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Are Money Belts Really Necessary?

I know that Rick Steves strongly recommends wearing money belts when you're traveling, but when I went to Britain and Ireland a couple of years ago I felt a bit geeky wearing it, it's was uncomfortable and I wasn't sure if it was really necessary. People looked a little offended when they saw me taking money out of it and I don't really blame them for feeling this way. I'm going to Ireland again soon and I'm wondering if carrying my purse as I do in the US is fine enough. I never wear a money belt in Washington D.C., Chicago or New York, so why should I wear one in European cities? What are your thoughts? What's the sensible thing to do? What do you prefer to do? I'm not as experienced at global travel as everyone else so I'd like to hear your perspectives on this.

Posted by
998 posts

Katie, get a money belt/neck pouch in material like microfiber so it's more comfy and it doesn't get hot. I got a neck pouch from REI called "Belle Hop" and it's made of underwear material. I actually looped the strap thru my bra strap and then tucked the pouch in my waist band. I had my passport and credit cards and most of my cash in it. I would tuck 20 to 40 euro in my pocket for the day. It's ok to carry a purse or a tote to carry the day's necessities in, like your jacket, umbrella, snacks, guidebooks, etc. I don't travel like this at home because if I get pickpocketed here, it's easier to contact your bank vs. trying to do so from abroad with the time change, etc. Plus, I don't carry my passport around traveling at home. I feel more secure having it on me than leaving it in my hotel room. When I was in Venice, I tucked 20 euro in my bra and when the waiter saw me pull it out, he said,"Madam, that is a very precious place to keep your money", he was laughing, it was pretty funny!

Posted by
571 posts

Hi, Katie.
Some will recommend the money belt (I wear one)and some will recommend a neck pouch (I'm thinking of changing to one), but most people on this board will recommend some form of extra security. But you shouldn't carry all your money there. You can keep a day's allowance in your pocket, purse or travel wallet. I would never pull out my money belt in front of a vendor (not to avoid offending them, but rather so no one is aware that's where I'm carrying my cash.) I find the money belt is helpful to carry my credit cards, passport, train pass or tickets and anything else I don't use everyday. I don't use hotel safes: I keep it all on me. On the off-chance I might unexpectedly need my credit card (an amazing find at a shop, for example) I disappear into a toilet for a few minutes and produce the credit card for the purchase. Losing $50 to a pickpocket won't ruin your trip, but losing all your cash or your documents might.) PS Thanks for the vote of confidence in DC! We appreciate you don't think we're all thieves or murderers.

Posted by
8995 posts

A money belt is not supposed to used as a purse or wallet, but instead think of it as a mobile safe. The strategy is to keep a days spending money in your purse/wallet, and everything else in the money belt, not to be touched. If you do need to access your belt do so in private; like in a bathroom. I wear a money belt everywhere in my travels including the US. Anywhere you go anywhere in the world...where there are tourists, there will be thieves to relieve you of your money and expensive toys. I was once traveling with friends in DC, and a friend was pick pocketed, I know someone was was robbed at Disney World. Not using a money belt type device is like playing Russian Roulette....you may get away with it a few times, and get nailed on the next trip. In the end it's your choice if you are willing to sacrifice a couple of days out of your vacation to cancel credit cards, replace your passport, and arrange for someone to wire you replacement money, a moneybelt is not for you;)

Posted by
441 posts

Matt L. said it all! Compared to ruining the trip, wearing a money belt isn't so bad. To quote another fellow about something else - "it isn't meant to be comfortable but comforting".

Posted by
9363 posts

"People looked a little offended when they saw me taking money out of it" Perhaps they weren't offended, just surprised that you didn't know it's not supposed to be accessed in public. I use mine for anything it would severely impact my trip to lose - passport, extra debit/credit card, most cash. I also carry a purse, where I keep my day cash/credit card and day necessities. I haven't had a problem anywhere, but if I did, I know I wouldn't lose the most important things.

Posted by
1014 posts

YES!! Wear the belt bandoleer style, under your shirt and across a shoulder instead of like an extra belt. I tried this and it was not uncomfortable at all.

Posted by
3428 posts

If a traditional waist money belt doesn't work for you, look at other nanatives. As someone else mentioned, there are neck pouches. There are also items that you can wear around your calf, under pants. There are pouches that you don't strap on- you attach them to a belt or button or snap onto your clothing - but they "hang" inside your clothing. Others are accessed via a "normal" pocket that has a slot in it. My husband tried the traditional money belt, but couldn't stand it. He now wears a waist pouch (bum bag/fanny pack) with uncuttable straps. The zippers are locked. Yes he looks a bit of a dork, but he doesn't care. It's not the MOST secure thing, but better than just carrying a wallet in his pocket. But none of the "money belts" should be used for your "walking around money". Put that in a wallet, in a secure location- a good day bag/cross body purse with secure closures. If you need more from your "money belt" go to the toilet and move it to your wallet- whether it's a credit card, more cash, etc.

Posted by
2664 posts

Yes, Yes, Yes ~~~ you are not suppose to take money out of it in public....it's to be used for your extra money, passport, credit/debit cards....you use your purse for your daily cash and if you are going to need one of your credit cards or debit cards then put that in your purse.

Posted by
69 posts

Thanks for your responses, everyone! I'll wear my money belt after all and I'll know how to use it properly this time. I guess I had some "Well, Duh!" moments the last time I used my money belt. :-) Thanks.

Posted by
136 posts

We wear it for security and only take out a hundred euros a day and keep everything else in the belt. It came in handy when my husband got pickpocketed getting on a train in Nice this past May, the guy was coming down the asile and everyone else going the opposite of him, he opened my husband's velcro side pocket on his shorts, but my husband pushed him into an empty compartment and the guy threw the money under the seat (so my husband would go for the money and not the pickpocketer) and the guy ran out of the train, as I was yelling thief. Moral of the story if my husband did loose his money it would have been less than 20 euros as on trains etc. everything is in the belt except for small amounts for food and water while traveling.

Posted by
635 posts

Wear the money belt and keep a days worth of cash in a pocket - zippered is better. Create your travel wardrobe around having mulitple pockets. My wife has been much happier with this approach. Don't bring a purse. Wean yourself of the cumbersome thing and carry your essentials in pockets or wear a very small bummer pack. The term "fanny pack" has a bad connotation in GB and ROI. Pickpocketing is an intramural sport in much of Europe. GB and ROI are much less so than Italy but it's still much worse than any US city I've been in.

Posted by
337 posts

Invest a few extra dollars in a silk moneybelt. It's practically weightless, with no extra bulk. After ten minutes you'll forget you're wearing it.

Posted by
683 posts

Money belts are necessary only if you wish to conceal your money and valuables from potential thieves. If you prefer to take your chances, go without one-- just dont complain if something happens. BTW, you can carry what you anticipate needing that day OUTSIDE the belt. They are for your weekly stash

Posted by
1020 posts

I've not used a money belt or neck pouch on dozens of trips abroad. I know many Europeans; none of them use either. If you're aware of the ways which pickpockets use to divert your attention and how to handle your purse/wallet in big city crowds like NY and Chicago, you'll be fine in Europe.

Posted by
11450 posts

I wear a moneybelt only when travelling. I keep bulk of money and pp and credit cards in the hotel safe. Always have in dozens of visits. I only carry about 100 euros a day in my purse. If I am going into a busy place( metro at rush hour for instance) , I have my ticket in my pocket, I don't open and poke about in my purse in crowded areas. I do wear a moneybelt when I go to ATM every 3-4 days and get large sum out, but I take it back to hotel.

Posted by
1631 posts

My husband's moneybelt (he was refusing to wear it properly) was quickly taken out of a deep, velcroed cargo pant pocket as he sat on the metro seat closest to the door. He had the young girl's arm, but decided to let go b/c the train was going to leave. The next three hours we were on the phone cancelling his credit cards--we had separate accounts, thank goodness. Later, we checked with the metro and they had recovered the moneybelt minus the cash. Every trip since, we always wear our moneybelt and all of our cash/credit cards are in them. I carry a backpack for other daytime items--no money. Any amount of money, and just the fact that my purse was stolen or pickpocketed, would have an impact on me. I like knowing that my valuables are in a secure place on my person. This works for me--everyone is different. Have a great trip!

Posted by
2788 posts

Thank you Denise for giving us a first person account of what can happen when one chooses not to wear a money belt. I have read so many posts here where folks chose not to wear a money belt because it makes them look fat, uncomfortable, or they know how to protect their valuables other ways. It is rare to find one of them returning to this site to tell what can happen from not wearing one. Maybe none of them have ever lost anything? Or are they too embarrassed to report back?
What ever. I go to Europe every summer and always wear a money belt as I would sure hate to loose anything that I carry in it. My wife feels the same. We feel it is better to be safe than take a chance on being real sorry later.

Posted by
970 posts

I've traveled on four continents and have never used a money belt. It sounds like some use the belt as a wearable bank, keeping a lot of cash in it. I use an ATM card to withdraw only enough money for a a day or two. I put it in my wallet. If the environment looks dicey, I put the wallet in a front pocket or in a zippered inside jacket pocket. In the UK last month, the most I ever had in the wallet was 150 pounds. Before I leave home, I purge the wallet of all but the essential plastic and other material. Taking care of our money makes sense, but I do not agree that a money belt is needed.

Posted by
222 posts

I'm a 57-year-old woman who is a frequent solo traveler. Once when I arrived alone in a Paris train station I was wearing a money belt but for some odd reason that day I had put all my credit cards and most of my cash in my wallet. The wallet was lifted from me while I was buying metro tickets. That left me with no credit/debit cards and only about $20 cash. I knew no one in the city of Paris at that particular moment. It was a terrifying experience that I did manage to put right in the end, but I will never forgo using a money belt ever again!

Posted by
410 posts

Obviously this is up to the individual. I have never, and would never, wear a money belt. I carry a normal handbag, which is zipped and I am more careful about it in crowded places but I basically wear, do and carry what I would at home. We don´t usually have a lot of cash on us, regularly going to ATMs, and split the cash between us.

Posted by
11443 posts

I just read a story by a travel writer who got her purse swiped in Barcelona. She was walking from her apartment to a taxi stand a few blocks away. Stupidly, as she stated it, she put her passport, credit cards and cash in her purse rather than her moneybelt because she was on her way to the airport and then home. A kid on a bicycle rode by, cut her purse strap and fled with the purse. Her hands were full with her luggage so it took a few seconds to react. Fast enough for the kid to get everything. (They're good.). She goes on to say she and her husband dropped their stuff to try to run after the kid on the bike. While that was happening, other members of "the gang" was making off with the luggage. (Luckily, the couple were able to stop that.) I wear a moneybelt. I also carry a wallet. The moneybelt is for passport, credit cards, debit cards, and anything else of value. The wallet is for daily use. BTWwhenever I travel outside my home area, I wear a moneybelt. Even in the U.S. Pickpockets are everywhere. Having traveled with literally thousands of people through my former job, I've heard countless say.."my wallet, my purse, my fanny pack, etc., is safe." And countless times I've heard..."My wallet, purse, fanny pack, etc has been stolen."

Posted by
635 posts

Bottom line - it sounds like you can lose your stuff anywhere. It's one thing to be near home and have to deal with it. It's a whole different thing when you're a couple of thousand miles away and trying to enjoy your vacation. I can fix a lot of stuff quickly when I can drop by my bank on the way home. Standing in line at the US embassy (for hours) along with trying to figure out how you're going to pay for your next meal and hotel room isn't high on my list of "must do's" for my next vacation. I will wear my money belt.

Posted by
515 posts

Yes, indeed. Money belt for passport, cards, and big money. Cross body bag/purse for the day's needs.

Posted by
1357 posts

I'll echo what Ken and Frank II have said. I wear a moneybelt whenever I'm in Europe, no matter how big or small the city is. My husband was pickpocketed in Prague (he insisted he didn't need a moneybelt he's changed his mind since). He had his wallet in his back pocket, which had a velcro cover. He was rushed on a train, and it was handed out the door before they closed. As he was surrounded by 4 guys, he had no idea which one of them took it. Luckily, I had his passport in my moneybelt, as we were taking a train back to Frankfurt that night. He did have his debit card in his wallet, which took a while to cancel. The big thing, though, was that we were heading out for a daytrip to Pils. Since it took a while to file a police report and put a hold on his account, we decided to scrap the day trip. It put us in a sour mood for the rest of the day, so it basically killed a vacation day for us. Find someway, whether moneybelt or neckpouch or something else, to keep your valuables safe. It's worth a bit of discomfort. And, yes, I wear a moneybelt while traveling in the US, depending on where I am. Wisconsin, no. Chicago, definitely.

Posted by
1678 posts

I think most points have been made, but it does bear repeating that while you wouldn't wear a money belt in a major US city, you 1) don't carry your passport to travel to these locations (you're in your home country) and 2) you don't need your passport to get home from those places if it is stolen. I've been on tours where passports have been stolen from "safe" places and seen how much time of your precious vacation can be stolen trying to deal with the paperwork, hassle, etc. of getting it replaced. For this traveler, that risk alone is worth wearing a money belt.

Posted by
800 posts

Katie - most of the people who have answered so far are (judging by names, not always correct I know) men. Men don't carry purses. Of the women who have responded, some do, some don't. So if you are asking about personal preference - I don't. I carry my zippered purse, I don't hang it on a chair, I often wear it cross body and/or with my hand on top so it is not freely dangling from my shoulder - using "big city" sense. But if you are not used to this or if it gives you too much anxiety, then do what makes you feel better.

Posted by
635 posts

I realize I'm just a man but women don't "need" a purse. This is especially true in Europe while on vacation. After several trips I've actually gotten my wife to leave the purse at home. gasp! She loves it. She will actually go out of the house here in the US without one. egads! Women don't need all the crap they haul around in a purse especially on vacation. What few things might be needed will fit easily into a pocket. Yes, women's clothing can be purchased with pockets. For all you women out there. Liberate yourself and go purseless. So, stick all your important stuff in your money belt.

Posted by
5669 posts

Sorry Ken, if I'm not carrying a purse, I 'm carrying a day pack. ; ) There is no way I could fit the day's money, camera, guide book, and occasionally a bottle of water in my pockets. And, yep, I like to have lip gloss in some climates, a comb is nice for windy places. I take a phone so that I can stay in touch with travel mates and others. Pockets get picked so I'm not sure that they are really an advantage. I use a money belt for the deep storage, but I move back and forth between a purse and day pack and lately, the purse has been the better size for me. Pam

Posted by
2664 posts

Half of the responses have been from women....they are necessary. You can wear a money belt and still carry a purse for your day items that you need.

Posted by
875 posts

I use a "bra pocket" that attaches to the bra straps in front. It's large enough to put in folded Euros and a credit card/debit card or two. I can always slip into the WC to retrieve a credit card or large bill if needed. I would have to be really manhandled for anyone to rob me. This was nice for me when wearing slacks without belt loops (to fasten the money belt to).
I never liked the neck pockets since the strap always hung out of the neck-back of sweaters, blouses, etc. I just received a new Magellan's catalog, and I noticed that they are now selling the bra pockets.

Posted by
2349 posts

Ken, I am very happily purse free in daily life, but all my crap is in my car. On a trip I carry a day bag, but the most valuable thing in it is usually my current book. So I'm all with you on the purse-free lifestyle. However, you should look at women's pants more closely. Even those with pockets rarely have a pocket that your whole hand will fit into. Those deep pockets that stretch down your thigh are only for men. They make us look too fat.

Posted by
780 posts

Truth be told, I hate moneybelts. I keep my cash/credit card in my bra. 3 trips to Europe and not lost a pence, it works for me. I just keep a bit of change and cash in my purse but where the majority of it is hidden is "Victorias Secret" :)

Posted by
11973 posts

I've tried moneybelts and neck pouches. I seem to go back and forth. I would probably prefer a neck pouch but I have my small point and shoot around my neck already so I don't like too much stuff around my neck. If I'm wearing a tighter t-shirt, a neck pouch can be awkward too. This summer I used a leg wallet. It was just okay. If it was big enough to put above the knee I would like it better. It seemed designed only for the ankle (and I don't have thick legs) which meant it was often visible when I sat down. Overall, I'm like the first poster. I carry my stuff with me and keep it out of sight. If I need to access, I visit the toilet (and make sure I didn't accidentally drop anything before I leave).

Posted by
40 posts

I travel a lot around the US including some major cities, and I've never had a problem. This includes being in some dicey urban areas by myself. I think being aware of your surroundings and recognizing how pickpockets work can help, and also not attracting any attention to yourself. We had no problem in the UK in 2004; we only carried the $$ we felt we needed for the day, and believe it or not we didn't take any credit cards with us (just a debit card). We've found that only carrying cash needed for the day and a picture ID keeps the travel expenses down, too. Kind of fun to plan and budget just what you will spend. We're going to Germany over Xmas and fortunately, we will be staying with family so we'll continue to just take the cash we need for the day when out on excursions.

Posted by
129 posts

i used to use a traditional money belt all the time but a few trips back i went to the hidden wallet style money belt...i also use a magellan travel vest with a number of inside pockets...either way to answer the main question...yes they are necessary...