Managing Finances: travel tips, accounts and credit scores

Want to find a bank account that won’t charge you for taking out money abroad, figure out how to track your expenses, maintain your credit score or find a good travel credit card? We get a few queries about how we organise our money while we travel so we’ve put together these simple tips on managing finances on the road.

Coins and money from around the world

Tips for Managing Finances while you Travel

1) Get a Great Savings Account: first things first, make sure all your hard-earned cash goes into a travel fund that will provide maximum interest and boost your savings. Andrew and I worked hard for around two years in the UK to save £30,000 for our travel adventure. When we started saving we shopped around for the best savings accounts in the UK, which we compared in this more detailed post.  In summary, we made £444 from HSBC Regular Saver accounts and £404 from Santander ISAs over two years.

When we left the UK we moved everything into a Post Office Savings Account which we transferred money into from our debit account online each month. During our first year of travel we earned £253 in interest from the Post Office account. That means that we made £1,101 in three years  just by keeping our travel funds in high-interest accounts. Each year since then, we’ve researched which savings accounts have the best interest and switched accordingly.

2) Check and maintain your credit score: whether we’re travelling, working abroad or spending time back in the UK, we try to maintain a good credit score in case we need to borrow money in the future. This will come in handy if we need a loan to top-up funds for the Tiny Home we’re saving for. To maintain a good score, we use our credit card regularly and make sure we pay it off every month to avoid charges. It’s possible to set up an auto-pay function for this but we’ve simply set a reminder on our phones every month.

Us at a viewpoint in Ella, Sri Lanka

3) Find a Current Account that Doesn’t charge Abroad: almost all  current accounts charge you to use cash machines or make transactions abroad. In 2013, we did a thorough search of all UK bank accounts (which you can read here) and found that Norwich and Peterborough had a current account with zero fees for using it abroad, this saved us around £150 in bank fees during the first year of our trip. 

Unfortunately, Norwich and Peterborough no longer offer current accounts so we’ve switched to a new app-based bank, Starling, which is perfect for travel. It has zero fees for cash withdrawals and transactions worldwide, uses the MasterCard exchange rate and sends notifications to your phone every time you make a transaction. Find out more about the latest debit and credit cards we use for travel in this post.

4) Avoid Extra Bank Charges: some countries charge ATM fees on top of the individual bank fees mentioned above. Thai ATMs, for instance, charge up to £3 per withdrawal and in Laos you’re charged between £1.50 and £2. There are ways to avoid these charges; in Thailand take your passport and card to a big bank and ask the cashier to withdraw cash manually for you – you won’t be charged for this by the Thai bank. The second time we went to Laos we took US dollars with us from Cambodia and exchanged them for Laos Kip although we’re not sure how much this saved us in the long-run because exchange rates vary.

5) Find a Credit Card that Doesn’t Charge Abroad: we were very reluctant to get a credit card but needed one in order to rent a car in New Zealand. Again, we researched the best UK travel credit cards in this post and chose the Halifax Credit Card which has zero cash withdrawal and purchase fees abroad. In reality we’ve only used the credit cards a couple of times in relation to car hire. However, there was one occasion when our debit cards wouldn’t work in Malaysia so we withdrew cash from our credit card and paid the money back as soon as possible to avoid being charged interest. So, I’d recommend carrying a credit card with you when you travel for emergencies if nothing else.

Travel Money

6) Use Internet Banking: to make sure you can access your money easily while you’re travelling set up internet banking services for all of your accounts and make sure that you can transfer money between them online. We have to phone N&P each time we want to set up a payment to a new account, which is a real pain when we’re travelling. Another important thing to remember is to memorise all your log-in details and passwords for your online accounts; we use the ‘Keeper’ app to encrypt and safely store all our passwords.

7) Transfer your Earnings: we spent nine months living in Vietnam, where we earned money from teaching English to replenish our travel fund. Earning abroad can be tricky when it comes to transferring money back to your home country. We paid our earnings into a Vietnamese account each month, when it came time to leave we had to produce all of our payslips to prove where our money had come from and fill in numerous forms to transfer our money back to the UK; it was a major hassle and we lost around £300 in fees and exchange rates.

8) Order Back-up Cards: losing your one and only cash-card while you’re in a foreign country could be a complete disaster. We each have our own debit and credit cards as back-up in case one of them gets lost or stolen.

9) Track your Expenses: finally, we keep meticulous track of what we spend while we travel using the excellent Trail Wallet App, which we find invaluable. Each time we spend any money throughout the day we log it on the app under the relevant category and set up daily budgets per country so we can keep an eye on whether we’re spending too much. I would recommend tracking your expenses whether you travel or not; creating a spreadsheet to track all our income and outgoings really allowed us to figure out how much we could save each month back in the UK. You can check out all our detailed travel cost posts here.


How to manage your finances while you travel (1)

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Do you have any more tips on how to manage your finances while you travel? If you have any more questions feel free to ask in the comments below.

  • Katie
    Posted at 17:11h, 02 June Reply

    Great tips! I didn’t realize you could go to a bank in Thailand to avoid the ATM fee. I’ll have to remember that for next time. Here in the US it’s difficult to find a high-interest savings account anymore, so I have resorted to using ETFs and bonds. A bit riskier, I realize, but it may be a good option for some. I also charge as much as I can while travelling, and pay off the balance every month. Not everywhere takes credit cards, but some do and that saves me from having to carry as much cash and making trips to the ATM. My bank at home reimburses up to 4 ATM fees per month, which I am thankful for!

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:59h, 03 June Reply

      Hi Katie, thanks for sharing your finance tips, it’s really great that your bank reimburses some of your ATM fees. I think it’s harder in the UK now to find good interest rates too but there are still a few good deals to be found like our post office account.

  • Maddie
    Posted at 18:25h, 15 June Reply

    This is exactly how we managed our travel funds, right down to exactly the same bank accounts!! I think people forget how much you can actually save just by being a bit smarter about where you keep your pennies. This is great for anyone starting out.

    • Amy
      Posted at 20:18h, 15 June Reply

      Thanks Maddie, great minds think alike 😉 It’s easy to make a bit from your savings if you do a bit of research.

  • Jennie
    Posted at 00:01h, 01 September Reply


    Thanks for the great tips! We are just one month away from our round the world trip and just trying to work out how we manage our money… I was wondering if you could also let me know how you carry/ store your money on the road / in hostels … Also do you have emergency dollars or travellers cheques like some posts suggest, if so how much… Also what tends to be the maximum cash you have on you at one time ? Any info appreciated! Thanks

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:28h, 01 September Reply

      Hi Jennie, thanks for your comment, I bet you’re excited about your trip! when on the road we don’t really take any extra precautions than we would back in the UK. For example when we’re out and about Andrew normally carries the cash and we are just vigilant of what we carry and where it is; if we’ve just been to the ATM then Andrew will perhaps keep his hand in his pocket over his wallet. When we are in hostels and guesthouses we have all of our valuables either in the room’s safe or locked in one of our backpacks. We haven’t had any problems so far so whatever we do seems to work for us. We don’t have any emergency dollars or traveller’s cheques, but we do have back-up credit cards that we have had to fall back on when our debit cards didn’t work. We have just moved into an apartment in Hanoi and had to pay three months’ rent in advance so we had to make a few trips to ATM’s over a few days and take out enough money amounting to about $1000 in all so that’s the most we’ve had with us at any one time and I’m crazy vigilant about it if we ever have that kind of money on us! Since our UK account doesn’t charge us for ATM withdrawals we don’t have to take out crazy amounts to avoid more fees. I hope that makes sense – 🙂

  • Jessica Hill
    Posted at 18:30h, 07 November Reply

    Great tips, even 4 years after its original post date! 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:33h, 30 November Reply

      Thanks Jessica!

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