A Practical Approach to Travel as a Wedding Photographer
Cash is dead.
Cash is no longer king, cash is dead! The truth is, if you’re travelling in the first world, cash is almost dead. Yes, it’s important to always have a little chum change, but my philosophy is correct – you will not convince me otherwise. :)
I don’t know about you, but I hate having to carry cash at the best of times anyhow – especially multiple currencies. It’s not only unsafe, it’s costing you money – serious money!
When you convert currencies, someone is benefiting, it’s a transaction in itself and in every transaction someone is making money, and it’s definitely not you, and let me tell you – it’s more than a couple Euros when you add it up.
While watching someone exchange money at an airport makes my insides scream to the hills, there are some smart ways to get cash if you need it. Using online comparison tools to mail order currency to your door for example, (http://travelmoney.moneysavingexpert.com).
However, this is still an extremely inefficient way to get your cash in the first world – so my philosophy is ditch the cash all together!
If you’re travelling to the middle of a rainforest, on a boat out at sea, or elsewhere away from a phone line or ATM, then yes, okay, re-think your strategy slightly. Otherwise, save yourself some money, collect some points and have some extra drinks on your holiday’s instead!
(If you’re a couple looking for less travel advice and more Destination Wedding Photography, then you just need to click here.)
Travel Money Best Practices
UPDATE – 25th May 2017
Sadly, it has been confirmed yesterday by the Supercard team, that they will be withdrawing the card from circulation on the 24th June 2017. This withdrawal is not just for future customers, but also for all current card holders. So, if you have a Supercard, from the 24th June 2017, it will cease to work from then onwards.
So, what’s next?
As I go on to mention below, a secondary option for me, alongside the Supercard, has been a 0% FX fee credit card. Two of the top players are by the Post Office and Halifax. The Halifax Clarity Card has the additional benefit of not charging any fees for cash withdrawals, as well as normal purchase transactions, something I have not seen on any other FX credit card. However do be careful to pay off IN FULL every month. Another option pointed out to me recently is the Santander Zero Card – if you are already a Santander current account holder.
None of the above mentioned cards will earn you cash back or reward points of any kind on your spending, but since the majority of debit and credit cards in circulation charge a 3% fee for all foreign spending, this might be something you can overlook, as the 3% saving is likely to outweigh any points you may have earnt.
Is there not another Supercard ‘like’ product?
There is, and it’s called a ‘Curve’ card. Originally introduced about 12 months ago aimed at the UK business market, it is rumoured to be rolling out a personal card very soon, and with Supercard withdrawing from the market, this might be the perfect time for them to get going. Whilst the current card is meant to be used for business transactions only, it is not hard for any sole trader to apply for one either. (I have one.)
The free version of the card comes with £5 free spending when you are referred, see below.
Like Supercard, a ‘Curve’ card is NOT a credit card, and thus, there are zero credit checks.
Another great thing about Curve is that it can be used in the UK too and has its own reward scheme. The negative is that does charge you 1% on foreign transactions, however, you can link the Curve app to a UK reward credit card (Mastercard & Visa only), and thus offset or completely eliminate the 1% fee.
A final point is that there is currently a monthly cap on international cash withdrawals of £250 (or equivalent).
Use this code for your £5 free spending: NRO2D
*please note; I also receive a £5 credit for referring you.
If you fly frequently and collect Avios, then it might be worthwhile checking out the £24 annual fee Lloyds Avios Card. More on this below…
For those of you not wishing to have an additional credit card to spend abroad, a final option would be Caxton or FairFX pre-paid Mastercard. On most days the FairFX does offer a slightly better rate over Caxton. Both are very similar, offer the same pre-paid service coupled with a mobile application, and both can be loaded anytime with a number of currencies.
I have one, but don’t like to use them, unless I have to.
They can be great to lock in an exchange rate you are happy with, but they do tie up cash and you never know what is going to happen with the exchange rate, so what might have been a good rate 3 months ago, might not turn out the way you planned. Of course, the reverse is also true.
Whilst the rate is good and much better than cash, it is historically not as good as that of a 0% fee credit card.
Option ONE – Supercard. (UK residents only)
A Supercard is a FREE product offered by Travelex that when combined with it’s iPhone or Android, App will allow you to turn any of your existing credit or debit cards into a ZERO commission overseas spending card. What’s more, you can link a Supercard to a reward card too. Let’s say you have an Amazon cash back credit card, you can link your Amazon card to your Supercard and then all your international spending becomes not only fee-free, but you can now also collect cash back on your spending too! Win Win.
If needed, you can also use Supercard to withdraw cash from an ATM in the vast majority of local currencies. This will cost you 1%, which is far superior to the standard 3% charged by most UK banks on foreign transactions. If you bank with Metro or Halifax you may be safe, but do check your own account. Current accounts from; Barclays, HSBC, Santander & Lloyds are all terrible for overseas spending – use them if you like giving your bank free money.
Supercard is NOT a credit card, it only uses the credit available on current credit cards or cash in your current account. Supercard handles the transaction which is a near perfect rate, whilst your linked card is debited in GBP.
(I am not endorsing Travelex as a company. Please don’t EVER exchange money at Travelex desks in the airport – it’s near the worst rate you can ever get – if you simply HAVE to exchange at an airport then pre-order online for better rates)
Option TWO – Specialist Credit Cards
Supercard is a great option for most people, however since it relies on a communication between two intermediaries, it can, on occasion, fail. Leaving you in a little bit of a pickle. Also, if like myself, you just love to be rewarded for ALL your spending, at the highest possible rate, then you may want to consider a specialist American Express (Amex) credit card.
Supercard has an American Express (Amex) restriction and thus does not allow me to make Amex level rewards in places I could otherwise receive 1%+ in cash back. Mastercard credit cards typically offer no more than 0.5% in cash back, or comparable rewards.
There are several credit cards available that will offer rewards for a small annual charge, my top pick and the account I currently use is the Lloyds Avios Duo, this provides you with both a Mastercard and Amex which you can use interchangeably and collect Avios globally. The annual fee is £24. You also receive an upgrade voucher for one Avios qualifying flight each year you spend £7,000 or more on the cards combined.
If you’re looking for a fee-free card then the products offered by Halifax (Clarity) and The Post Office are both cards I have held in the past. I am also aware of the Santander Zero card, which might be easier if you already bank with them.
Email me to be referred and receive an additional Sign Up Bonus! ( info (at) barneywalters.co.uk )
What do you do use Barney?
I use the Supercard (it’s FREE! and no credit search), and the Lloyds Avios Duo cards interchangeably. I am always paying ZERO exchange fees and always being rewarded for any spending. The Supercard plus a backup card with minimal or zero fees is a good combination for most people. Especially if you don’t want to apply for any new credit.
Always have some cash.
Not having any cash, can, at times, be a problem. My philosophy is to always carry around £20 in cash or currency equivalent, and if driving – carrying that cash in change – the most common use I have for this cash when travelling for weddings? – car parking.
Personally, I’ll choose to withdraw that cash on arrival at my destination airport at the first ATM I see. I use my Supercard and pay 1% for the convenience, which I’ll then charge to a Credit Card redeeming 0.5% (or more) and then the cost to me is 0.5% at most.
Practical tip: After withdrawing 20 Euro, or similar, from a cash point, I’ll then buy a bottle of still water, which I’ll likely need anyhow, and then ask for the change in as much ‘change’ as possible – I am now car park (or toll)* friendly. :)
*most tolls in France/Italy/Spain now take Amex.
Ultimately the amount of cash you need for any given trip is dependent on where you’re heading. My go to amount is; £20, or 20euro, or $30 – but make your own judgements.
90% of the time I never use any cash and end up keeping it for the next trip.
Why have you not mentioned Visa?
Historically, Mastercard provides a better day-to-day exchange rate than Visa. Simple.
Visa, Mastercard and Amex all set their own daily ‘flat’ exchange rates, and Mastercard nearly always comes out on top. Hence you’ll find most ‘globally friendly’ cards to be Mastercard. If an Amex is ‘internationally friendly’, then the slight extra 0.001%* you’re paying for the conversion is likely outweighed by the additional rewards offered.
Back Ups of Back Ups
Just like when you back up your images 3 or 4 times before leaving a wedding, be sure to have just as many backups for your spending. The most common stressful situations I hear about when people travel is they take two, or even worse, just one card away with them.
Then to compound the problem, because they have not travelled outside their home country for a few months, both cards have been locked on day one of their travels for ‘security’ reasons. Whilst thankfully this is becoming a little easier by being able to confirm a transaction via a phone app, or by text, it’s not fixed completely – so be aware.
Some banks and credit providers still require ‘notice of travel’. The Lloyds card I mentioned above allows you to do this within the mobile banking app. Once you’re travelling a couple times a month though, this problem does seem to fade away as banks get used to your spending habits – it’s been a long time since I had a ‘security’ check and I never tell anyone when I travel, not even through an App anymore. – not that I suggest this as a best practice, it’s simply because I frequently (i.e weekly) travel between European countries and my bank(s) have become used to this.
The main point is travel with an assortment of cards, and if possible split them between two separate locations within your luggage, I always keep one or more with my passport, whilst several others are in my wallet for day-to-day spending.
A final fail safe I implement for access to cash abroad is keeping copies of all my cards in a secure online space. Somewhere online which is password protected and that you can access from any computer.
A dedicated dropbox account could work, or a LastPass style online volt, just don’t forget the password! You should also use this space to keep copies of your passport, travel insurance, medical cover and driving licence. If the worst were to happen, at least you might have means to check into a hotel or pay a medical bill.
A final point on money, whenever both myself and my other half are travelling together, we always carry an online banking card reader (or number generator) so that we can login to our online banking or pass security with our telephone banking – all worst case scenario stuff, but it’s much easier to be prepared, right?
Also, if you need your debit card to generate a code, then don’t forget that too!
(just don’t go using it for any foreign spending!)
If you like geeky articles on photography, travel and productivity, just like this one, please tell me.
Barney’s Top Tips
- In my experience airlines rarely have scales at the gate and rely primarily on check-in staff to weight cabin bags. Having your boarding pass on your phone (or printed) means that you can skip the check-in desk, head straight for departures and in most cases not have your carry on weighed at the time of boarding.
- Always board as early as possible to secure your overhead locker space.
- Keep copies of all your important documents in an online vault such as LastPass or Dropbox. Plan for the worst case scenario and you can stay calm when, one day, something happens.
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