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Banking on Easy, Fee-Free Spring Travel?

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With the changing of the seasons and a promise of warmer weather ahead, people across the country are finalizing their plans and wallets for spring break. As many Americans hit the road for vacations and family trips in the coming weeks, ensuring easy access to cash will be an important part of their vacation planning.

When traveling, it's helpful to have a plan to access cash without incurring fees and to be able to reach your bank quickly in the event of a problem. Here are a few tips to help you budget for that vacation and have easy and fee-free access to your money, even when far from home:

  • Consider travel insurance. Familiarize yourself with the various types of travel insurance that cover car rental or insure you if you miss a flight or a cruise. Also take inventory of the coverage you already have through your credit cards and your life, health and auto-insurance policies to determine if you have ample coverage to forego buying additional insurance.
  • Make sure you know how to reach your bank. Familiarize yourself with your bank's schedule and the best way to reach customer service; in fact, it is a good idea to store your bank's customer service number in your mobile phone for easy access. Choosing a bank that offers 24/7 live customer service and is available via email or chat in addition to by phone is a good idea, especially when traveling overseas where you might be grappling with different time zones and international phone charges.
  • Avoid fees. Many banks charge "out of network" fees when you don't use their proprietary ATMs. If you're traveling to an area where your bank doesn't have a large presence, it's a good idea to carry extra cash or switch to a bank that doesn't charge these fees, or that reimburses them. Otherwise these fees can quickly add up and eat into of your holiday spending money.
  • Take advantage of smartphone apps. As with so many aspects of our lives, travel has been made more convenient by a slew of user-friendly mobile applications. For example, an ATM and cash locator app allows you to easily find nearby ATMs and merchants that provide a cash back option with purchase. This is especially handy when traveling to areas you're not very familiar with. Make sure to download/update your app before you leave so that you have the most up-to-date information at your fingertips.
  • Stay within budget. Consider creating a special and separate account designated completely to holiday and travel needs. This can help you manage expenses better without dipping into other savings plans or going into debt.
  • Use deals where you can. Find out if your bank offers any rewards programs or deals at national retailers and map out any you can take advantage of on your route. Cutting a few extra dollars out here and there will allow you to put more towards souvenirs and gifts to bring back home.
  • Plan ahead. It's never too late to start stashing away vacation funds. One way to do so is to take advantage of interest checking and savings accounts or short-term CD options when planning for next year.