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Bring Dollars Or Go Cashless? Here Are *Practical* Money Tips For Your Next Trip Abroad

To help you make the best money decisions during the *revenge travel* season.
money tips abroad
PHOTO: Pexels

Preparing for your next trip abroad? Whether the country you're visiting is as close as Singapore or halfway across the world, all travelers are concerned about one thing—money. Thanks to technology, we have options on what to do with our baon: go cashless, bring cold, hard cash from home, or do both.

To help you make the best money decisions during revenge travel season, we rounded up some practical money tips from frequent travelers so you can choose which works best for you. Just make sure that your preferred option works well in the country you're visiting for a hassle-free experience.

Take note of these smart money tips before your next international trip:

Research about the current exchange rate

Going to another country means using a different currency, so it (literally) pays to know the current exchange rate. The exchange rate is defined as the price of the foreign currency unit against its domestic equivalent.

For example, one U.S. dollar (as of writing) is equivalent to P55.8760. If you're visiting Singapore, one Singapore dollar is equivalent to P41.7671.

There's no set currency and the value fluctuates multiple times a day, so it's best to monitor its movement so you would know when's the best time to buy or even sell foreign currency.

Knowing the current exchange rate can also help you compute if the money exchange rate in money changers is high or cheap.

Bring U.S. dollars or Philippine pesos for exchange at your destination

The easiest currency to bring to your travels is the U.S. dollar, which is widely used across the world. While money exchange shops accept other currencies aside from the U.S. dollar, it still depends if they will accept Philippine peso.


"Depende kung saan ka pupuntang bansa, U.S. $ is king pa din. Kung around ASEAN except Vietnam, okay lang kahit mga U.S. $100 cash then spend using debit/credit cards," said aviation geek and tech news writer Bob Reyes told

Before you leave for your trip, search for a money changer where you can swap your cash for the local currency of your destination with minimal fees. In Hong Kong, for example, frequent travelers swear by the cheap exchange fees offered by the many money changers at the Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of the major tourist and shopping areas in Kowloon. Based on this writer's experience, money exchange was cheaper there compared to more accessible areas like the airport or train stations.

Bringing cash with you is also a plus in case of technical issues with cashless options.

Take note that you may bring up to P50,000 in legal tender, checks, drafts, notes, or money orders. In excess of that, you will be asked for a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' written authorization.

For foreign currencies, you may bring up to U.S. $10,000 or its equivalent in other currencies. In excess of that, a written declaration is required, the BSP said.

Convert your peso to new currency before leaving

New 1000 Peso Bill Wallet
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For communications officer Robert de Roque who has traveled to Japan four times and to Australia twice, it's best to convert peso into Japanese yen or Australian dollars before leaving the Philippines.

His tip? Look for a money changer with cheap fees. In his case, he has a suki go-to money changer that he visits before his trips.

He also calls ahead so the money changer has time to look for the currency he needs. It's the same in banks where you need to inform them ahead of time so they can accommodate your foreign currency exchange.

"Lagi i-monitor ang exchange rate. 'Pag bumaba than the usual, papalit ka na agad. Ang hino-honor na rate naman ay the day na um-order ka, not the day na mag-claim ka," he told

For backup and in case he runs out of cash, he always has his credit card with him.

Withdraw from ATMs in the country you're in

If you don't plan on bringing cash with you or maybe you just don't have the time to look for a money changer ahead of your trip, you can always withdraw at your destination using your credit card.

"Based on experience, unless may U.S. $ ka on hand (i.e. hindi mo na ipapalit from peso to U.S. $), better na mag-withdraw na lang sa bansa kung saan ka pupunta. Kasi lugi ka sa conversion kung peso to dollar tapos dollar to local currency", said university lecturer Nikki, who tried and tested this method during her five visits to South Korea.


A must before you leave: call your bank ahead of time to inform them of the location and duration of your travel so it wouldn't tag your transactions abroad as fraud, which will prevent you from using your cards.

Use your credit or debit cards for purchase

Bank card

You can also use your plastic money for cashless transactions during your international travels.

"Sa South Korea kasi, lahat puwede i-card so 'di mo masyado kailangan ng cash," said Nikki.

"Ngayon Visa or Mastercard debit card gamit ko para mag-withdraw, kahit pambayad... ATMs and debit/credit card acceptance are now very common unlike in the 2000s to 2010s," said Twitter user José

Project director Mike Pacheo said he used his credit cards for all his expenses in Fukuoka, Japan like transportation, food, and shopping. The rebate is another irresistible reason he chose to use his cards. The only time he used cash was for street foods and hawker-style eateries where only cash was accepted, he told

"If you're going to first world countries like Singapore, France, Germany, etc. bring minimal local currency because everything's cashless there. I was surprised ATM cards with NFC symbols worked for the subway turnstile in Singapore! No need to buy train cards. In Europe, from fast food chains to small local shops, you just need to tap your credit card," growth marketing head Tob told

"I withdrew P20,000 worth of euros but didn't use them all up kasi most of my transactions are via credit card," said Tob, adding that travelers should be conscious of their swipes to avoid maxing out their cards.

When purchasing using your cards, you may be asked if you would want to pay in pesos or the local currency in the place you're in.

In comes DCC or dynamic currency conversion, which happens when you pay in your currency at home (Philippine peso for Filipinos) versus the local currency (Hong Kong dollars if you're in Hong Kong). This means the conversion takes place when the sale happens, according to HSBC.


Choosing pesos over the local currency may be more expensive because merchants may charge extra fees due to DCC. HSBC said you could save more if you spend in the local currency, meaning spending Hong Kong dollars while in Hong Kong instead of the Philippine peso as Visa or Mastercard will be the one to set the exchange rate.

Use GCash

Gcash in Singapore
Yep, you can use GCash in Singapore. 

Yes, Filipinos' favorite mobile wallet works outside the Philippines, too. GCash Overseas allows users to tap and spend in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, U.S., Italy, Japan, and Australia.

The best part is, there are no service or remittance charges for cross-border payments.

All you have to do is download the app, scan your valid ID, take a selfie as a requirement for verification, and start cashing in using GCash Overseas.

You may also use GCash in other countries with Alipay+ like Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea. (Coming soon to United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Australia.) 

For countries using Alipay+, you just need to tap the QR button at the bottom middle of your screen, choose "Pay abroad with Alipay+", and show the barcode and QR code to the cashier who will scan it to complete your payment.

*This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by editors.

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