2020 Costa Rica/Panama (Halter - Alumni only)

Phone and Money Options

Before traveling, it’s important to have a plan for communication and finances. These few tips below are what I use to make it by with minimal stress as I travel. They aren’t the only options, but they have worked well for me thus far and are simply geared for travel. It just depends upon your current situation, how much you travel, and how you can work travel options into your lifestyle. The good news is that I have no complaints about the following recommendations. They are all phenomenal at what they do!

Cell Phone Plan

My choice is the Google Pixel 3 with Google Project Fi Service, which I chose to go with for a number of reasons:

1) The Service is Cheap and Works Around the World.
The base plan starts at $20 per month with an additional $10 per GB of data used (after 6 GB is reached there is no extra charge for data). The plan still charges $10 per GB in most other countries around the world, although I still try to use Wi-Fi whenever possible to save the money. It is nice to have an international phone that picks up service whenever I cross a border without needing an upgrade in my plan.

2) The Phone is High Quality and Cheap.
The Pixel 2 has one of the highest quality cameras (comparable to the iPhone X or even better) that I’ve ever used, which makes it perfect for travel as I no longer need to take an extra camera along. Also, the price begins at $649 ($350 cheaper than the iPhone X) along with different discounts. I am excited to see what the upcoming Pixel phones look like and have to offer.

3) Referral Bonus
When you become a Project Fi member through the following link, we both become $20 richer. Also, your phone should arrive quickly, it will accept your current phone number, and be simple to set up. Follow this link to get a $20 start-up bonus: https://g.co/fi/r/F9K729

Other possibilities include: Verizon, Sprint, and T-mobile, or you could possibly get a SIM card that works internationally with your phone. More info will come for these as I get it.

Credit Cards

***For International use, I go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for the following reasons:

1) Annual Fee
There is no annual fee for the first year. Even with the $95 annual fee each year after that, I find this card to be worth it for the next few reasons. If after a year, you find that you don’t travel enough to warrant the fee, just cancel the card.

2) No Foreign Transaction Fees
I can use this card anywhere in the world and bypass the 3% foreign transaction fee that accompanies most credit card purchases.

3) Rewards Program
If I use my card for travel-related expenses and dining, I receive double the reward points. I am also able to book flights through their Ultimate Rewards site for a cheaper rate.

4) Customer Service
If I have an issue with the card or any of my other VISA cards, I can call their customer service line and get a person right away. No automated machines telling you to call back later or hold. They promptly have taken care of any issue with any or all of my cards, and I have had zero complaints with this service.

5) It’s great for 21 and under travelers who can’t get a travel credit card.
Although VISA does not approve people who are under 21 for their lines of credit, there is a way around this. If a parent applies for the card, they can add their child as an authorized user. The child will receive a card with their own name on it (proving useful for identification purposes when traveling), and their parents will be able to monitor the card’s use. Win-Win.

6) Referral Bonus
When you become a Chase Sapphire Preferred Member, you will get a $500 credit after spending $4,000 in the first three months. I was able to line up when I joined so that it aligned with one of my abroad trips, which made it able for me to hit that limit and save $500 on my trip in the process. In fact, it actually saved me more because if you redeem the points through the app, you will be able to get $625 back since it will be through the Chase Sapphire Ultimate Travel Points site.

I actually just upgraded to the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card due to the amount I travel each year. Depending upon your situation, you will want to look into this upgrade as well by clicking on the following link: CHASE SAPPHIRE RESERVE CARD INFO

***For use in the United States, I use the VISA Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card because:

1) Annual Fee
The fee is $69 for this card, but you receive 40,000 points after joining, which equals about 2 roundtrip flights if you pay attention to the flights you choose.

2) Rewards

On top of the initial two free flights, you receive 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapids Reward partner purchases. You receive one point for every dollar on all other purchases, and you receive 3,000 points each anniversary of your owning of the card.
3) Location
It was a nice initial choice for me since Southwest has had more direct flights out of Milwaukee added to their lineup. I was able to use one of my free flights (from signing up for the card) to fly direct from Milwaukee to Tampa Bay and back this past summer. Pretty sweet deal.
2) Referral Bonus
Earn 40,000 bonus points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card by joining by the following link: https://www.referyourchasecard.com/223/0JIFQTZLME

Debit Cards

Aspiration is an online bank, which makes it unique in that it doesn’t have the overhead costs that a brick and mortar building have. I stay with it because:

1) No Fees
One amazing thing about Aspiration is that they don’t force you to pay fees. They ask that you pay whatever you are comfortable with paying whether that is $0 or $10 a month. It’s completely up to you. They want you to pay them what you think they deserve. This type of trust and flexibility in a company is RARE.

2) No Foreign Transaction Fees, ATM Fees, or Overdraft Fees
Let’s say you are going abroad and need foreign currency. Instead of going to a bank that will incorporate a fee into their transaction, why not put the money in your Aspiration account and use an ATM when you get to your destination. They reimburse ALL ATM and Foreign Transaction Fees, which makes this my go-to card. If you go over your account limit, they simply decline the transaction instead of giving you an overdraft fee to top it off. The only issue I have had is that you can only take out $300 per day, but this really shouldn’t affect many people unless they are travel trip leaders like me 🙂

3) Investing
It is also great for starting an IRA or Money Market account. The fees are low and they typically invest in fossil fuel free businesses, putting your conscience first.

4) Referral Bonus
When you become an Aspiration member, they will give each of us $25 to donate to a charity of our choice. What a neat idea! By simply opening up an account, we are able to give $50 to charity.
Follow this link to join and give $25 to your charity of choice:
https://my.aspiration.com/app/token/referral/RO5WW8M0VJUOLXTB

Other possibilities exist for international debit cards, but make sure to try to find something that does not charge ATM or Foreign Transaction Fees. Also, make absolutely certain that your card works internationally. Some do not!

If you have anything to add to this post, please email me at matthewhalter77@gmail.com with other ideas!

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