How did they deal with money back in the old days?

The thought crossed my mind while watching shows like Outlander or Game of Thrones but the scenario could apply to any time period before the invention of wire transfers, ATMs, or even electricity.

Specifically, say I’m a wealthy lord traveling with my lady and a small entourage to some other country for an indefinite stay. What do I do for cash while travelling? Do I bring a big chest full of gold coins or whatever to use for purchasing stuff? What happens when I run out of local cash or am robbed? Did they have “credit” until I can send for another shipment of gold? Where do I store my gold securely?

If you were a member of the nobility, you presumably had social connections with nobility in relatively far-off places who could vouch for you, or at least put you up for the night. In other words, any noble eager for good brownie points would do a favor for a fellow in need. If you were just some rich nobody who found a stash of treasure, or had slowly gained your fortune trading, you were much more of a social nobody. That’s why wealthy people sought connections - it was a mutual protection network.

You could haul a big chest of gold with you if you want. But depending on how far you were traveling, a more common plan was to bring a letter of credit from a trusted banker. You could exchange that locally for gold or currency, and the bankers would settle among themselves. Banks still work the same way today, basically.

Bills of exchange were one way of avoiding the risks that came with carrying gold.

Knights Templar.

Way back then if your were traveling to another country and needed cash en-route, you simply purchased travelers checks from The Iron Bank of Braavos.

Of course, if you are a big guy with a sharp sword, people would usually be happy to part with their chickens and offer you a warm bed for the night in return for an IOU.

There also used to be an expectation that if someone who was traveling, of whatever social status, knocked on your door, and needed something, you helped them to the extent you could, and knew that if you eve had to travel somewhere, people would do the same for you. This was true whatever the social status of you or the traveler, which the exception that if you were extremely wealthy or well-placed, and a peasant came by, he’d knock on the servants’ door. Servants’ lives were hard, but they were at least usually well-fed and warm, and could share. this was the way of the world through Europe and the European colonies through about 1820.

The railway system made traveling a whole different game. Customs changed, and cheap hotels outside big cities sprung up around railway hubs.

Still, I remember even when I was a little kid and I had relatives who lived in places where houses were spaced widely along a road, someone might stop by and ask to use the phone, and they’d be let in and allowed to do so as long as it wasn’t long distance-- or if it was, they’d call the operator and ask the charge, and hand over cash, and if the person needed to use the phone because they had a car break down, say, they’d be offered food, and allowed to sit in a warm safe home until help arrived.

You carry it. Personally. On your person. Your person is guarded by guards if necessary.

More than that, you use a letter of credit, as mentioned above.

Payrolls though, traveled by cart, and were defended by soldiers.

Letters of credit seemed to be nearly universal, even internationally for European travel. Apparently, creditors would rather assume the risk of a phony letter, than to turn away the clientele and impugn the integrity of a lucrative high roller.

Note that gold was not often used for shopping. Silver, in coins about the size of dimes, was the most common.

I’m not sure if this is entirely true. In another thread about the longest running businesses they mentioned an inn outside of Tokyo that’s been there since the city was called Edo. So at least the concept of travel and inns has been around for at least that long if not longer.

The goldsmiths were among the earliest bankers in Europe, although they would not have recognised the term. They even lent money to the king.
In many countries the Jews were prominent in this profession (there weren’t many others they were allowed to follow)

Even in medieval times there were bankers, goldsmiths, and wealthy merchants who dealt with financial business.

Letters of credit, bills of exchange, and promissory notes were used.

By the 17th and 18th century the system was quite sophisticated, and financial instruments could be traded, discounted for cash, used as collateral for loans, etc.

The concept of an obligation to show hospitality to travelers goes back thousands of years ago, such as the ancient Greek custom of xenia.

Or consider this fairly well known line from the Bible:

The similarity to the ancient Greek belief in showing hospitality to strangers because they might be gods in disguise is pretty obvious.

Remember too that way back when this is why the penalty for robbery or attempted robbery was usually death (in various gruesome ways), to make it safer for those who had it to travel with it.

That’s severely underselling the age of the oldest operating hotels in Japan, since it stopped being called Edo in the mid-19th century.

I don’t know about the Tokyo area, specifically, but the oldest still-extant hotels in Japan are from the 8th century, more than 700 years before Edo Castle was even built. (The oldest still-operating hotel in Europe (Germany, specifically) also predates Edo, though it’s much younger than the Japanese hotels, ‘only’ dating to the 12th century.)

The Warrior Princess?:smiley:

That’s what I figured. But I always wondered how it worked in practice. Like if I decided to extend my stay in Paris another month and need more cash, but my wealth is all tied up in Ireland. I can’t just wire it, so I suppose I could get a note of credit from a local bank.

But how do they validate your identity? I can’t imagine that they would know every lord and baron by sight.

How much gold or silver was needed anyway? What could you buy that cost more than a single gold coin?

How much did stuff cost anyway and what did people typically buy? On TV they make it look like everyone just hunted and slept in the dirt whenever they traveled between towns or tossed a coin to some chicken vendor in a bazaar.