The card was once swallowed by an ATM machine in Yurimaguas, Peru and we had to go to the bank the next morning to retrieve it. It was swallowed again in Uyuni, Bolivia and we did not get it back. Schwab froze the card for us, but we were still able to use mine. We maintained a small running balance in our checking account so that if our card were ever to be misused, our other accounts remain untouched. I carried a back up debit card from a credit union and we used this card when we paid for a tour and maxed out ATM transactions.
After all the dreaming and planning of a dream trip, it comes to the point when you’re dealing with nitty gritty details. How will eat? How will we spend? Where will we do our laundry? Managing your money on the road is an unglamorous but totally necessary part of long term travel. In the event of theft, it helps to know that your bank will do everything to make your life easier.
We had a joint account with Charles Schwab, which has a great international debit card where all ATM fees are reimbursed – not all banks do this and we really appreciated this benefit. We used our Schwab ATM card in nearly every city, town and village in South America and faced absolutely NO issues. No ATM fees means that we could withdraw money in small quantities without worry of losing it.
Our credit card of choice was Capital One Venture One with its zero international transaction fees. We used this on a few occasions. We kept an account of what we spent daily, but we did not have a budget. We knew roughly how much we were prepared to spend on each category in each country and as long as we were under that limit, we did not worry about it.