Making money is normally the focus for most location independent professionals – and especially for those aspiring to be. But there are a few things you can be doing right from the start, and certainly before you hit the road, which will make for a more hassle-free experience, especially when you’re on the road.
Take it from me, you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a foreign land unable to withdraw any cash, credit cards being refused and only a couple of coins left in your pocket!
To avoid an uncomfortable scenario like that, here are a few things you might want to do sooner rather than later…
Choose the right bank
We’ve had varying experiences from a range of banks that we’ve used. You’ll hear HSBC touted as one of the most international, online-friendly banks and it’s a decent recommendation although I’ve yet to find any banking service that beats my UK online bank (Smile) for online accessibility & service (I’ve been able to do *everything* I’ve wanted online, when HSBC has failed) . When you’re looking for a LIP-friendly bank account, check out the following:
- Full online access – not just balance checking, you need to be able to do as much as possible online or via a secure messaging system.
- International charges for withdrawals & transfers – some are way higher than others (Bank of America is extortionate, so I’m told).
- Decent interest rates and lower fees – sensible to look at with any bank account you choose.
Keep your bank & credit card companies informed
It’s fairly routine these days that banks & credit card companies will put a hold on your account if they suspect “unusual behaviour”. And unusual behaviour is pretty common when you’re location independent – withdrawing cash from Dubai one day, Bangkok the next, HK the next. To help ensure your survival lines aren’t cut at a crucial time, you should inform your bank of your travel plans – your countries/cities and dates – and make sure you keep these updated.
Related to the first suggestion, selecting a bank with whom you can communicate via secure message is infinitely preferable than having to call them, or have them try & call you multiple times a day.
Sign up to reward schemes before you book travel plans
Utilising credit cards is a personal choice but if you do use them, then consider looking at some of the more ‘reward’ focused cards – those which are linked to airlines can be beneficial, particularly if you fly the same airline for most of your routes.
Take a similar approach with hotel and airline (and even car hire) loyalty schemes – even if you rarely plan to use them, the fact that you’re a member will sometimes reap you some handy perks (like online check-in, being able to pick your seats before non-members etc.).
It sometimes doesn’t take much to reach the next tier on some schemes either – we reached Silver status on Emirates Skywards program (one of the best, most flexible schemes around) with just 1 business class flight and a couple of return economy flights in a year. Similarly, we’ve been upgraded to premium economy several times on Virgin flights for no other reason I can think of except we’re part of their reward scheme and have been for a few years now. For the hassle of around 30 seconds to sign up, sometimes the rewards far outweigh the cost.
Plan cash withdrawals carefully
Withdrawing cash overseas can be a costly exercise in more ways than one. Some of you may recognise the following scene…
You’ve arrived late at night in an unfamiliar country. Hurrying to find a cash machine so you can get the hell out of the airport and back to your accommodation to sleep, you don’t pay much attention to any of the cash machine messages nor have you really got the exchange rate sorted out in your head yet.
So you plump for what sounds like a reasonable amount and stuff the cash quickly in your wallet in case any pickpockets are watching. Upon consideration & often with a night’s sleep behind you, you realise that you’ve:
- Either withdrawn way too much & now have to carry all that cash with you or…
- Not withdrawn nearly enough and been charged a small fortune for the pleasure
The takeaway lessons? Make sure you take notice of the fee notifications that most machines give you and do a few minor calculations on the flight over to ensure you know how much you want to withdraw the first few times and what that equates to in your home currency.
Consider setting a weekly budget
Figuring out how much things cost in a new destination can be fun – until you realise you’ve just spent what amounts to £8/$12 on a piece of cheese (yes, it has happened to me). It can take a while to work out what items are cheap, reasonable or expensive on location – and until you’ve done a few shopping trips, it’s worth considering setting yourself a weekly budget and withdrawing that amount of cash to ensure you don’t make any costly mistakes.
There are at least 2 benefits to this: it makes you take more notice of and become aware of the cost of goods on location and it enables you to make cross-country comparisons more easily. For example, we know how far a £50 weekly food budget gets us in Cape Town, Phuket, Toronto, Grenada, Buenos Aires and most of the places we’ve been to so we can quickly get a good sense of the costs of living and how they compare in a new destination.