If you’ve ever travelled abroad, there’s a good chance this question has troubled you before: “when do I use cash and when do I use my card?”. It’s a fair question, and the answer will vary somewhat from person to person. But as just about everyone likes to save money, we’ve come up with some tips to clarify the best situations to use cash vs card.
Do Your Research
It wasn’t too long ago that finding merchants who accepted plastic was the problem, but today the situation is increasingly becoming the opposite. Depending on where you travel these days, it may be more difficult to use cash than card, so do your research!
The Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden, have been making news in recent years for their steps towards a cashless society. But others have also been making efforts towards that end as well; countries as diverse as South Korea, the UK and the self-declared republic of Somaliland.
In these countries, cash-use is increasingly becoming less common than your credit and debit cards. But in many more countries, such as Germany, Japan and Mexico, the reverse is still the case. Once you’ve decided on your travel destination, read up on it! Get a sense for how widely cash or card is accepted there, before determining how much currency to buy.
The Big-Ticket Items
When it comes to using cash or your card, there are a few purchases where OneCard, Canada’s new multi-currency debit card, is undoubtedly the preferable option. Big ticket items, like flights, hotel reservations and car rentals, are all examples of this. After all, paying for such transactions with your OneCard is more convenient, not to mention safer, than carrying around the amount of cash you’d otherwise need.
Besides, by making such purchases with your OneCard, you avoid blowing through all of your cash right off the bat and can save it for smaller everyday transactions and those moments on your trip where you’ll really need it!
Normally use your credit card for these types of transactions? Fair enough. But by using your OneCard, you not only save money on whatever conversion rates you might need to pay, but also on all the other fees inherent with using a credit card. That’s the OneCard advantage. OneCard is accepted anywhere Mastercard® is!
A classic argument for the carrying of cash is that it better allows you to keep track of your spending. There’s certainly merit to this, you get a rough idea of how much money you’ve got left every time you pull out your wallet. But budgeting can be just as easy with OneCard and the OneCard app: just log on and track your spending in real time!
When it comes to budgeting, both OneCard and cash have a leg up over other payment options like credit cards. Studies have shown that people tend to spend more with their credit cards than they do with cash. With both OneCard and cash, the money you’re spending is your own, so chances are you’ll spend less and you won’t have to worry about the credit card bill waiting for you after your trip. With both mediums, it’s far easier to monitor your daily expenses than with your credit card (which often takes a couple of days to update).
By using OneCard, you can load up your card with the funds that fit your trip budget – thereby limiting your access to your entire savings account on your travels – and carry with you your credit or other debit cards only for use in an absolute emergency.
Planning your trip far in advance? With PAD or Bill Pay you can schedule regular payments to your OneCard. By setting aside a little of every paycheck to your OneCard, you can save up for your trip in no time and convert to the currency you need when the rates are favourable!
Budgeting is simply better with OneCard and cash.
Peace of Mind
You have to be cautious carrying huge loads of cash with you when you travel. If you get robbed, your money is gone; more than likely never to be seen again. But the alternative of paying significant percentages of your hard-earned savings out to the bank and credit card companies in fees and high exchange rates isn’t a tempting prospect either.
Instead of travelling with large quantities of cash or paying huge ATM or credit card fees, cash + OneCard helps you to cut down on the amount of money you carry with you when you travel. At the same time, it spares you from paying exorbitant fees in forex and cash withdrawals.
Less cash on you means, in the event you do fall victim to thieves, you stand to lose far less than if you were carrying your whole trip budget with you in bills. Plus, if your OneCard is stolen, it’s a quick and easy fix to log on to the app or online portal and lock your card – thereby ensuring your funds are secured until you can get another card sent to you. The case would differ if you fell victim to credit card theft or fraud, with all of the risk to your credit score and the hassle of having your card cancelled and a new one sent to you.
Rick Steves may have said it best: it’s all about “maximizing ease and minimizing fees”. Cash + OneCard helps you do both.
When to Use Cash
When it comes to spending cash, the answer for where to use card and where to use cash can depend largely on where it is you’re travelling, not to mention your own spending preferences. But as general rules go, it’s usually prudent to use cash for small day to day transactions, as well as for purchases at merchants that don’t accept card (like at bazaars/markets and small shops).
How Much to Bring
Planning how much cash to bring and how much to put on your OneCard can vary greatly depending upon your destination, trip duration, and your budget/spending preferences. As a general rule, Continental recommends a 60/40 split between the amount of money you load on your OneCard and what you carry in cash. But, as we recommended above, do your research!
The Continental Cost Guide and Travel Guides can be great resources to get a rough idea of the amount of money you’ll need. But it’s also worth remembering that any funds you have leftover from your vacation can be spent just as easily at home; and whatever cash you have leftover can be sold back at Continental’s best rates guaranteed!
Stay informed. Stay Current.