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Category: Travel

A Guide to Spending Money Abroad

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woman using card to pay

Want more bang for your bucks on vacation? Avoid hidden fees with this handy guide on spending money abroad and getting the most of your money…


Slowly but surely, summer is on the way. And whether you’re taking the family abroad, planning a solo vacation, or doing a spot of international business, getting the most out of your money is just as important as packing sunscreen.

Spending money in other countries can spread your hard-earned cash a little thin. What you thought was a good chunk of change can quickly get hit by all kinds of different fees, leaving you with less spending money than you originally planned.

Want your money to go further while on vacation? You’re in the right place. From cash to cards, we’ll show you how to avoid being hit with unexpected extras during your upcoming trip.

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Is it Better to Take Cash or Card Abroad?

That depends. Some people like the security of using a card abroad. Not everyone will be happy about hopping on a plane and walking around a new country with physical money. And nothing says “tourist” like opening a wallet stuffed full of bills for all to see. All it takes is a sneaky distraction, a fleet-footed thief, and your money can be gone in seconds.

With that said, having cash on you could certainly come in useful. Not everywhere accepts cards, and you don’t want to get caught short when the final bill comes. It can also be easier to stick to a budget with physical money. If you’re a little on the spend-heavy side, it’s easy to get carried away and put everything straight on the credit card.

In general, though, the plastic approach is safer. If your card is stolen or goes missing, it’s a simple case of contacting your provider and canceling it immediately (something you can now do in most banking apps). But as this article will show, there’s a snag or two when using cards abroad that you’ll need to watch out for.

man using foreign currency on holiday

Taking Cash Abroad

If you’re thinking of taking cash with you, then you should convert it ahead of your trip. It might be tempting to change your money at the airport, but these often have the worst exchange rates. The same goes for trading money at hotel or currency kiosks at your destination. They can be pricey, and usually have poor rates and high fees.

The safest, least-expensive places to convert your cash include local banks and credit unions, as these tend to offer the best rates. Major banks, such as Chase or Bank of America, offer similar rates, plus they have the added benefit of having ATMs overseas, which is always handy if you’re running low on funds.

Online bureaus and currency converters, such as Travelex, can also help, but remember: ordering cash online means you could be hit with delivery charges and the exchange rate won’t be as strong as with your bank.

Using a Prepaid Travel Card Abroad

Think of prepaid travel cards as the new travelers’ cheques. Like credit and ATM cards, they can be used to withdraw cash, or you can simply hand them over at the checkout. You’ll be given a PIN to do both things.

The only difference is that you put money onto the card in advance. This means there’s no chance of going into debt. Need more money? All you need to do is top it up online or by text while you’re at the beach, in a museum, or sipping something refreshing at a bar.

There are a couple of catches to watch out for, of course. Certain prepaid cards charge you every time you load the card, spend on it, or withdraw cash. Based on how much you’ll be using, you could be racking a high amount of extra fees by the time you’re back home.

Worse yet, some cards will even charge you an inactivity fee if you leave money on them after your vacation’s over – and that’s on top of a fee to close the card down so you can get what’s left on it back. Be sure to steer clear of these and go for something from FairFX, Caxton, and Travelex instead.

girl paying with smartphone

Using a Credit Card Abroad

Credit card payments abroad are just as seamless as they are on home soil. But there’s an obvious price to pay – and that’s extra fees you can be hit by during your travels.

Luckily, some planning ahead of time can help minimize these hidden charges. For starters, use a credit card with no foreign transaction fee (which can range from 1% to 3% of each purchase). If your credit card is your only means of spending, then that’s a cost that’ll soon build up. Check your credit and ATM card agreements to see if you’ll be hit with these. If so, apply for a card that won’t; just be sure to apply far enough in advance of your vacation.

Once that’s done, call your credit card issuer before you jet off and let them know where you’re going and how long for. If you don’t, they may assume something suspicious is happening and block payments or suspend your card.

Watch out for dynamic currency conversion too. While the idea of paying for foreign purchases using the dollar sounds great in theory, certain merchants can be a little unscrupulous when dealing with tourists. They’ll have no problem quoting the final price in US dollars, only to make the conversion at an exchange rate that’s less than competitive.

man using smartphone and card for online banking

Using Gold Abroad

If you’re a Glint customer, you can use your Glint Mastercard in more than 150 countries around the world, so there’s no need to withdraw cash or transfer funds to a prepaid card. And with the Glint app at your fingertips, you can easily keep track of overseas transactions and fees, while also having the ability to select between different currencies at the touch of a button. If your card gets stolen, or if you lose it while you’re away, simply freeze it using your Glint app – find it again, then just as easily unfreeze and you can continue to use as before.

When it comes to spending abroad, it’s important to weigh up the best options that will make your cash go further. A little research before your trip can pay off when it comes to avoiding fees and protecting your money.


At Glint, we make every effort to demonstrate a balanced conversation between gold, crypto, and fiat currencies when it comes to purchasing power and, while we strongly believe that gold is the fairest and most reliable currency on the planet, we need to point out that it isn’t 100% risk-free. While we have seen a steady increase over time, the value of gold can fall, which means that its purchasing power can also decline. To learn more, visit our homepage or give us a call at +44(0)203 915 8111.

A deep understanding: From freediving to ocean conservation

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Whale Shark

Former record-breaking freediver, Hanli Prinsloo, speaks to Glint about how emotional moments underwater inspired the foundation of the I am Water Foundation to help conserve the world’s oceans

“It feels like the ocean is giving you the biggest, tightest hug ever,” says Hanli Prinsloo of the numerous deep-sea descents of her freediving career. Having already broken numerous records in her native South Africa at the start of her career, a few years ago she found herself in a Swedish fjord, once again taking one breath and diving to 60m. Having felt her chest compress, her spleen shrink to half its size, pumping out oxygen-rich haemoglobin in the process, and her body become negatively buoyant at 25m, she steadily sank downwards – as she had done many times before. “I got to the bottom of the rope, I opened my eyes to grab my tag and it was pitch black. I thought ‘The pressure has affected my optic nerve and I’ve lost my eyesight…’”

“When I started freediving, there weren’t any education systems back then, it was more like a weird apprenticeship. You just had to find a guru and learn from them,” says Prinsloo when we meet before her address to an audience gathered inside London’s Royal Geographical Society. In 1998 she met a Swedish “sailor and adventurer” who taught her the basics of one-breath diving. Previously more associated with restrictions, freediving has now become a recreation – to many a sport – associated with the risk of setting new boundaries. While scuba-divers typically descend no further than 40m, Prinsloo would regularly pass 60m depth in just one breath. “Back then that was a deep dive, now the girls are going much further.” (The International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) lists the ‘constant weight’ record as 104m, held by Italy’s Alessia Zecchini and the US’s Tanya Streeter as holding the ‘no limits’, weight aided, record at 160m.)

Despite such parameters, Prinsloo says freediving is badly classified as an adventure sport. “It’s much more of an aquatic mindfulness practice, you’ve got to think as little as possible and as slowly as possible.” As the brain uses a huge proportion of your oxygen she advocates meditation twinned with yoga as the best training because it affords divers greater lung capacity and better mind control – something that also staves off panic at depth. “There’s no ‘pushing through the fear’, to me that’s a load of bullcrap.”

However, during that dive in the Swedish fjord, fear did manifest itself in an unexpected but almost tragic way. In the seconds that followed opening her eyes to impenetrable darkness, Prinsloo began undoing her safety line, resolving not to live blind and, therefore, not to surface. “I decided this was the place to end it… but as I was fiddling with the carabiner I remembered my dad’s cousin and her guide dog, Friday. I thought: ‘I’ll get a Labrador! We’ll have that special bond that people get to have with dogs when they’re blind – I’ll be fine!’ And so I started swimming up.” On reaching the surface she found the light, and her sight, returning. “The organiser leaned over the side of the boat and said ‘was it dark down there? I think we forgot to change the batteries in the torches.’”

Speaking now about almost making a “ridiculous mistake”, Prinsloo says that human error and those not-long-life batteries, gave her a seminal lesson in control and responsibility. Something fully realised a year later whilst diving with sperm whales in the Indian Ocean. “They dived down to hunt and the one baby is usually left with a young female – a babysitter. That day I was the young female… That made me realise this is a shared space. For some reason, even though we are not that powerful, we hold all the power.”

Manta RaySwimming with a manta ray off Ecuador (photo: Peter Marshall / I AM WATER Ocean Travel)

Sea change

The event at which Prinsloo is speaking in London is the Steppes Travel Beyond Festival, a series of talks run in conjunction with a number of ocean conservation and education charities, notably Plastic Oceans and Incredible Oceans. Prinsloo describes her own journey into conservation as a “slow slide” as she realised the vulnerability of the environment she was exploring. “If what you love is threatened, then you are compelled to act. I couldn’t just flit in and out of being in the ocean, it had to be a full time thing so that’s what propelled me to start I am Water.”

Founded in 2010, I am Water seeks to help preserve and protect the ocean through experience, awareness and advocacy. Central to that mission is helping disadvantaged communities in Mozambique, South Africa and Bermuda appreciate, and benefit from, the ocean through education and recreation. This part of the operation is largely funded by the for-profit mission side which gives paying guests the opportunity to learn to freedive around the world, often with the chance to do so with sea-life; this includes whale sharks off Mexico and humpback whales in the South Pacific.

Such journeys are not necessarily idyll showcases of how the ocean can be but rather how it is. Of a recent trip to Bali, Prinsloo describes the conflicting emotion of “swimming eye to eye with a magical manta ray serenely feeding, and wiping trash out of your face”. Such experiences may be becoming the new norm: In 2015 a report published in Science estimated that around 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year, while the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation estimates 90% of global fish stocks are overfished or fully-fished.

This means reduction of consumption will be essential, as sustainable fishing is currently a myth says Prinsloo. “If you’re going to Cape Town next year you might think ‘ah, I can eat sustainable tuna there, because that’s where they have it.’ But you shouldn’t think that in a restaurant in the middle of Chicago, you should be able to just order a seabass, tuna or salmon in one day. It should be much more of luxury item. It’s important that we understand its rarity. My advice to restaurants would be: ‘You should be careful serving this fish, it is highly unsustainable and you might run into trouble if you get called on this. It’s kind of a veiled threat but I’ve seen people change menus. Consumers should understand how powerful they are. We can vote with our wallet.”

The cause of the ocean is not an isolated one she says, highlighting the interconnectivity of climate change, industrial production and the state of the seas. “We can’t call ourselves lovers of the ocean or environmentalists if we still eat meat. You don’t have to accept that but it’s true.” She details how a rise in temperature of just a few degrees threatens the world’s zooplankton; micro-animals that absorb carbon dioxide. “If these guys die we lose more that all the rainforests on the planet. The ocean creates most of the oxygen we breathe.”

Prinsloo is forthright in her belief in emotion empowering a sense being a of stakeholder in the environment. She says that when people feel responsible they change their behaviour, mentioning freedivers who have left the sport as they start families. Equating such an emotional connection to our oceans could help to protect and preserve the planet she says, as individuals see their current actions as risk inducing. “If we can open our hearts and feel love for the natural world then that changes our behaviour because when what we love is threatened we change.”

Critics might say that is an overly-emotive response but that is clearly the point. Indeed, rationalising the human reaction to the jeopardy of the oceans compliments Prinsloo’s role in South African townships – a long term project focused on social, as well as environmental change – and her guidance of philanthropists and fishing fleet owners on freediving journeys. Providing all individuals with experience that is at once tender and realist is the mission: “People do ask if we’re advocacy or a grass-roots organisation. It’s exciting to think that we’re both because at the moment I think to create, real, lasting change you have to be both.” That fits into a greater need: “And also because we’re running out of time.”

I am Water expeditions are bookable through Steppes Travel,
including 2018’s Mozambique trip

I am Water Ocean Travel

Picture top is Hanli Prinsloo freediving with a whale shark off Ecuador (photo: Peter Marshall / I AM WATER Ocean Travel)

Alex Matchett is the editor of Glint