Pre-departure/Central America/ 1 month before departure: Money matters!

I am now roughly one (1) month away from my solo backpacking trip to Central America. I have been looking forward to this trip but now dreading the to do list aka travel checklist. I get sway easily about the should or should not to bring in this phase. For today’s journal, I decided to focus on all money matters, whether on the home front or preparation for when I’m on the road. So far, I’ve only managed to get a few items tick off because these are things that can be done in advance. For items that required a later action date or must be done closer to my departure date and this list is just that, a reminder to eliminate my forgetful mind 🙂

  1. Create a budget  (rough draft, but considered done)
  2. Back-up “oh, shit!” credit card
  3. Prepaid Credit Card
  4. Notify Citibank of my travel plan. (Done. This is my primary bank but I would only use their ATM/debit card as the last resort due to double whammy foreign conversion fee & foreign ATM fee)
  5. Notify Swab of my travel plan
  6. Notify credit card company of my travel plan. (Done. Capital One have online travel notification under Customer Service. Unfortunately, it’s only good for 60 days)
  7. U.S. currency. Try to get “brand new” notes from the bank.
  8. Wallet – hidden wallet – Eagle Creek (Debating if I should make my own. The store bought one have belt loop so it can only be wear with pant/wearing belt. What if I ended up wearing non-pant instead? )
  9. Wallet throw down. (Done. Will be using one of my old, beat up wallet).
  10. Travel Friendly Checking Account/ATM card. (Done. Swab account offer no ATM fee/foreign fee).
  11. Travel Friendly Credit Card Account. (Done. Capital One. No foreign conversion fee)
  12. Traveler’s check – small denomination for CA. (Citibank charges 1.5 % on the amount ie $500 purchase =$7.5 USD in fee. Gotta check with my credit union tomorrow. Want to avoid double whammy charge if possible (purchase fee + cash out fee when in country)
  13. Sign up for paperless statements for all bills
  14. Ask a trusted loved one to have power of attorney over your finances in case you can’t access them
  15. Make copies of your important log-ins: credit cards, online bill pay, blog and email log-ins.

What do you think of my money matters check list before my big trip? Have I left off something I shouldn’t? What other items do you think I should add to the list? Do share.

Updates from the road (12-07-2012)

5. Swab: Had to call Swab to activate my travel notification. The rep. advised me NOT to use any ATM by “Credomatic”. I also learned from other travelers in the internet land that “Credomatic” is a credit card processor here in Guatemala whose data center have been compromised. Therefore, your information can be stolen and re-sell if you use ATM by “Credomatic”. This has nothing to do with the ATM terminal itself.

***Try to use an ATM that is part of a bank instead of stand-alone, in the middle of no where ATM. Most ATM terminal have door. Use the lock, at-least while you’re using the ATM machine. There will be people that don’t care if you’re inside. They just swing the door and will either: hurt you physically or scare the sh……..t out of you since you’re so focused on getting your money.

*ATMs in Guatemala is Spanish only. It will dispense Quetzales only.

*ATMs in El Salvadaor will dispense US dollars since it is also their official currency

*ATMs in Nicaragua will be bi-lingual (English/Spanish). You will be given the option to chose your withdrawal in Cordobas or US dollars.

*ATMs in Panama will be bi-lingual (English/Spanish). Machine will dispense only US dollars as it is also the official currency.

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