I’ve been watching the recent news in India with keen interest. In case you missed it, in November 2016, PM Modi announced all 500 and 1000 denominations would no longer be accepted. This would remove 86% of the country’s currency! (Source: BBC News).
As you can imagine in a cash based society, things have been quite chaotic ever since. The main goal of the project is to help reduce “black money” circulating and therefore reduce corruption. Unfortunately it has had some unintended consequences as well, with people queuing up for hours to exchange their notes or withdraw money. Often the ATMs are empty, there has been some rage spill over into violence, and also sadly, some reports of deaths as people don’t have money to buy food (Source: news.com.au).
I remember seeing similar scenes on the news about Greece in the last 12-18 months. The banks closed and limits were placed on withdrawals. There were many queues for ATMs – people really struggling.
I don’t want to comment on the political situations in these countries today. Rather, I want to provide tips if you’re planning to travel overseas in these areas.
When it comes to currency and being overseas, you don’t know what situation you might find yourself in. You might not have access to internet banking. You might not be able to exchange currency. You might not be able to use your card.
My top tip in this regard is to always have a variety of currency options on you!
Cash – Have some cash in your own currency to transfer over there (it’s usually cheaper in the country). Also have some of the country’s currency BEFORE you travel – just in case you can’t exchange right away.
Traveller’s cheques – These are a bit old school nowadays, but if you are going for a long period of time or don’t have the option of taking cash, it could be good to have a couple of these handy.
Travel money card – most banks provide these now. It’s a special kind of debit card, where you can load different currencies onto your card (e.g. transfer from your normal account to the card via internet banking). This has the advantage of you only paying for the conversion once – and you can easily top it up (if you have internet access) and just use it like a normal bank card at shops etc. There is usually a small fee if you use it to make withdrawals from ATMs.
Debit Card – It’s still good to take your normal debit card as a backup. It’s best not to use it, because the fees for doing so are usually quite high.
Credit Card – In some countries they don’t accept debit cards for certain transactions – they only want credit cards. I really struggle with this one as I personally don’t like credit cards. I have found there are ways to get around it – you might just have to work a bit harder (e.g. fill in more forms) to rent a car etc. But depending on your trip, you can always order a credit card just for the trip, and cancel it once you get back.
I hope this is a helpful post.
Praying for the countries with struggling economies that they will get through this soon!