Splitting between cash and card

Joan is confused about how she should divide her travel budget. How much cash should she carry and how much should she place on a prepaid card?



Q. Joan
I’m off to the US in September this year and I’m wondering what would be the best way to split my travel money between cash and card. 

A. Depending on where you are travelling will determine how you divide your budget. In some countries it is the norm to tip for services received, therefore you will need more cash than in other places. Our suggestions for splitting your travel budget for the US follows, but to help others out as well, we thought we’d also share tips for other countries.

United States
Australians travelling to the United States generally find the whole tipping equation quite perplexing as it isn’t common practice for us to tip for services. As a general rule, you should allow 15–20 per cent of the pre-tax bill for service at a restaurant or taxi service, while $2 to $5 per night for housekeeping service would be acceptable. Therefore, split your travel budget 60/40 with 60 per cent on a prepaid card and 40 per cent in cash to make tipping easier. ATMs are not hard to find so you shouldn’t have any trouble accessing funds if you find you need more cash.

United Kingdom
Many transactions in the United Kingdom are cashless, so it is fairly similar to Australia when it comes to a cash and card split. If you are spending time in London and plan on using the public transport system while there, your Currency Pass can also double as your Oyster Card as a means of swiping on and off the Tube. We would suggest carrying 70 per cent of your currency on a prepaid travel money card and take the rest of your spending money in cash.

South East Asia
While you will find ATMs very accessible in the major city centres in South East Asia, they can be few and far between in the rural areas. No holiday to this region would be complete without trying your hand at haggling with the street vendors or at the local markets. Taking the larger portion of your spending money in cash, with a good mix in smaller notes would be advisable.

New Zealand
If you’re just popping across the ditch, you’ll find we Aussies and Kiwis transact in very similar ways, with tipping not being the norm in New Zealand either. Use a prepaid card for the majority of your spending and take a small amount of cash for small purchases like snacks and drinks.

If you have a Travel SOS question, send it to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer it for you, or find someone who can.

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Written by Andrea


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