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Managing money while living on the road is a breeze

Not that long ago, people traveling and living in recreational vehicles carried traveler's checks and had someone back home handle their bills. Their financial options were pretty limited.

Those days are over.

The financial services world has caught up with the mobile RV lifestyle. Banking and paying bills on the road has never been easier. Managing money is a snap.

An ATM for every KOA and Flying J
Today's full-timers handle their finances with the same ease that they handle the road.

"The biggest mistake people make is worrying about it," says Ron Hofmeister, a retired accountant and co-author of "Movin' On: Living and Traveling Full-time in a Recreational Vehicle." He also runs the Movin' On Web site with his wife, Barb.

"Handling finances is probably the easiest thing we do on the road. It's just not difficult."

For openers, there's no need to fret about being caught without cash in the middle of nowhere. ATMs seem to be everywhere.

"They're on every corner," Hofmeister says. "They're even in the truck stops."

Of course, getting cash at an ATM is certainly convenient, but it's not always free. The bank owning the ATM may charge a $1.50 fee or more to non-bank customers. Some banks charge their own customers fees whenever the customers use another bank's ATM.

So stick to your own bank's ATMs whenever possible. The larger your bank, the larger its ATM network. That's one reason why banking with a large financial institution with branches and ATMs nationwide can come in handy when you're on the road.

With so many ATMs charging fees, why not make the most of each ATM visit and take out a big chunk of money? After all, the fewer withdrawals you make, the fewer fees you'll have to pay.

Most banks limit ATM withdrawals to $200 or $300. You may want to ask your bank to raise this limit before you hit the road. Some banks may raise the withdrawal limit to $1,000 or more.

Other ways to swipe money

ATMs aren't the only sources of quick cash. You can get cash back at major supermarkets, drug stores and discount stores as well as at branches of the U.S. Post Office when you pay by debit card.

Debit cards, such as the Visa Check Card and MasterCard Money, are linked to a cardholder's checking account and can be used for purchases and to withdraw money from ATMs.

So bring along your debit card the next time you head to a grocery store. You could pick up some quick cash and you won't have to pay a fee.

A credit card is also a great way to pay on the road. Some full-timers charge all their major expenses -- food, gas, campground fees, you name it. They pay one big, itemized bill once a month. Tracking spending is easy; all they have to do is study their credit card bills.

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You can even pay other bills with credit cards. Hofmeister has cell phone and satellite TV bills automatically charged to his credit card. Insurance and utility bills also can be paid this way. Other full-timers prefer to have automatic bill payments pulled directly from their checking accounts.

-- Updated: April 7, 2006

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