What to do Before Going on a Trip: Financial Edition
While everyone knows to book a hotel and rental car before an upcoming vacation, many forget that financial prep can be just as important. So with the summer vacation season upon us, we decided to write up the 8 most important financial “to-dos” everyone should check off before getting on that plane.
Notify Your Bank
First, you’ll want to decide which debit or credit cards you’ll be taking on your trip. Do you need all of them? Likely not, and it will save you some headache if you’ve just brought a couple cards in case you find your purse or bag lost or stolen while traveling.
Then, make sure to alert the banks of your cards when and where you’ll be traveling (many banks have a “travel notice” feature built in to make this easy for you). This will ensure that any charges and withdrawals you make while you’re on vacation won’t be flagged.
Set Up Account Monitoring Tools
Having account monitor on in your online banking center will ensure that you can rest easy on your much deserved vacation, instead of worrying about whether or not you’ve had your information stolen.
Examples of some helpful features include automatic alerts when a debit card or ATM transaction exceeds a specified amount, alerts about important account activity (fraud, etc), and 24/7 access to check your transactions.
HomeStreet Bank customers can enroll in Online Banking here: Online & Mobile Banking
Turn on Automatic Bill Pay
You don’t want to spend your vacation wondering whether you already paid your electricity bill or not. To ensure bills get paid and to keep your vacation a vacation, try to turn on automatic bill pay for as many of your monthly bills as you can (this is also a good practice in general).
Your current credit card may provide some level of insurance while you travel but be sure to check the fine print. Not all cards will cover everything you need so your best bet will likely be to get a temporary travel insurance plan.
Travel insurance can cover things like medical expenses, theft, or even changes to your travel plans due to sickness etc, which can be especially helpful in our post-COVID world.
If Traveling Internationally, Pull Out Some Currency Now
While you may plan to use your credit or debit card for the most part abroad, it’s always a good idea to have a little cash on hand, especially in countries that still rely heavily on cash-only transactions.
Airport exchange kiosks are notorious for high fees and commissions. Instead of waiting until you land to pull out cash, get some ahead of time at a local bank or currency exchange. These will likely offer you a rate of exchange much closer to the actual, which can save you a lot of cash in the end, depending on how much you withdraw.
As always, if carrying cash, do so carefully. We recommend keeping it close to your person in a zippered pouch or bag. A money belt can be a safe belt as it’s hidden from view.
Check Your Phone Plan
If traveling abroad, make sure you check what international rates your plan has. While many do offer this service, roaming voice and data rates may be many times your normal rate.
If this is the case, there are a few options you can consider:
- An international plan from your current provider. If your cell service offers this, this is likely the most convenient option. You’ll get to continue use of your current device, but pay a known-in-advance dollar amount (usually per day), instead of pay as you go.
- Consider getting a prepaid phone while abroad so you can still make call for things like taxis or emergencies.
- Just turn off your data and use WiFi. Many cafes or public areas offer free WiFi that you can use to make calls and search addresses. Note: it’s best to not use public WiFi for logging on to any financial accounts as they are not always secure.
- Just make sure to turn off your cellular data when using your smartphone or tablet.
Put a Hold on Mail
Scammers are always on the hunt for ways to steal your personal information and your physical mail can be an easy target for them. So be sure to put a hold on your mail delivery. This will also help ensure you don’t have any packages sitting on your porch for weeks.
Travelers can request a mail hold for up to 30 days by phone, on the USPS website, or by filling out a form in person at the post office.
Also, make sure to check that you’ve put any automatic delivery subscriptions (meal kits, DVD rentals, etc) on hold. Not only will this save you potentially lost packages, but money!
Budget for Your Trip
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, make sure you’ve budgeted for your trip. Taking steps to set aside the money you think you’ll need in advance, will help limit stress during the trip (and limit regret post-trip).
You can create budget categories for everything you think you’ll spend on (lodging, transportation, food, etc) and price it out based on your itinerary. There are even free iPhone and Android apps that can help you do this.
Trip costs can add up but if you’ve set aside a ballpark figure ahead of time, your trip can be purely smooth sailing.