Maintain your balance of payments

The good folks at the auto club have some valuable advice for those of us making trips abroad this summer. Having the right balance of cash, traveller’s cheques and credit cards set up before you leave can save you time and money on your next trip. The last thing you want to happen is to run out of pesetas while hailing a cab in a rainstorm, or be caught cashless on one of the many bizarre “bank” holidays that many countries still celebrate.

As a general rule, carry traveller’s cheques to pay for goods purchased abroad; use credit cards for major purchases such as hotel stays; and use cash for small things such as tips and taxis. Hide money you won’t spend that day in a money belt. Credit card users should beware that some banks have started adding a surcharge to wholesale foreign exchange rates, so check with your card issuer before you leave.

In most countries, traveller’s cheques usually get a better exchange rate than cash-for-cash currency exchanges. Remember to always treat your traveller’s cheques as you would cash and keep a list of the serial numbers separately. You’ll always get your money back, but who needs the hassle?

Debit or ATM cards are gaining wide aeptance worldwide and are an easy and inexpensive way to get cash, but remember that you can’t always rely on your particular card being accepted in any or all machines. Most Canadian banks offer a map or list of machines in foreign countries. Remember that getting a replacement ATM card while travelling will usually be very difficult.

Before you leave Canada, take the time to exchange a small amount of cash into the local currency of your destination, since you may need cash upon arrival. International airports usually have exchanges, but it’s a very comfortable feeling to arrive in a foreign country with enough cash to take a cab or buy a meal. Just one less thing to worry about until you get accustomed to your destination.