Email has most certainly improved cruiser’s ability to communicate and reduced the amount of paper chasing them around the world, but most of us still need and have some sort of system for forwarding “snail mail.”
I had all my “official” mail sent to a UPS Mail Store (formerly Mailboxes Etc.) in Reno, Nevada, which was my official “residence.” They filter out all the junk mail and forward the rest to my mother on a weekly basis. She pays any non-recurring bills on my behalf and then, once a month, forwards any important mail, usually two or three pieces, along with the latest copy of Latitude 38 magazine to my next mail stop, usually a marina or yacht club along the way. We use the US Postal Service Global Priority Mail. Average delivery time is about five to ten days.
My financial planner has been kind enough to pay a few recurring bills, such as health insurance and VISA card, as well as reimbursing my mother for bills she has paid. They usually write no more than three checks a month on my behalf and include this in their regular fees.
There are some disadvantages of paying bills by “remote control.” First, I wasn’t able to review the VISA bills before they were paid. It is sometimes difficult to appeal fraudulent charges when one is in another country. Second, I sometimes have to work around my mother’s vacation schedule.
The situation has changed quite a bit since I started cruising in 1994. Almost all bills can now be payed by credit card. I am shifting my credit card billing and payment so that I can do it all on-line and with electronic funds transfer. It takes a bit of effort to get it all set up, but once it is in place, it makes life out here much easier.
I guess the biggest lesson I have learned is to manage your credit cards closely.
I suggest that you carry at least two, if not three, with different expiration dates. Keep them in different places. If you lose one, one is stolen, or one reaches its credit limit, you are still covered. Some credit card companies will, without warning, for security reasons, put a stop on your credit card when they see charges from another country. You may have to contact them to inform them that you are traveling and that you are still in possesion of the card. You should also put a trusted person’s name on your credit card account so they can solve problems or answer questions on your behalf when you can’t. Always keep your credit card in your sight to help prevent fraudulent charges. If you experience or suspect fraud, cancel the credit card immediately and use your back up. You may want to keep one credit card just for automatic recurring payments.
If you look around a bit, you can find credit cards with no annual fees. I like the ones that give air miles for dollars spent, as I can usually earn a free trip “home” every other year.