In 1996, I was offered a free weekend stay at a small hotel in Huntington Beach, California. Naturally, I took advantage of the opportunity. It was summer. Plane fares to LA were relatively cheap. This was a great chance to get back to the coast, see the water and make some art. So, at about 9:30 on a Friday morning, I boarded a westbound plane, took my seat, and let my mind drift.
The flight was uneventful, landing me at LAX with time to grab a cab, check into the room, rent a bicycle (Yes. That’s what I said.), and get down to the water. I spent the afternoon getting in and out of the water, and sketching the people on the beach. Man! It was great to be back in California!
Pedaling back to the hotel, I decided to get something to eat, so I went into a little store on Main Street. That was the beginning of my Debit Card Nightmare.
“I’m sorry”, said the clerk, ”Your card has been declined”. I had a few dollars in my wallet, so paid cash for the snack and went on my way, believing that this was just an anomaly.
In those days long gone, I had no cell phone, so, I decided to try an ATM. Declined, again! What was happening? Riding around, I found another one. The result was the same. Now I was getting nervous. It was after banking hours on a Friday afternoon, and I still had two more days here.
To make a long story short, I eventually found an ATM that would work for me, and withdrew enough money to get me through the weekend. The only major incident was at a grocery store, where they tried to confiscate the card.
On Monday morning, before I left for the airport, I called my bank to see what had been the problem. As you have probably already guessed, my account had been flagged for unusual activity in a different state.
All of this is to say that, when you travel, a few simple things can help you avoid some major monetary headaches. Since the Nineties, a lot of things have changed. Unfortunately, there is still no method to guarantee smooth sailing for you. Here are a couple of things you can do to avoid the kind problems I had.
As much as possible, Use Cash
That’s right. As convenient as debit and credit cards are, there are a lot of reasons to forego them, and stick with money.
Cash offers no possibility of Identity Theft. Even if someone somehow makes off with all of your dollars, they wont get anything more.
Everyone appreciates cash. Business owners don’t pay fees when you pay with cash. Restaurant servers get to take your tip home today, instead of waiting for it to come, taxes removed, in their paycheck.
Also, you don’t pay interest on cash. Once the transaction is done, it’s done.
Talk to Your Bank
If your bank and/or credit card provider don’t know that you’re traveling, they may notice unusual activity and suspend your account. It’s better to notify them where you’ll be and about how long. It’s always best to avoid confusion.
Don’t rely on just one card
When you travel, take along more than one debit or credit card, and keep them separate. You might keep one in your wallet, and one in your shirt pocket, or in a different card holder. This way, if you lose one, you’ll have the other to fall back on.
Don’t use ATMs
In many stores, when you use your debit card, you have the option to receive cash back. This is a splendid way to avoid ATM fees. If you do this ten times over the course of your trip, you’ll easily save the price of a couple of meals, or the admission price to a local show.
If you’re interested in what’s going on with my current travel plans, click over to VagabondStew on YouTube and check out the new video, A Sleeping and Storage Platform for the Stew Wagon. It might give you some ideas for your own Travel on a Shoe String. Dont foret to subscribe to this blog, and to the YouTube channel.
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