I have done a lot of travelling over the last few years and I have found a few tips and tricks that have really benefited me, so I thought I would share them with you.

Although this is aimed at people in the UK, I am sure you will be able to find similar services in other countries…

Tip #1 – Money

After my disaster in Indonesia where I lost all my bank cards and money – when HSBC were about as helpful as a chocolate teapot – as soon as I came back to the UK I started looking at alternative banking options.

There are 2 new banks which I think are revolutionising an industry which has stayed the same for decades. Monzo and Starling are online only banks, with no physical stores, which are managed 100% through a smartphone app.

monzo and starling

Having used them for a couple of months now, I think they are amazing.

The very best thing about them? There are no fees. No foreign transaction fees, no conversion fees and no ATM fees (capped at £200 per 30 days). The ATM cap shouldn’t really be a problem as you can spend anywhere that accepts Mastercard – which is most places – without being charged anything. I have been purchasing things online through American websites using my Monzo card and I have been receiving the mastercard exchange rate of the day, which has always been better than any prepaid currency conversion card, or cash exchange rate. And thats it. No fees. 

Another great thing – all your spending is updated in real time, unlike my HSBC account which often takes a few days for the transactions to show in my statements.

And another great thing – if you lose your card you can freeze it, straight from the app, and if you find it again you can just unfreeze it and carry on with life. If you really have lost it then they will send you a new one – anywhere in the world. You hear that HSBC? They will replace your card wherever you are, they won’t leave you stranded in a foreign country with no possibility of getting a replacement card.

I was using a currency card before, which you could top up using your bank card. When I lost my cards, Travelex send a new card within a week straight to Bali. Only problem was I could only top it up with my bank card which was cancelled, and no one else was able to top it up for me. With Monzo and Starling you can just make a bank transfer. Super simple.

I haven’t quite made the leap of transferring all my income and my direct debits over to one of these accounts yet, but you can. You can get your salary paid in and you can pay your bills, just like any other account.

I have used Monzo significantly more than Starling simply because that’s the card I got first, but as far as I can see they do exactly the same thing and both offer all the great benefits. Starling has been in business a little longer than Monzo, and it offers Apple Pay integration which Monzo doesn’t do yet…but it will come, and they offer a few more features, like international money transfer, but again I think Monzo will catch up soon.

monco card

The reason I like Monzo so much is that it’s just a little bit cooler than Starling. With its distinctive coral colour card, it has a much better UI (user interface) in the app and when you speak to the customer services though the app, it’s just like texting friend. If they have done something wrong they make it ok by using lots of cheeky monkey face emojis! And I can only speak fro Monzo at the moment but their customer service has been spot on.

In the grand scheme of things, both of these banks are really new and they are awesome right now, purely because of the fact there are no foreign transaction fees, but they are adding new features all the time which is just making them more awesome. Pretty soon I think I will be going #fullmonzo.

Opening an account is fast, free and easy. So that’s why I got two accounts. One with Monzo and one with Starling. If I ever have a repeat performance of the Great Indonesian Disaster of 2017, I can have a spare card to fall back on, and I now have a £400 ATM cash limit (2 cards = 2 separate limits) and transferring money is really simple. Bonus.

I have absolutely no association with them , I just think they are bloody brilliant. It is easy to set up, easy to use, they are helpful and they are transparent. Everything a bank should be. Isn’t that right HSBC?

But what happens if I lose my phone? Well, yeah. You need a smartphone. If I lose my phone I will cry, a lot.


Tip #2 – Mobile

three mobile

Do yourself a favour, if you travel a lot use Three mobile as your provider. They do this thing called Feel At Home – in 71 destinations so far – which allows youth use your phone in exactly the same way you would at home, including your data allowance using data roaming at no extra cost.

Aren’t data roaming charges ridiculous? Hopefully they will be scrapped completely one day, but for now, with Three mobile, you can travel to major destinations and not worry abut whether you have forgotten to turn off your data roaming! I have been using them on all my travels and I haven’t paid more than £18 a month, ever. Not even when I was streaming Netflix in a forest in New Zealand.

The only problem with this is making calls to foreign numbers. They treat this as though you are calling abroad and will charge you international rates, but this is where Skype comes in.

Tip #3 – Skype

skype

Skype is not, as I thought it was, only for making Skype to Skype calls. You can call any number in the world, and yes it will cost you money, but we are talking pence not pounds like you pay for an international call from your mobile. Just top up your Skype account with a fiver and you’re good to go.

Of course, so many people are connected by WhatsApp now, making a call on there is also free, because there are no data roaming charges!

I also have no association with Three mobile, in fact I am probably their worst customer, I spend very little and go abroad a lot!


Tip #4 – Communication

touchnote

We don’t send many postcards anymore, but with this awesome little app you can use your own photo and post it anywhere in the world for a tiny cost. They keep it cheap because they print and mail the postcards in the country it is being sent torso that way they keep the costs low.

Touchnote works by buying credits, and obviously the more you buy the cheaper it becomes. The only downside that your postcard isn’t handwritten, but I think I have forgotten how to write anyway!


Bonus tip (because I forgot to include it in the original post)

Sign up to your local library and you can download audiobooks for free. They give you about 30 days and when it’s time to return it they take it back automatically so there are no late return fees.

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