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How do you handle your $ on a long hike?
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Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
How do you handle your $ on a long hike? on 11/09/2013 15:08:42 MST Print View

Recently while on a long hike, hubby and I had our credit card compromised at a hotel chain (the bank caught it within a half hour) and the bank shut it off, which was a bother, and we only caught it because we were able to go online and check the account. This time we luckily had carried some cash for transportation and that tided us over with expenses. And I had brought another to use for backup, but my questions to all are:

On a hike like the CDT, AT, or PCT how do you manage your $ for things like food and hotels and other unforeseen expenses? Hotels/Motels mostly only take cards as far as our experience.
Do you bite the bullet and use ATM's for cash or just get extra when using the card?
Do you use a credit or debit card, and which one do you consider "safer" from theft?

Thanks in advance for the advice!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: How do you handle your $ on a long hike? on 11/09/2013 19:06:58 MST Print View

I would probably take two credit cards and no debit cards. Debit cards have increased risk IMO.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
some cash on 11/09/2013 19:19:01 MST Print View

depending on the trip... Some cash... nothing like cash in a pinch...


Andrew Zajac

Locale: South West
Re: How do you handle your $ on a long hike? on 11/09/2013 19:22:46 MST Print View

I recently finished the PCT with my girlfriend. We managed money by putting an equal amount of money into a checking account and using a debit card associated with that account for all expenses. I also brought my credit card which was a visa card in case the debit card, which was a master card, didn't work. We started with $300 cash, but only had to get cash again once or twice on the whole trail. Nearly everybody can take a card now. We didn't have any issues with theft and got cash back while buying groceries when we needed it. This system worked just fine for us and I would do it again if I were to thru-hike one of the big three again.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
cash and card on 11/09/2013 19:42:37 MST Print View

You will need to carry cash because there are places that only take cash on the long trails. I took a debit card and credit card. Used the debit but had the credit as backup. I also carry my license and insurance card in my little cuben fiber pouch.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How do you handle your $ on a long hike? on 11/09/2013 19:48:15 MST Print View

In one area of Germany we found my CC was not accepted. It was a problem with the local bank's network and database. My card was perfectly OK. So having multiple sources is pretty essential on long trips.

Sue and I each carry a Credit Card, hidden. We carry one Mastercard and one Visa card: different networks. These are preloaded with cash before the trip to avoid interest payments, and we advise the banks we are going overseas.

We get cash from ATMs, usually in large lumps. We try to balance our withdrawals between the two cards. Sue carries half the cash and I carry the other half. Most of the cash is hidden in our packs, with a small operating amount easily accessible.


Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: cash and card on 11/09/2013 19:57:34 MST Print View

If you use cards be sure they are "well separated" in terms of Visa/MasterCard/CapitalOne, in terms of "vendor", like REI affinity cards, and the names on the cards.

A small town motel we stayed at was owned and operated by the grocery store. We paid for our room at the store, 4 nights in advance, about $400 or so. For some reason that was a flag to the card holder. Our 2 cards, in two different names, but both from REI and linked by the same address, were shut down on the spot. It took a few hours to get things straightened out.

Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
$ on long hikes on 11/09/2013 23:02:27 MST Print View

Thank you all. Yes, we have to notify our card people every time we leave our immediate area, or they shut it down. Your suggestions are ones we can work with. We decided to use the credit instead of debit card mostly for safety and limit the amounts in those in case of theft and just do transfers if we need more later. Years ago we used travelers checks, but they fell into disfavor, became harder to use and are not accepted by many business any more. I always thought they were a great idea.

$ on 11/10/2013 06:05:30 MST Print View

Yep, Ive had my credit card put on hold unexpectedly a couple of times when all of a sudden I try to use it in another area of the country, or in a way I never have before.

I always carry ~$100-$200 cash

Many places wont take plastic in small towns, esp on AT.

If you do mail drops, put cash in each mail drop. Its controls spending tightly. Cant spend what you dont have.

I mostly use my card to get cash from ATMs.
There is no reason to have, or use, a debit card.

I pay for just about everything possible with credit cards that doesnt cost me more. (for instance, cant pay daughters college tuition with them without 4% adder) I may spend $20,000 per year, but get back several hundreds of dollars per year in cash/airline/hotel points as long as pay every month, and use no-annual fee.

Debit card doesnt offer this, so no reason to use it.

Edited by livingontheroad on 11/10/2013 06:25:10 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: How do you handle your $ on a long hike? on 11/10/2013 08:49:11 MST Print View

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
USAA on 11/10/2013 10:39:55 MST Print View

"On a hike like the CDT, AT, or PCT how do you manage your $ for things like food and hotels and other unforeseen expenses? Hotels/Motels mostly only take cards as far as our experience."

On my hikes of those trails, it's been more common that cash is required --- a lot of cheap motels and hostels, not much in the way of "hotels" ! Plus, once you start hanging out with "hiker trash", you'll find that regardless of your net worth, you start acting kind of cheap. It's the new culture you'll be living in. So even if you have tons of money, you might find the dynamics of the situation leave you sharing a cheap motel room with 3 others. And happy to be doing it.

I've used USAA as my insurance company since the 1970's. Their banking arm doesn't have a network of ATMs, so they allow you to use *any* ATM and they reimburse the fee for a few transactions per month (4?) This is great for thru-hiking; just pay attention to which towns have ATMs and which ones don't and get enough cash to deal with things until you're sure you'll find another (working) ATM.

I certainly agree with having a second card as backup, but bottom line is that I would expect to use ATMs more than I think you had in mind.