It can be very hard to choose the right bank or card for traveling. Using your cards abroad could cost you a small fortune in the form of fees and charges by the bank or card issuers. And it’s hard to recommend banks or cards for you since some of them depend on citizenship in a certain country. I can only tell you how I do it and what I use although for most of you these cards won’t be an option.
I always take cash on my trips. If everything else fails, cash usually won’t. Although none of my cards have ever failed me to date (knock on wood), it’s nice to have that safety net. I usually take about $100 in cash with me. I specifically take US Dollars and not Swiss Francs no matter where I go. You can exchange US Dollars almost everywhere while it might not be possible with a currency that isn’t that well-known.
And if you have any cash left-over after your trip, I already wrote what you can do with it.
Depending on the location, this is my most important card. I don’t pay with it but I use it to withdraw cash from ATM’s. I use the PostFinance Card as my debit card abroad. It works worldwide and charges (only) 5.- CHF per withdraw. With a Privatkonto Plus these charges do not apply.
This is where things get a bit tricky. I don’t recommend to carry too much cash on you because the more you have the more you can lose or can be stolen. On the other hand, the more you have to withdraw cash, the more you pay. You have to find the sweet spot for yourself. If you don’t want to withdraw too often, make sure you don’t store all your cash in the same place. Spread it out a bit, that way it is less likely that it gets lost or stolen all at once.
I rarely use my credit card while traveling, but that’s just me. But I take it with me nevertheless. Some places might require a credit card as proof that you have enough money with you. It’s also nice to have if you want to book a room or car online and reserve it with your card. Credit Cards usually charge a way higher fee when withdrawing cash than debit cards. But it is nice to know that I could withdraw with it in an emergency where my other cards stopped working or I lost them.
As far as paying with credit cards goes, I almost never do that. Most credit cards charge a fee if you pay in a different currency. It can be cheaper than withdrawing and paying with cash though. The only places I used my credit card was the USA and the UAE. They accept cards almost everywhere while it might not be as widely accepted in Thailand.
As a credit card, I use the Visa from PostFinance. As the debit card above, this one is also free.
Some cards are geo-blocked as a default. Make sure to check if your card is geo-blocked. If the bank put a block on your card you can’t use it abroad. Ask them to unlock it for you so you can use it everywhere.
What credit cards are available to you depends on many factors like age or location which is why I can’t possibly review every card there is. The folks over at Review.com, however, reviewed a ton of credit cards for every possible use case. You can find more information on that here.
In conclusion, I recommend taking a little bit of cash and at least two different cards on your trips. Always have a backup because you never know.