I published the original post about traveling with no credit card in 2016, although I bet many travelers have already proven that a cardless travel is doable. By this, I mean nailing a whole trip abroad without the help of the mighty plastic. I have traveled across Southeast Asia, booked flights, and crossed borders without any credit card. Some of you may say, “Nah, but in the US and Europe, you need a credit card!” Well, yeah but credit cards are best used for an emergency. If you’re armed with a debit card with enough money in it, and cash that will work for you throughout the trip, you’re good to go!
You don’t have a credit or debit card but you need to book a flight? Then book through a travel agent or purchase your ticket at an airport ticket counter.
If your schedule is too busy to do any of these things, you can book online with two payment options – credit/debit card or payment centers.
Here’s the catch: there’s a cut-off payment for a cardless online booking. So you need to book and pay for your flight before the closing of the banking hours of the same day.
When you book a flight online and opt to pay through payment centers, you will get an email from the airline, stating your booking details and the instructions on how to pay for your plane ticket. Once your payment is completed, you will get another email confirming your booked flight. Incredibly easy!
We are no longer in the period where hostels and B&Bs decline bookings from non-credit card holders. You just need to pick the websites and/or accommodations that don’t require credit cards. I have been using Booking.com since I started traveling on my own. Cash payments are accepted upon arrival. I’m a big hostel hopper ever since and I never had a problem booking online with no credit card. (Recommended post: Signs That You are Overstaying in a Hostel). Hotels are the exception, of course. Normally, they require cards for online reservations. Still, there’s a way to do it without a credit card.
Of course, you must carry some cash for food, vehicle rentals, bus/taxi rides, and shopping. I would advise you to research first on the exchange rates before flying out of the country. Usually, I would just exchange an amount I need for the taxi from the airport of destination plus the initial payment for the hostel stay.
Once I start exploring the place, I would scout for money changers with better rates to offer. Hassle? Well, if you’ve done your research, you probably have the idea already on the average rates offered locally. When traveling, keep in mind that every cash machine withdrawal you make abroad means a surcharge.
So plan your expenses and withdrawals carefully. The trick is, withdraw the amount according to your budget for the entire trip and make it work.
If you’re not really keen on opening a credit card account, then the debit card can be your best alternative. I’ve been using VISA debit cards. Ideally, bring debit cards with either a VISA or Mastercard logo. Ask your bank about it.
Debit cards can be used like a typical ATM card or swiped liked a credit card at some restaurants and shops. Check with your bank before you leave to know about their surcharge. It’s wiser to inform the bank ahead of your trip than making an overseas call later on. You need to be sure your debit card will work in your destination. Alert your bank that you’ll be making withdrawals. The bank will ask for the duration of your trip. Say, I’m traveling for a month – I would ask the bank to activate my debit card for foreign transactions for a month and 10 days. You need to be ready for emergency withdrawals when you decide to extend your trip for a few days.
Three of the most widely used logotypes worldwide are Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, and Plus. If your debit card has any of these logos, you can use debit cards for cash withdrawals and over-the-counter payments abroad.
You can also use PayPal to pay for your flights when booking. If you don’t have a PayPal account yet, open one! When booking a flight, simply select PayPal as your payment method.
So do you still fear to go abroad because you don’t have a credit card? I hope my tips have helped you stop worrying. Don’t let it stop you from taking your first adventure. If you have qualms about this, drop your comments below and I’ll respond to you as soon as I can.
Sheila, a.k.a. The Solo Tripper. Former news desk editor, full-time traveler, freelance writer.