Money Tops COVID as Leading Concern for International Travelers

Jessica Canter

Rising costs and inflation are creating concerns for US and Canadian travelers, but it’s not stopping the rise of travel plans.

As COVID testing mandates drop in the US and globally, it’s no wonder more folks are thinking about taking an international trip in the next year. However, economic factors such as inflation and rising costs are likely to impact future plans, which is why Wise set out to understand more about what is top of mind for travelers as we head into summer.

Likelihood of international travel is high, but concerns are rising too

In a recent Wise survey of US and Canadian consumers, findings show that 43% of US consumers are likely to travel internationally in the next 12months, and rising costs are impacting international travel plans for almost half (46%) of consumers. For Canadian consumers, 67% reported being likely to take an international trip over the next 12 months, and 43% are looking to save more money before booking their next trip.

Of the US respondents who are less likely to travel abroad, the top deterrents are:

  • Not having the money to afford it (47%)
  • COVID (37%),
  • Inflation (27%)

At the same time, 46% of respondents say running out of money is a top emergency they worry about when traveling abroad. And 42% said they worry about getting COVID and having to extend their trip to quarantine in their destination location — a factor potentially no longer relevant as testing requirements have been lifted.

Money saving hacks abound among US travelers

The study revealed widespread economical savviness among a majority of US consumers, with over four in five (84%) respondents saying they use some money-saving hacks for travel, with the most popular methods being:

  • Booking during the cheapest days to fly (38%)
  • Buying groceries or dining in locally (35%)
  • Traveling during the destination's off season (31%)
  • Using a credit card with travel rewards (31%)
  • Seeking out the cheapest exchange rates (23%).

At the same time, US respondents also admit to some bad travel habits:

  • Being unsure of whether there is a cost, or thinking there is no cost, for spending money internationally (5%)
  • Not planning activities ahead of time (41%)
  • Not budgeting enough money when booking travel plans (30%)
  • Booking their travel last minute (22%)
  • Forgetting to exchange currencies ahead of time (17%)

Plus, more than 1 in 10 (12%) US respondents admit to booking travel plans based on what they see on social media without considering budget. That number more than doubles to more than 27%, when looking at the Gen Z population specifically.

When looking to pay locally, cash is still a go-to

The research revealed mixed approaches for how US consumers plan to pay while traveling abroad. Of the four in five (79%) who plan to use physical currency, their reasons include:

  • Wanting to have cash on hand in case of emergencies (62%)
  • Wanting to be prepared to pay where a card is not accepted (51%)
  • Believing merchants in their destination will require them to use cash (31%)
  • Wanting to pay like a local (27%).

Of the almost one-quarter (21%) of US respondents that do not plan to use physical currency, reasons include:

  • Planning to use a debit or credit card (55%)
  • Being concerned about their safety (23%)
  • Worrying about high exchange rates (22%).

The same number of US respondents (17% each) say they intend to use a digital wallet, plan to visit multiple destinations that require too many currencies, or don't want the hassle of exchanging leftover cash. Additionally, one in 10 (11%) of travelers plan to use a money transfer app to pay for things abroad.

This is slightly different among Canadian consumers, as 81% plan to use their credit card the most when traveling abroad, 31% plan to rely on their debit card, and 16% plan to rely on their digital wallets when they travel over the next 12 months. The motive for Canadians paying in physical currency includes:

  • Wanting to pay like a local (33%)
  • Wanting to have physical currency on-hand in case their card is not accepted (65%)
  • Liking to travel with cash on hand in the case of emergencies (70%).

Insider tips to know before you travel

If you’re planning a trip this summer make sure you’re not losing money from hidden fees being charged by banks when using a credit card or taking money out of the ATM. It’s important to always pay in local currency whenever possible to avoid dynamic currency conversion and to watch out for hidden fees from ATM providers.

In fact, you should consider utilizing a universal account from Wise for a convenient, fast and affordable way to manage your money. No one wants to be worried about going over budget when traveling from fees you’re not aware of, and Wise is making it easier than ever to stay on track and focus on what really matters: enjoying your trip.

On behalf of Wise, Researchscape International polled 2,221 U.S. and Canadian adult (age 18+) consumers in May 2022. Results were weighted by age, gender, Census division, education level, and employment status.

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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