One-third of cyber attacks on banks are successful per year.
The worst scenario that you could suffer from would involve losing all of your money while you’re overseas.
While every financial app and bank offers robust security you should never stop safeguarding your information. Otherwise, you’re leaving yourself exposed to while traveling or moving abroad.
Throughout my four years overseas, I have experimented with various ways to enhance my privacy and security. And so far, they’ve worked. After knocking on wood and finishing this guide, you can now have a better idea of how to protect yourself financially while overseas (or at home).
How I Came up With These Tips
I’m paranoid when it comes to protecting my information. That’s why I’ve explored various privacy forums and dove into a trove of tools provided by Privacytools.io. Also, I’ve read what other expats and travelers have done while overseas that led to protecting themselves.
None of these tips are guaranteed to protect you, but they’re good preventative measures and ways to protect your data.
15 Best Tips To Protect Your Finances While Abroad
1. Handling Cash
First, build a budget and allocate your expenses. Next, figure out what you want to purchase with a card and where you’ll want to use cash. Next, once per month, pull out all the cash you’ll need for categories like play money, groceries, and transportation.
I say do this once per month to reduce potential ATM or banking expenses and fees related to getting to a bank.
Afterward, divide your cash. Store some in a dummy wallet, hide some in a money belt, and elsewhere. Finally, put everything else in your main wallet.
2. Managing Spare Change
Spare change, the bane of my existence. I usually store spare change on contactless cards that I use for public transportation, but you likely can’t do that in most areas. Save your change at home and find ways to exchange it for easier to manage funds.
For instance, if you’re visiting the US, you can pour your spare change into machines in casinos or supermarkets in exchange for cash or gift cards.
3. Save for an Emergency
According to Vanguard, you should have at least 3 to 6 months of living expenses set aside in case of an emergency. To protect yourself from a hopefully unlikely scenario, you should set aside a percentage of your earnings and put it in your emergency account.
While storing your emergency savings, you’ll want to make a little interest. Especially since you technically shouldn’t have to dig into it. Otherwise, you’re wasting a lot of potential earnings.
These three are the best options for vehicles to store your emergency savings account:
- Certificate of Deposit (CD): they require you to hold your money in the CD for a set amount of time, but they earn higher than most other accounts
- Money Market Account: these usually require a higher minimum deposit but offer better rates than bank accounts
- High-interest savings account: the best route to take when first building your emergency savings account
4. How I Recommend Banking While on the Move
Don’t do any banking over your phone. SIM card identity theft will rob you of all your money. You’ll need a phone number when using your bank abroad. If you haven’t left the US, sign up for Google Fi. It’s a mobile plan you can use abroad.
However, don’t make the same mistake as me. You must use the service in the US a few days before leaving. Otherwise, Google will deactivate your service without any notice.
After signing up for Google Fi, use the Google Fi number to get a free Google Voice number. That way, you have a backup number.
5. Use a Backup Phone
If you have two phones, use one for your Time-based One-time Password (TOTP) applications. That way, if someone steals one phone, they won’t steal the one with your passcode generator.
Also read: Guide to unlocked phones
6. Secure Yourself on Public WiFi
If you bank on public WiFi, use a VPN. I recommend Mullvad VPN (budget) or ExpressVPN (more servers). On a side note, only use financial services when you’re at your base of operations or home.
7. Use 2-Factor Authentication When Possible
If your bank offers 2-factor (2FA) or Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) authentication, always choose that option. If your service does offer U2F, I highly recommend buying two YubiKeys and choosing that authentication method. It’s the safest route you can go.
Also, I recommend two keys because you can use one as the main and the other as your backup.
8. Get Creative With Storing Backup Codes
Whether you’re using U2F or 2FA, you’ll want to save the backup codes your service provides. That way, you have a way into your account. The same goes for password management tools, which I’ll cover in a second.
You’ll want to store these off of your devices in case you encounter a disaster. At the same time, you must ensure that no one can find these codes. You can go overboard and prepare yourself for the event of a fire and flood by purchasing steel plates and engraving your backup codes.
Or you could jot the information on a piece of paper. Either way, you’ll need to store your backup codes somewhere no thief would look. Some examples that come to mind are:
- Spare paint cans
- False bottom drawers
- Fake plumbing pipes
- A sliced tennis ball
- Inside a couch pillow
9. Mask Your Email
Use an email masking service like SimpleLogin or AnonAddy so you’re technically not using the same email for your banking as with other websites. These websites let you create aliases that forward emails to your inbox. Using either of these services prevents a hacker from finding your real email.
10. Use Password Management Software
Never let your password save your bank account’s passwords or card information. Instead, use an open-source password manager like Bitwarden. That way, you don’t store your financial passwords anywhere a nosy person could find them.
Also, ensure you log out of your bank account whenever you exit your browser. It’s inconvenient, but I’ve lost money by making this mistake.
11. Disguise Your Debit Cards
Speaking of disguising, use a service like Privacy.com to disguise your debit cards. Their service produces disguise or burner cards that you can use to pay for goods and services. In addition, it prevents you from putting your real debit card information on a website that can face a cyber attack.
I wrote a review for Privacy here. Check it out to learn more.
These are random tips that don’t fit under a specific category:
12. Continually check to see whether your travel notices have expired.
13. Keep at least two personal bank accounts, and don’t forget to have a separate business account for freelancing or entrepreneur endeavors.
14. Divide your funds: don’t store everything in one spot.
15. Don’t mix business and personal expenses. Make doing taxes easier on yourself.
Secure Your Finances Overseas
Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that any of these tips will work. However, they’re suggestions on how they can bolster your overall privacy and help you better mitigate any risks anywhere on the globe.
I’m going to admit something. This article was an extension of my guide on the best online banks for travelers and expats. I didn’t want to fill it with unrelated content, so I created this post.
The best banks and financial services for nomads, expatriates, and travelers are here. I tested seven platforms on somewhat strict criteria to give you a better idea of good overseas services.