Money saving tips for seafarers

25th October 2019

Shore leave

How many times did you have to go through the procedure of ordering cash advances through the agent? What about the times you used your regular credit card overseas or even exchanged some of your hard-earned $US dollars for local cash? If those situations sound familiar to you, then it’s about time that you start optimizing your expenses onboard.

A great way to do so is by using one of the new multi-currency debit cards available worldwide. With an average lump sum fee of 2% for every foreign-currency transaction, you are saving 6-8% for every purchase you are making instead of using your regular banking card. (And you don’t have to convert your precious $USD, that you can use to send to your loved ones)

Make sure that you check out the list we have made with the best cards available.

Transfers in other currencies

Let’s say you want to send some money to a relative of yours, that only has a USD or EUR bank account. But if that relative does not have an account with the same currency (USD or EUR) then the transfer fees can be quite high… So high actually, where some banks can charge up to 5-10% of the amount (usually hidden in exchange rate fees). One prime example is using Transferwise instead of Paypal, you are paying $52.66 more for a $1000 transfer as shown below. What’s more, Transferwise does not require any registration for sending money overseas and can be done instantly.

Use a budgeting application

I think every seafarer out there has at-least a pen and paper textbook, where he notes down the amount of money he has spent during his holiday and the amount that he has earned during his employment.

But it wasn’t until I started noting down my expenses that I finally had a complete picture of the incredible amount of money that I was spending during my time off… Which could even surpass the amount of money I had just made in the previous ship. I could never had done that without an application to help me out on that matter.

The one I use is Homebudget, but you can find your own with a quick google search.

Carry a small amount of $US dollars with you

In my first employment as a second officer, I had to take the ship from St.Croix, one of the islands consisting of the US Virgin Islands. After more than 30 hours of flying and layovers, I managed to get there only to find out that the only cash accepted was USD and the only place to get it would be to stand and wait in a 2-hour line at the local bank… Needless to say, with USD being the global currency, $100-200 is always handy anywhere you are.


Maybe the most important aspect of all the aforementioned items, a career at sea is always a career that has an expiration date. And when that date comes, you need to have a second stream of income ready to support you and your family. The best option would be to build your own business or invest in real estate in your local market, but that is not a passive investment and most seafarers don’t have the time or connections to do so. One other option though, is through investing in crowdfunding – either through buying shares from startups or lending money overseas with p2p lending. You can see the monthly returns I have managed to achieve the past year in the following graph:

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