Last summer, four friends and I decided to take a trip to California right after our graduation from BITS. We still had some time before starting out our jobs. We had all just graduated and wanted to conquer the world! I had always been a big fan of California and wanted to see LA. So, off we set!
But before we left, like everyone from BITS, we planned out our entire trip. Where will we go, what will we do and most importantly – how will we spend? As we got to the last question, we started coming up with our own theories.
We had a whole bunch of solutions – buy currency from forex services, open accounts on PayPal and other wallets that are accepted across California. One of us even suggested using Bitcoin – because, why not! Finally, we got a ‘sanity attack’ and decided to equip our little expedition troops with the right set of international payment solutions.
Buying currency was immediately ruled out since I had exposure to currency exchange rates. PayPal, while it sounded fun, would require a whole other set of problems in terms of currency exchange and POS accepting issues. Finally, we came across the idea of using international cards – international debit/credit cards and prepaid forex cards.
The trip turned out to be an amazing experience and our international cards were largely responsible for it. Here are every single reason I recommend people to get an international card before a foreign trip:
When we first decided to just convert some cash on reaching the destination, we started thinking about the exchange rates. Then, one of the geniuses in our group said, “You know what guys, we’ll just buy the dollars when they are low and sell INR when it is high.” It only took us a total of one hour of research to understand how naïve his statement was.
Several traders have spent their entire lives in understanding currency exchange rates. Even they can’t sell one currency at its absolute high and buy another one at its absolute low. When we looked further, we got to know about spot rates and future rates in currencies. We finally decided that being able to buy foreign currency at the right time was way too complicated. And hence, we understood that an international card – forex or credit/debit, would be the most convenient option.
A major issue with carrying cash is that you might end up misplacing it. Imagine – going to Disneyland, and wondering where you should place a couple of thousand dollars as you go up and down the roller coaster rides. Not just that, even if you are travelling at night, it doesn’t exactly make sense to carry a ton of cash.
A forex card, on the other hand, is a much handier solution. First and foremost – it is pretty easy to carry. You can put it in your wallet, or in the pocket of your jacket or even on your phone cover. Second – if you lose it accidentally, you can get it blocked and get a new one, without having to worry about the loss of the entire prepaid balance in the card. Our forex card company told us that we would get a new one in our hand within a week if we end up losing our older one.
It would be very difficult to find a store where they don’t accept Visa, MasterCard or Forex cards. These international cards are now accepted even at the smallest of stores. Whether you are visiting a restaurant, going to the amusement park, renting a car or just buying a book – you can practically use your international card anywhere. All you have to do is ensure that your credit or debit card is internationally accepted and your prepaid forex card has enough balance.