Traveling without a credit card is a nervewracking way to embark on your latest adventure. There’s the idea that credit cards are more secure and less prone to identity theft (true), or that debit cards or cash won’t be “good” in most places. However, you can absolutely travel without a credit card and still feel secure on your vacation. Here are several tips and alternatives to help you understand how to travel without a credit card.

How to travel without a credit card
How to travel without a credit card

1.Alternatives to Credit Cards

There are several alternatives to carrying a credit card while traveling. Debit cards, checks and wallet apps are among those alternatives.

Visa Debit and Mastercards

Just like a bank debit card, the money comes from your bank accounts. Money that you already have, rather than through credit. You can apply for one through your bank. Consider getting a Visa Debit Card because they are more widely accepted internationally.

Masterpass and Visa Checkout

These are essentially digital wallets, like a wallet app. When you sign up, you’re linking your online wallet to your debit or credit card. When making purchases through this Masterpass or Visa Checkout, your debit card will be charged. The money that you’re spending is withdrawn from your account, just as if you were using a regular debit card. The online wallet is nifty in that it keeps track of information such as shipping addresses.

Using Masterpass as an alternative to credit cards while traveling
Using Masterpass as an alternative to credit cards while traveling

Interac Online

Interac Online works similarly to an online wallet app, however, it is thought to be more secure. When making purchases you simply choose your bank and enter your account number to confirm payment. There’s no need for passwords or card numbers, so that information is not logged should you lose your phone. However, if you were to lose your phone, using one of these payment methods you would be putting yourself a great risk of identity theft.

  • Prior to your departure, let your bank know that you will be traveling, and where. If your bank sees suspicious activity on your accounts, in other locations they may see as a threat to your security and freeze your accounts.

2. Use a Debit Card

If you’re using a debit card the old fashioned way, it’s pretty easy to get by. Just be sure you have the appropriate funds in your account, as you will be paying with your own money. Be sure to add extra money into your account, because you never when an emergency will arise. It’s also wise to keep track of your spending, so you can respect your travel budget if you have on put in place. This can also help to avoid making overdraft charges, which can amount to exorbitant fees from your bank. Keeping track of your transactions and activity is another way to ease your mind of possible identity theft.

For Hotels

Yes, you can use a debit card in a hotel. There is always the concern that a temporary hold will be placed on your account, but that is mainly to cover incidentals. Check with the hotel beforehand to find out if there is a hold on debit cards, and how much. So as long as you don’t trash your hotel room, you shouldn’t fret too much about using a debit card. It’s your hard-earned money, in your account. Just be sure to have those extra funds mentioned above. This is also why you should notify your bank about your travel plans because hotel rooms can look like an unexpected, outrageous charge your bank might suspect is theft and freeze your account.

For Rental Cards

You can also use debit cards for rental cars, but there is the issue of a possible hold for incidentals. So again, don’t damage the rental car company’s property and you should be golden. It’s also worth opting out of getting a rental car on your trip and using Uber, Lfyt and your own 2 feet wherever you can.

For Airports

Airports are getting a little easier to deal with all the time (okay, they’re trying), so using your debit card for any reason in an airport should be a breeze.

3. Withdrawl Cash Before You Leave

Before leaving the country for your destination, stop by the bank. This will give you a chance to inform the bank of your travel plans and withdraw cash. Having plenty of cash on hand while traveling, is ideal. No cards, no risk of identity theft, no overdraft charges, just simple, cold-hard cash. However with cash, if you lose it, you won’t get it back. So be sure you know where it is at all times. Keep it stowed away your hotel room safe and whatever amount you think you’ll need that day keep it with you on your person at all times.

If you’re traveling with a credit card, withdrawing cash from an ATM at your destination is convenient and easy. However, since we’re not traveling with credit cards, you’ll have to withdraw cash prior to your departure and in the correct currency of your visiting country. You can order the correct currency from trusted online services like Travelex that will deliver the money to your door. There is a premium charge for the exchange rate but it’s smart to have enough cash on you at least for the few days in your destination to ensure your debit card is working.

If you need assistance with exchange rates for tour destination check out Solo Traveler.

Euros currency. Make sure to have cash on-hand before you leave, and in the correct currency of your destination
Euros in currency. Make sure to have cash-on-hand before you leave, and in the correct currency of your destination

4. Have a Debit Card Suitable for Travel Overseas

Let’s talk about debit cards some more. There are different kinds that work overseas, and some that don’t. There are also certain things you should keep in mind when using a debit card for international travel.

Having a debit card with a chip is the most secure way to use a debit card these days, and most countries only accept debit cards with chips. Avoid showing up in a foreign land without the right way to pay. Also, keep in mind that 4-digit pin codes are more widely used and accepted overseas than 5-digit pin codes.

Likely you’ll need an ATM at some point. Verify that your destination has the correct ATMS for your needs before leaving.  Plus, an ATM network managed by Visa and Cirrus, both managed by MasterCard have ATM locators. Check with Visa about Plus and MasterCard for Cirrus, on their websites beforehand. However, if you can avoid withdrawing from an ATM too frequently it would be for the best because there will always be a charge (around $5) for each withdrawal. If you need to make spare cash, purchase something from a store.

5. Prepaid Visa Cards

Most credit cards offer a prepaid card, like Visa or Mastercard. As mentioned above, Visa is more widely accepted overseas, so consider that one. Be sure to research the fees involved, and how you will be spending your prepaid card. It can come in handy for emergencies or unexpected purchases.

Prepaid debit visa cards
Prepaid debit visa cards

6. American Express Travelers Checks

Traveler’s checks are the most old-school way to do it. Sadly, they are so old school they have become obsolete in virtually every business. (2009 was I think the last time I used them, and stores and restaurants accepted them). These days, traveler’s checks can only be taken to the bank and exchanged for cash. They work like cash, but you need to make them into paper money for them to be useful to you. It’s good to have these on-hand, should you run into unexpected issues or come up short with funds. If you end up not using them on your trip, you can always take them to your local bank and exchange them for cash there.

American Express Travelers Checks as an alternative to credit cards
American Express Travelers Checks as an alternative to credit cards

Will you be traveling without a credit card on your upcoming trips? If so, did you find these tips helpful? Tell us in the comments below! And for more travel tips check out 6 Essential Travel Tips for LGBT Travelers.


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