AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Cash Vs Credit Card

Back home in the UK I never carried cash, everything I spent was on plastic. This wasn’t always good, going out for a few drinks would often lead to a hunt for an ATM but usually I didn’t have to think about carrying money. A day out could consist of buying fuel, entrance fees, lunch, something from the gift shop, a meal on the way home and none of that would require a single coin or note to be handed over.

Now contrast that to travelling in Asia. Almost everything I do is cash based. Every restaurant, entrance fee or ticket has to be purchased using cash. This means thinking about how much is going to be spent that day; carry too little and we could end up stranded or hungry, carry to much and we’re vulnerable to theft (flashing cash isn’t showing off, it’s an invitation to be mugged).

Our method for cash is simple. We have a card from Caxton (one each) which we load directly from our bank account and is free to use in any ATM anywhere in the world (Thailand and Philippines has an ATM fee though). This is a simple and cheap way to get cash in the local currency. Although in the last couple of weeks we have been in the northern Philippines where there was only one ATM which apparently doesn’t like half of foreign cards anyway so we had to carry enough cash for two weeks.

But looking over our numbers has shown a statistic which was surprising to me at first. Only 60% of our expenditure so far (114 days) has been cash based, the remaining 40% has been credit card based. This surprised me because I feel like everything is carried out in cash. Looking at the numbers in more detail has shown that 10% of our expenditure has been on flights (4 booked so far) which reflects just how much flights cost compared to our usual day-to-day spending. 14% of expenditure has been hotels/hostels paid using the credit card. Our strategy now is to try and book hotels using Agoda (so long as the price is right) as they charge the credit card directly and there is no need to pay the hotel in cash on arrival. So that accounts for 24% of the credit card expenditure. A further 2.5% on food and 0.5% on alcohol are rare additions to the credit card. The remaining 13% is from shopping or paying for tours and excursions on the credit card.

Old habits obviously die hard. By booking and paying for hotels in advance through hotel and hostel websites means I have less expenditure in cash and is therefore out of sight and out of mind, but it easily adds up. There is a downside to this method and that is flexibility. Book a place which we dislike and there is no refund if we want to leave early! So when I think about it 60/40 ratio of cash to credit card makes sense, it just feels wrong because the cash part is what we see. It also shows just how easy it is to run up bills and let the credit cards get out of control (our cards pay off in full every month and we keep track of them).

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