking doctor in an emergency.”

Use Travel Insurance

Having travel insurance can give you much-needed peace of mind while traveling, but it also can help in the case of financial emergency.

“Purchase travel insurance that provides real-time reimbursements on common travel snafus — such as delays and cancellations — as well as a provider that pays claims in real time, so you don’t have to wait until you return home or pay significant fees out of pocket,” said Lauren Gumport, vice president of communications and brand at Faye Travel Insurance. “Modern, new travel insurance providers have hit the scene to provide real-time reimbursements on common travel inconveniences.”

“Most travel insurance policies have a facility to access cash in an emergency,” said Murtaza Khanbhai, founder at Reward Flight. “If you’ve lost access to your money or need it for some emergency, the insurance company can arrange for cash to be picked up either at a local bank branch or a Western Union branch. Of course, the definition of an emergency will depend on the policy you’ve taken out, but it’s always best to read the [fine print] before traveling.”

Barter or Trade With the Locals

In some cases, you might be able to barter with the locals for some quick cash in exchange for a valuable of your own.

“I recommend bartering or trading because it’s pretty easy to get quick cash through this approach,” said Anton Radchenko, co-founder at Air Advisor. “On my trip to Egypt last year, I lost my wallet and needed urgent cash, so I traded a Ukrainian souvenir in exchange for cash. As you can see, bartering or trading is a brilliant way to get some quick cash especially if you’re in an emergency situation overseas.”

Contact Your Home Country’s Embassy

Before traveling, check to see where your country’s closest embassy or consulate will be at your destination. Then, let them know your travel plans.

“Connect with your country’s embassy in the country you’re visiting,” Radchenko said. “You’re valuable to them and citizens’ interests are taken as a priority, so you’ll definitely receive some assistance from them in the event of an emergency.”

Connecting with the embassy also can help with matters of personal identity and financial security.

“Be very careful with your personal and financial information,” Triana said, “and make sure to have your country’s embassy information stored away in case any issues do arise.”

Use Emergency Cash Services

“Some banks and credit card companies offer emergency cash services,” said James Kinsella, travel expert from Turtle Trip. “A colleague’s purse was stolen in Rome in 2018, and her bank offered an emergency cash service, enabling her to pick up cash from a local branch the same day. Check if your bank offers this service before you travel.”

Contact Your Bank

Ideally, you’ll have already informed your bank about your travel plans — after all, doing this can keep your account from being flagged when you try to use it overseas. If you’re traveling and your funds have been frozen, contact your bank either via mobile app or international phone number so you can access your money again.

Use Your Bank’s International Services

See whether your bank offers international money transfer services.

“Companies like Western Union or MoneyGram allow someone back home to send money that can be picked up at various locations worldwide within minutes,” Kinsella said. “This can be a lifesaver in an emergency.”

“Some U.S. banks have locations internationally like Chase, Citi, HSBC, Charles Schwab and more,” Saunders said, “making it easy to move money between your accounts, make a withdraw in person, get in-branch assistance, lower fees or use their ATM.”

Have Multiple Forms of Money on You

To avoid a financial emergency in the first place, it’s a good idea to have multiple forms of money on your person.

“Always take multiple sources of money and separate them from each other physically,” Khanbhai said. “Take at least two credit or debit cards with you and keep them in different bags in case one gets lost or stolen. When leaving your hotel room, don’t take all your cards with you in case your wallet gets stolen.”

“Carry an additional debit or credit card of a different provider to have an alternative payment method if one card encounters issues,” added Shreya Patel, marketing manager at Lowest Flight Fares. “Bring a small amount of local currency in case you encounter places that don’t accept cards or experience ATM unavailability. If available in your destination, consider using contactless payments like Apple Pay or Google Pay for quick and secure transactions.”

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Traveling Abroad? How To Access Your Money in an Emergency