How To Set Up Your Personal Finances To Travel The World

By the far the best decision I have ever made has been to leave my real life and start taking traveling seriously. (See my bucket list) This has brought a whole lot of new learning about who I am and how I fit into the world but more than anything it has taught me a lot about logistics. The following is the finance guide I wish I would have had before I started all of this. My hope is that this will help you move one step closer to traveling the world while helping you avoid some of the mistakes I have made.

Personal Finance and Travel

Set Up Your Personal Finances Now And Take The First Step To Traveling The World

The Setup:

One Primary Checking Account – This is the hub of your personal financial system. I put 3/4ths of my income in here and remaining quarter in my long term savings. I use this account to pay credit cards, fund other debit cards and as a general health meter of my finances.

One Primary Long Term Savings Account – I recommend having a separate account for your long term savings. This is important because it won’t be as tempting to take out of it if you don’t see it every time you check your normal bank balance. I am a huge fan of T Rowe Price. They offer easy to understand options, great prices and killer customer services. They are the only 1 800 number I actually enjoy calling.

One Credit Card – I will go more in depth in a minute into why I hate credit cards but I still recommend having at least one so that you can protect yourself from theft while earning spending rewards.

One Debit Card – Taking cash from your credit card is like playing with the devil. (The interest rates for cash are higher than the already crazily high rates for credit). For this reason, I recommend getting one debit card for the times you are in cash based cities or need to pay for things that can’t be paid for via credit.

Pro Tips:

The $100 Rule – Whenever I get to a new city, I go straight to the nearest ATM machine and take out the equivalent of $100 US in the local currency. This has worked well as it easily covers the initial taxi rides I need to take from the airport and if I were to get robbed, it is a low enough amount where I would be able to easily recover.

Scans – While at home, scan a copy of the front and back of everything you might potentially need while traveling. My short list includes:

  • Everything I normally have in my wallet (Credit cards, medical cards, etc…)
  • My birth certificate
  • My vaccination records
  • My passport
  • My reverend card (It is a lot easier to look like a good person if you can prove it)

Scan each document individually, convert them into PDFs, put them in a folder, ENCRYPT THE FOLDER, and either e-mail it to yourself or store it in Dropbox or somewhere else in the cloud.

Best International Bank Accounts:

Charles Schwab Checking Account – This account is worth having for one reason only. When using the given debit card, Charles Schwab will reimburse you for all ATM fees regardless of the type. This is a clear win for those of us who are tired of paying three dollars to access our own money.

City Bank, HSBC or JP Morgan Chase – While I am not a fan of any of these banks, I do have to admit they make a great resource as your hub accounts. They are safe, have a lot international locations and offer good credit card options. (This list might vary if your native city is outside of the United States)

Best International Credit Cards:

You probably don’t expect me to say this as a travel hacker but I hate credit cards. Yes I know they can be used to buy round the world tickets for 418 dollars. That said, I think they are dangerous and at least partly responsible for our current economic mess. (Which directly ruins more lives, guns or credit cards?) The people who create credit card reward programs are not stupid. They have data and they work very hard to make sure that the reward programs drive profit for them, not the credit card holders.

Although I have not yet been successful at removing credit cards from my life, I have made it a priority to minimize their use. As a necessity, I recommend having only one credit card. I chose the former of the two listed below.

A One World Airlines Miles Card – One World is the biggest airline program in the world. This means it gives you the most options. While there are some exceptions (see the frugal guy for more information on this kind of thing) most people will have the most success with using a credit card that helps them earn points on one of the One World partner airlines.


Venture Capital No Hassles – The beauty of this card is that it has not international transaction fees. You get to pay the best currency exchange rates without having to pay the standard $5 service fee. Its as simple as that.

Best International Money Services: – This free online service is hands down the best way to track your finances. It is compatible with hundreds of banks and works in the background so that you don’t have to it. Make it a point to teach it about your transactions once a week (it needs to learn to optimally help you) and this single touch point will become indispensable.

Life Lock – If you live your life online your odds of identity theft are higher than the already high odds of the general public. To protect yourself, I recommend signing up for Life Lock. One added bonus, I didn’t realize is that annual review of your credit score from the three major sources is included as part of this service.


The key to a successful personal finance system while traveling is simplicity. When you set out to see the world everything else is going to be complicated, make your money simple. The system above works really well for me. I highly recommend it to anyone who is ready to take traveling seriously.

Are they types of posts helpful? Is there another topic you would like me to write about? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Timo Smeets

    Great tips!

    This is an excelent guide for most people (myself included) and I will certainly talk to my wife about this tactic for our vacations although I think she wont (want to) understand… Shoes. clothes and other stuff seems to be very important to her :)

    Have a nice weekend Danny!

  • Great post with GREAT tips – thanks for sharing!

    Do you have any experience with using a fraud protector from your credit card? I use the Chase fraud protection (Visa card), which alerts via email for any “abnormal” activity – its a good service while travelling, but not sure its worth the monthly fee… thoughts?

    • Danny Dover

      I didn’t have that enabled and Chase used to call and e-mail me every time they saw something strange. That sounds essentially like the same thing except it was free (but also annoying).

      The money in your account is there money too. They want to protect.

  • Excellent tips! Thank you!

  • These are great tips! What I normally do with my bank account is this: I keep my entire paycheck in the bank. I use it to pay the bills, and essentially live off of. Any money that is left over when my next paycheck is deposited, is transferred over to savings. Any unexpected money that comes in (birthdays, house sitting, etc) gets deposited straight into savings. I have a big bucket list to fulfill, I’m going to need a hefty savings account.

    • Danny Dover

      I really like the simplicity of that system :-) I hope to move in that direction.

  • Eric Siu

    Nice tips Danny.

    I think to expand on this further, Ramit from does a fantastic job of explaining how to automate stuff with pictures and everything. He even has a best selling book to go with it.

    • Danny Dover

      Thanks for sharing, just subscribed to his blog and will be looking into the book. Cheers!

  • Great tips, Danny. I still scan my International Student Card even though it’s been a few years since I’ve been in school. But I figure having it might come in handy one day, I mean at least until I get my reverend card.

  • G

    Surprising to hear you recommend Life Lock when they’re tied into so many fraudulent affiliate sites (not saying you’re one, just mentioning their associations), which offer “free credit scores” but really are offers to sign you up for privacy protection.

    • Danny Dover

      Yeah, I like their service but don’t know much about their marketing tactics. It seems like it would be a hard niche with all of the black hat competition.

  • Pingback: Video: The One Packing List I Use For Traveling Everywhere | Life Listed()

  • Sebastien Tremblay

    these appear to be great tips for actually using the money while you are traveling, but I came here thinking to look at how you can afford to travel like you’ve been doing.
    Your life story is amazing and very inspirational, but is out of reach for most people who have only had an average salary for most of their life.
    Still the tips are good if you can afford to follow them. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the feedback Sabastien. I can see what you mean. Let me brainstorm on the topic and see if I can write a new post with ideas around what you are describing.

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