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Banking Tips for Nights Out

Banking, Banking Basics
Banking Tips for Nights Out

You probably don’t think much about being on top of your finances when you’re going out on a Friday, say, or other nights. In fact, you might feel like the opposite tends to happen.

Sarah Li Cain, a freelance writer in Pittsburgh, was eating dinner with a friend recently when the waiter let them know that the restaurant’s credit card machine was down.

Cain didn’t have cash. “I ended up having to use an ATM there,” she says. It was outside her bank’s network and the withdrawal cost $4.

Small expenses like this can add up during a night out. But you might be able to prevent money mishaps by following a few quick tips:

1. Split restaurant bills with a money transfer app.

However close you are with your friends or family, settling a dinner bill can get messy, especially if there’s cash or an IOU or two involved. Instead, have one person pay for everything and get reimbursed through a money transfer app like Venmo or Square Cash. These apps let users send and receive money instantly, plus they save your waiter the headache of splitting the check.

“I’ve been using Venmo for three months, and it’s so easy to keep track of payments between friends and family,” says Mathew Dahlberg, an investment advisor at Main Street Investments in Kansas City, Missouri.

» MORE: Best ways to send money to individuals

2. Get cash at an in-network ATM.

You don’t want to find out that a venue is cash only once you’re already there. Many places provide ATMs, but they’re likely outside of your bank’s network, and you’ll pay a fee for withdrawals — often to the ATM operator and your bank. And even if a bar accepts credit or debit cards, card readers can break down and make cash the only option, as Cain experienced. To avoid ATM fees, head to one in your bank’s network before the night begins or locate one near your venue.

» MORE: Best banks for ATMs

3. Know what’s in your wallet.

If you’re going to a public space, there’s always a chance that your wallet will get lost or stolen. So before you leave for the night, pick the cards you’ll take with you and store their information in a safe place at home. Keep your bank’s fraud hotline numbers with you in case you have to notify it about any stolen cards.

You can also track your wallet with apps like Tile and TrackR. Both provide small Bluetooth tags that you can attach to your wallet — or something else you’d hate to lose — and use to find your item if it’s lost or stolen.

» MORE: How to prevent identity theft

4. Budget for the night.

Decide how much you feel comfortable spending on your evening festivities beforehand and try to stay below that maximum. Focusing on one number is easier than tracking every penny.

“When you’re having a good time, money just seems to disappear from your wallet, and you can be shocked at the end of the night by how much you’ve spent,” NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston says.

“Taking a few steps before you head out the door for the evening can really help contain the damage,” she says.

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.