Gone are the days of using traveller’s checks while visiting a new country. Nowadays, we avoid the hassle of converting foreign currencies by using mostly plastic money. Although there are still a few remote places around the world where you will need cash, you should be able to get around by using credit cards while travelling.
Here are a few things you should know before travelling with a credit card.
1- Travel Insurance
Most people believe that it’s unnecessary to get a comprehensive travel insurance because they are protected by their credit card company. While this is true in some cases and for a limited number of days, it is advisable to contact your travel insurance agent to make sure that you have full coverage for your entire trip. As any purchase made with your credit card, flights and hotel reservations might be protected with your card in case of trip cancellation. Get all the information from your issuing bank before your departure to avoid any surprises during your trip.
2- Bank Fees
It’s worth shopping around for a bank that has no withdrawal fees when using foreign ATMs. Those fees can add up quickly when both banks charge you. It’s important to note that ATMs located in airports and in central tourist hubs have higher transaction fees. If possible, stay away from those. When using your credit card abroad, your bank will automatically charge you its own exchange rate, which is not always the most competitive. Also, while in some countries it’s illegal to do so, a lot of places will charge you an extra percentage for paying with your credit card instead of paying cash. It’s normally around 3-5%, so make the extra effort of calculating, if withdrawing money or using your card makes more sense. Lastly, be aware that doing a cash advance at an ATM with your credit card might incur extra interest fees.
3- Credit Card Fraud
Always give your bank a call before your departure to inform them of your expected whereabouts. This little step will ensure that your card doesn’t get blocked because of suspected fraudulent activity. On that subject, be extra vigilant with credit card fraud when using an ATM machine or a card machine in a shop. While entering your PIN, always hide it with your other hand and keep an eye on your card at all times. If you think that you are a victim of fraud, have your bank’s hotline number accessible to quickly cancel your card. As an extra protection, consider having two different cards from two different issuing banks in case of theft, loss or fraud. Some cards like AMEX are not accepted everywhere so it’s good to have another card that you can use in those instances. If all else fails, carry a small amount of cash, preferably USD, as a backup payment method.
4- Pre-Departure Checklist
While you get ready to leave for your trip, check the expiry date of your credit card, especially when travelling long term. Having a card shipped across the world can be quite the hassle. For all your important documents, including your credit card, keep a paper copy and an electronic copy on your computer or cloud. Leave a copy of all these important documents with a trusted person back home. If possible, increase your credit card limit before leaving in case of emergency. Remember that just because you have more money available, it doesn’t mean that you should use it all. Having that extra protection will give you peace of mind if ever you need to purchase a last minute flight ticket for instance.
As with any other valuable, keep your credit card safe while traveling by always having it on your person, either in a money belt or in your daypack. You should also consider getting a RFID blocking wallet to protect your personal data. Leave your card in the safe of your hotel when you know you won’t be needing it during the day. If possible, do not bring it with you on a night out where it can be easily lost or forgotten. One last piece of advice, before leaving an ATM machine or a shop, make sure you take your card back.
Using a credit card while traveling is probably considered the most convenient method to pay for stuff and make reservations online. Keep these tips in mind the next time you go on a trip for safe travels, but don’t forget to have fun while discovering a new destination.