In any emergency, short-term or long-term, it’s essential to have liquid assets. We’re not talking about potable water stockpiles, though you should have those too — we’re referring to cash or other forms of easily-transferrable currency. Whether you need a little extra money for an everyday incident or you need to purchase some much-needed medicine after SHTF, you should never be without buying power during a disaster.

At the end of this article, there’s a pair of polls where you can let us know your preferred types of emergency currency, but we’ll start by discussing a few potential forms. This may help you rethink your options, or add a backup form of money to your disaster kit. It’s important to diversify, and to collect an amount that’s substantial enough to cover possible expenses.

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This is the most obvious option, and one of the easiest. As the saying goes, cash is king… as long as the economy is still somewhat functional or will be in the near future.

You probably already have some bills in various denominations set aside in your bug-out bag or get-home bag, and that’s always a good idea. Cash can come in handy for everyday emergencies, and it’s accepted everywhere. You’ll probably want at least a few hundred dollars, or possibly several thousand depending on your family size and needs.

After surviving two major hurricanes that wiped out his home, reader Bill Napier emphasized the importance of having cash on hand. Click here to read his story.

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Credit and debit cards are powerful tools due to their high level of buying power under normal circumstances — if you need to drop $5,000 all of a sudden, a card is more secure than an envelope of cash. If your card is lost or stolen, you can cancel it or reverse charges, while you would have no such recourse with wads of cash. Some places, such as hotels, may require a credit card to cover incidental expenses.

For all these reasons, having an emergency credit or debit card set aside can be helpful in some cases.

However, these forms of payment rely on fragile electronic infrastructure. A widespread power outage would make these cards useless. Pre-paid gift cards are another option to consider, and unlike personal cards, they can be traded away for quick cash in an emergency.

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Precious Metals or Gems
Gold, silver, and even gemstones are often regarded as a fall-back currency independent of paper money. However, there are some drawbacks. They don’t have much intrinsic value outside their use as currency (or jewelry/decoration). You won’t be able to walk into most stores and spend these like you can cash. Also, if everyone in your area is starving and fighting over basic resources during a long-term disaster, gold will become much less valuable than MREs, tools, or medicine — that ties into our next point.

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Bartering Goods
This is a large category, and includes any item that could become desirable in an emergency. For example, antibiotics, batteries, gasoline, or ammo. Obviously, you’ll want to stockpile extras if you plan to trade them away — if you only have one of a necessary item, you can’t exactly spend it. Even alcohol and pornography could become valuable resources for trading in a post-SHTF situation, and you could use that to your advantage.

The downside to bartering goods is that you probably won’t be able to use them under normal circumstances. If you don’t know what we mean, go walk into your local WalMart and try to pay the cashier with something other than cash or card — you’ll get laughed out of the store. That’s why we’d classify bartering goods as alternative currency for emergencies only.

So, what does your emergency buying power consist of? Let us know in the polls below.

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