Keeping track on our finances on the road was far more complex a job than it ever should have been. We used two bank accounts, a third savings account, and about half a dozen credit cards. Although we didn’t quite need all those credit cards, we DID need the multiple banking accounts.
The first checking account is what we used while abroad. This account paid our credit card bills (the few times we were able to use our credit cards) and was the account we drew on while at ATMs around the world. (The great part was that it reimbursed ATM fees and didn’t charge us foreign exchange fees.)
The second account handled the ‘other payments’ we still had to make while on the road, namely those pesky student loans. We did our best to never access this account either online or from an ATM. Mostly, this account was a backup account in the event we lost our other ATM cards. If we had the ATM cards with us to the first account, then the ATM cards for this account were safely stored in our hotel room.
Having and maintaining a separate bank account for travel is important. It is a big safety factor that cannot be understated. Equally important is the use of separate savings account. In our little money laundering scheme, most of our money was in this third account. Every month it automatically transferred spending money to our travel checking account. If we needed extra I sent an email home to my father asking him to log into the account to make the transfer. That savings account also sent the exact amount of money to pay those student loans to that backup checking account. We also kept money in both checking accounts but never too much money.
We took the time to carefully research our options online before setting all of this up for our trip. Our credit cards were set to bill themselves to our bank, not all cards can do this. All banks are a little different and it is really important to compare bank accounts online and make sure you’ve selected the right one for you. Some will work for some people but not for others.
You never want to be abroad without access to cash to just remember to be safe and keep a backup plan handy. Once in Tanzania an ATM counted my withdrawals twice and in China I left my ATM card in the machine. In Guatemala one of the girls in our Spanish class had their ATM info skimmed off their card by the ATM and the bank was withdrawing money from their account every day for a week before they realized. Setup your extra accounts and play it safe.