How to “Travel Cashless” On Your Next Trip

October 31, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

As payment technology continues to transform the way we buy and sell things, it’s easy to see how we could one day become a cashless society. Not anytime soon, of course, but it’s already happening in other parts of the world. And maybe you’ll be traveling cashless there.

Recently, SmarterTravel.com wrote that some banking experts believe Sweden will eliminate cash as a payment method by the year 2023. Instead, all of their consumer transactions will use a digital payment method, such as credit and debit cards, RFID-embedded devices, or mobile phones and digital wallets.

There are other cities around the world that are also going cashless, says Smarter Travel, including Reykjavik, Seoul, Singapore, Stockholm, and several cities in China.

A debit card or credit card is one way you can travel cashless.While that won’t happen any time in the U.S. or Canada, it’s still a good idea to learn to go cashless when you travel. For one thing, it makes traveling in different foreign countries much easier. You don’t have to find a money exchange place, which I often had to do when I would travel overseas. If only we’d had the technology back then that we do now.

It’s also more secure. If you lose your phone or your wallet, you can shut off your cards and replace them. You can’t replace cash.

Here are a few ways you can go cashless before your next trip. It’s a good idea to start using these now so you get used to using them, rather than trying to figure it out on your first day in a new country.

Debit/Credit Cards:

The old reliable in cashless transactions. If you don’t do anything else with cashless payments, make sure you’ve got a credit card or two when you travel. You’ll use this to book your plane tickets, rent a car, and reserve a hotel room. If you can manage it in the months before your trip, pay for everything you can with your credit card and then pay off the balance each month. Get a card that gives you airline points and you could get yourself a free ticket.

Don’t ever use a debit card for these transactions though, at least for renting a car or hotel room. Those providers will put a hold on some cash on your card, taking it from your account. If you weren’t expecting it, you could find yourself in a sticky situation.

You can also get prepaid credit and debit cards to use when you travel. They function like regular credit cards. You can save up for your trip by putting some money on the card each month.

Apple Pay/Google Wallet

These are two easy-to-use apps that come with your smartphone. If you’ve got an iPhone or Samsung (or other Google-brand phone), you’ve got access to these digital wallets. You’ll connect one or more credit and debit card to them, and then tap your phone to the sensor to initiate payment.

Money Transfer Apps

Apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Cash tie directly into your bank account or debit card and let you transfer money to a friend, family member, or merchant. Some apps will charge the recipient a 2.75% service fee, although PayPal gives you a “family and friends” option which doesn’t charge anything.

There are also the apps WeChat Pay and AliPay, which are wildly popular in China. So much so, that AliPay became the biggest mobile payment service in the world in 2014, surpassing PayPal. It’s also changing the way China does business, as more Chinese people are paying with AliPay and WeChat Pay instead of cash.

If you’re traveling to China, you definitely want WeChat or AliPay. And because Chinese tourists are visiting other parts of the world, and they’re not using cash as much, more businesses are accepting these apps as forms of payment. So you could be in a different part of the world and find WeChat Pay and AliPay are also options for you.

Finally, if you’re trying to travel cashless, please skip the traveler’s checks. No one really uses them anymore, even though they’re still around. If you’re trying to pay with traveler’s checks, you may run into some problems as many merchants may not even know how to process them.

How do you handle your money when you travel? Do you do anything special to travel cashless or just part of your normal day? Share some strategies on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Flyerwerk (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

About 

Erik Deckers is a travel writer, as well as a content marketer and book author. He is the co-author of Branding Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and has been a newspaper humor columnist for over 20 years

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