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Pre-Trip Money Checklist

What to Bring

Credit Card: Most businesses have gone cashless, making a card your only payment option. A "tap-to-pay" or "contactless" card is widely accepted and simple to use.

Debit card: Use this at ATMs to withdraw a small amount of local cash. Wait until you arrive to get local currency. Cash can help you out of a jam if your card randomly doesn't work and can be useful to pay for snacks or small gifts.

Backup card: Some travelers carry a third card (debit or credit; ideally from a different bank) Stash of US cash: $100–200 in US dollars as a cash backup, which comes in handy in an emergency (for example, if your debit card gets eaten by the machine).

Pre-Trip Checklist

For smooth use of your debit and credit cards, make sure to:

Know your cards. For credit cards, Visa and MasterCard are universal, while American Express and Discover are less common. US debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo will work in any European ATM. Make a photocopy of the cards (front/back) of the cards you are taking and leave with a family member, or keep in secure place.

Go "contactless". Consider setting up your smartphone for contactless payment. Both options are widely used in many places and are more secure than a physical credit card.

Check your cards' expiration dates. If your card will expire during or soon after your trip, get a new one.

Know your PIN. Make sure you know the four-digit PIN for each of your cards, both debit and credit. Request it if you don't have one, it may be required for some purchases. Allow time to receive the information by mail — it's not always possible to obtain your PIN online or by phone.

Adjust your ATM withdrawal limit. Find out how much you can take out daily and ask for a higher daily limit if you want to get more cash at once. If your bank charges a flat fee per transaction (explained below), you'll save money by making fewer withdrawals. I prefer a higher limit that allows me to take out more cash all at once; some travelers prefer to set a lower limit as a security measure. Note that foreign ATMs will withdraw funds only from checking accounts, not savings accounts. Make sure your checking account balance is healthy before you go or plan to use your bank's app to move funds. (You are unlikely to be able to transfer funds between accounts from a foreign ATM.)

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