Cash, Credit or Debit: Spending While Away from Home

Money and calculatorFor a lot of motorhome owners, the question of currency and payment occurs every year and there never seems to be a cost effective answer. Whatever you do, you end up spending too much cash, hammering the credit card and those Euros don’t go quite as far as they should! Though we can’t really help you curb the spending and, of course, you should enjoy yourself as much as possible while on holiday, there are definitely cheaper ways to spend than others. Here’s our guide to funding your motorhome trip…

The Simplicity of Cash

Though in everyday use we’ve moved on a lot from cash and it certainly doesn’t dominate our high street or supermarket shopping any more, it’s still extremely useful if you’re on a motorhome trip. You’ll find that lots of smaller campsites, restaurants and cafes particularly in the less well connected and more remote parts of the UK that still only take cash, and if you’re in rural parts of Europe, Spain in particular, you’ll have no option but to use coins and notes.

Cash can be used as a really good budgeting tool as well. Taking out what you expect to spend can help you keep track of all those purchases; if you run out of cash you know you’re over budget for the week and you can make sure you withdraw a limited amount next week.

When travelling in the EU, you will have to get Euros or, of course, whatever local currency you’ll need. Though currency rates fluctuate wildly and often, your local bank is usually a very cheap option for foreign cash but you’ll stand to lose out if you end up changing small amounts back and forth. Don’t worry about changing that spare €50, keep hold of it and spend it in the future.

Debit and Pre-Paid Cards

Another nice way to manage your spending when you’re away is on a debit or pre-paid card. When you’re at home, using your debit card as and when you can is the most secure way of spending. Cash is always a theft risk and, particularly if you’re carrying more cash than you have covered on your motorhome insurance policy, a debit card is considerably safer.

It’s never wise to rely completely on debit cards however, as many places still don’t accept all brands. The Netherlands for example favours Maestro and their own brand of Chipknip cards; Mastercard and Visa are accepted in only a very small number of places. Equally, pay-phones won’t take cards, so a few coins are extremely useful.

If you’re travelling abroad, a pre-paid card can be an excellent way to avoid credit card and debit card fees. Before you travel you simply top-up the card with however much cash you need to travel with. Then, where you can, spend that abroad and avoid the overseas fees that a lot of debit card providers charge you on transactions.

Credit Cards

Though any spending on credit cards needs to be well managed and you need to make sure you’re adequately managing your debt, credit cards can actually be very efficient for motorhome owners. A credit card, providing you have the correct direct debit set up to help you pay it off, can help you to budget and can also be a surprisingly cheap way of spending.

When it comes to credit card fees you could also find that doing things like motorhome hire can be lower in comparison to debit cards. You should always check the rates of your own cards, but you can also find the rates that your bank allocates are quite favourable when compared to taking out cash or using a debit card. Just remember you shouldn’t take out cash on a credit card when travelling: it’s almost always very expensive and you will be charged interest.

As a motorhome owner it’s also very wise to have a credit card with a reasonable limit in reserve just in case you get hit by an emergency. Even the best motorhome insurance policies can’t always cover your immediate cash needs, so if you have a repair or a situation where you just need to get back, it’s wise to have a big limit available which you can cover by claiming it back later.

In reality, most motorhome owners will find they want a mix of cash, credit and debit cards to cover all bases. Whatever system you choose to use, it’s wise to think about it before you go: credit and debit card applications take a very long time so don’t expect to be accepted a week before you travel.