Gone are the days when travelers solely relied on traveler’s check or cash when traveling beyond the U.S borders. The 21st century brought with it credit cards that are both convenient and useful at home as well as abroad. And Americans couldn’t be happier.
However, there are a few things you need to know about credit cards. If you travel outside the U.S. – and in destinations where U.S visitors frequent the most, you’ll use your credit card for daily expenses with nary a hitch.
You can use a credit card to purchase goods and services when traveling to international destinations like Mexico, Tokyo, and London, etc. This is according to the 100 most searched international destinations ranking compiled by Hipmunk website.
But if you are headed out in the countryside of some of these destinations, you’ll be required to use cash for any purchases, and for good reason.
For instance, in places like Havana in Cuba – ranked 82nd in the list – the American credit card will only get you so far. This can pose a huge inconvenience when traveling. Here are other needful pointers you need to know when traveling overseas using a credit card.
1. Carry with you worldwide-accepted credit cards
As a traveling enthusiast, it is necessary to carry with you credit cards widely accepted around the globe. MasterCard and visa are good examples. They’re accepted wherever you go and in almost all international destinations.
The American Express is also acceptable but in limited destinations across the world. So if you’ve been using one for you traveling around the U.S., consider getting a visa or MasterCard credit card as a backup when traveling abroad.
But there are countries around the globe that accept less known international credit cards like China, for example. They accept the use of the Discover credit card, which is the least internationally acceptable card.
China is also dominated by the use of Union Pay credit card, so if you have any of these credit cards, you’ll enjoy your international purchases similarly in Japan, Beijing, and Shanghai. Unless you’re headed for China or other Asian countries, don’t carry these cards with you overseas.
2. Have a backup credit card
Make sure to carry with you more than one credit card when traveling overseas and some extra funds to cover the needs that may arise if one credit card fails. Alternatively, you can use online service to find a lender that can provide you instant funds incase nothing works based on your credit history only. This is for your own good especially when one card is declined. Make it a habit to travel with credit cards that offer bonus rewards for your traveling outside the U.S. You those can cash in on rewards especially when seeking transportation, booking hotels, or eating out in restaurants.
3. Carry local currencies
There are times credit cards are unusable especially in the countryside of the destinations you travel in. Carrying local currencies will come in handy in such situations. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and inconveniences along the way.
This is also true when traveling in some areas in the U.S. where credit cards are not accepted. Having local currency keeps you on the move without any hitches. For example, have rupees when in Mumbai, euros in Paris, pounds in London, etc.
Consider keeping a few of these local currencies in your wallet and some in your pocket in case your wallet gets stolen or goes missing. Anything can happen when on your international trip.
4. Inform your credit card insurer where you’re traveling
If you don’t want your credit card picked up for suspicious purchases when traveling thousands of miles away from home, inform your card insurer before traveling.
Doing this will reduce any inconveniences and confusion that might render the insurer to decline any further credit card purchases and use. So make sure your credit card insurer is aware beforehand that you’ll be traveling. This will help keep your funds safe and unfrozen.
5. Have a credit card with no extra foreign fees
Traveling outside the U.S. can get your credit card insurer charging your card high transaction fees for any foreign purchase you make.
In most cases, credit cards will charge you a typical 3% rate. That means if traveling abroad will cost you $1,000 on trip expenses, $30 will be deducted from your card us foreign transaction fee. You can save this amount when you carry a credit card with no extra foreign fees on it.
6. Have a chip-and-PIN-card
When planning for a trip abroad, have a chip-and-PIN card in mind. Most international destinations accept the use of this card.
Before you can purchase anything with a chip-and-PIN card, you have to verify the transaction with your identity in the form of a code (as the signature). It comes in handy when you want to keep your credit card secure.
Today, almost all U.S credit cards have Europay, MasterCard, Visa or EMV chips on them. But even so, all transactions have to be verified through a signature.
You need a similar card to use outside the American borders for effective, easy, and fast transactions. That’s where a chip-and-PIN comes into the picture. In places such as Europe, self-service vending shops require chip-and-PIN cards. Important to have one if you’re traveling in such destinations.
7. Avoid conducting transactions
When traveling abroad it’s easy to fall into the temptation of conducting transactions in the U.S especially when using the dynamic currency conversion feature. This is good because you get to see how much you are getting charged for goods in U.S. dollars.
But this feature can cost you. They are high exchange rates incurred when using dynamic currency conversion. So it’s advisable not to fall for the temptation to “see your total in dollars” whenever you make a purchase in local currency.
In fact, these charges are more than what your card insurer will charge you if they convert the purchase in us dollars for your credit card statement. Steer clear of any dynamic conversions.
8. Understand what travel protections your card accords you
Traveling abroad does not mean you won’t experience inconveniences along the way. They’ll be many of those including accidents (heaven forbid), trip cancellations, getting your luggage lost in the airport, flight delays, and much more.
You can protect yourself from all the said eventualities and enjoy a peaceful trip when you have the right travel credit card with you. How to do this? Research on the necessary travel protections before you take up a travel card. Understand all the ins and outs.
9. Access airport lounges using your credit card
Most credit cards allow users to access the Priority Pass lounge in any international airport. And this is a welcome move especially if you’ve traveled miles and miles and all you need is a lounge to rest your tired body.
Most Priority Pass lounges come with easy access to complimentary food, refreshments, and even drinks – and in some isolated occasions, spa treatments with all the bells and whistles. If you’re a holder of a luxury travel credit card, it is not a surprise if you enjoy spa treatments and other complimentary offers in some airport lounges in different countries.
There you have it!
Nine convenient card tips to help make your traveling abroad less complicated. Whether you’re planning a trip to Nairobi, Paris, or anywhere in Kathmandu, make sure to arm yourself with credit card travel tips to make your traveling not only smooth but also enjoyable and full of peace of mind.
You’ll make great headway when traveling outside the U.S., and even enjoy other services and utility purchases when you take with you these credit card trips abroad.
If you are a new traveler, or you recently started traveling outside the U.S, don’t forget to bring a widely acceptable card with you including MasterCard and Visa. If necessary carry more than one credit card on your trip for convenience – and for your own good.
Besides having your credit card, it’s good to have some cash on you as well. It is also helpful to tell your insurer where you’re traveling beforehand. You’ll save yourself some inconveniences along the way in case your card is frozen for suspicious purchases miles from home.
Remember all these credit card travel tips are important, but not a must to implement them. It is up to you to decide whether you want to enjoy your traveling abroad using your credit card. And also whether you want to make your traveling as smooth as possible.