When preparing for a year-long trip, you need to spend some time getting your wallet in order. At a high level, we recommend having three credits cards (all without foreign transaction fees) and two debit cards (without ATM fees). See below for details on our favorite cards and tips for using them while abroad!

Credit Cards

What We Carry

  • Uber Card
    • 4% on restaurants, 3% on airfare, AirBnb, 2% on Uber, 1% back on everything else
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • No annual fee
    • We use this card for pretty much everything
  • Capital One Quiksilver Card
    • 1.5% back on everything
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • No annual fee
    • This is our backup card in case of emergency
  • Other back up card of your choice

Tips

  • Memorize the last four digit for you credit card number. Restaurant ask this every time.
  • Pay in the local currency. You will get a better exchange rate.
  • Businesses will usually ask you, “Cuantas quotas?” which means how many installments you want this charge broken into. In the US, one is standard, so just say, “Una.” Two installments would mean you would see half the charge today, and half the charge in two weeks.

Debit Cards & Cash

What We Carry

  • Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking/Investing Account.
    • This account will refund you all ATM fees! That is so important it must be repeated — NO ATM FEES!! Opening an account is free and there are no minimums. I keep some money in the checking account, zero dollars in the investing account, and exclusively draw from the checking account whenever we need cash. This saves us ~$50 per month on ATM fees.
  • Back-up Debit Card
    • This would be the debit card associated with your primary checking/savings account. (We use CapitalOne.) Most charge ATM fees, but some don’t.

Tips

Whenever possible, go to a large national or international bank ATM to get cash. Here are the ATMs we prefer by country:

  • Colombia: BBVA, Banco de Colombia

Other Tips

Where You Can Use Them

Unlike in the US, you can’t use a credit card for every purchase. Although we always ask if we can use a credit card (“Acepta tarjeta de credito?”), cash or “efectivo” is often the only acceptable form of purchase. Below are our suggestions of when to use what:

  • Hostels: CASH
    • You can use a card if you need to, but hostels will usually add a ~4% increase to the price
  • Restaurants: DEPENDS
    • In big cities, sit-down restaurants will usually accept credit card. However, sometimes, there is an up-charge for using a credit card. Always ask.
  • Groceries Stores: CARD

Card Safety

To be prepared for the unexpected, we do not keep all of our cards in the same place. We recommend keeping the cards you plan to use the most (for us the Uber Card and Charles Schwab card) in your wallet. Then keep your back-up cards somewhere in your backpack so (heaven-forbid) if anything were to happen to your wallet or your backpack, you have a back-up plan.

Notes

  • All card recommendations are current as of late August 2019.