My wife, Rebecca, and I use a credit card when traveling overseas, as a reliable and secure way to purchase goods and services at a fair exchange rate. Additionally, the cards we subscribe to offer rewards for each dollar spent, including bonus points on travel spending such as airfare, hotels, and car rentals. We are often able to offset our travel costs by applying our miles to airline or hotel rewards programs or booking travel and other activities through the card issuer’s reservation center.
Purchasing goods and services with a credit card offers reliability in that we always have enough “cash” on hand and are getting an official bank exchange rate. Using a credit card also offers security if our card is lost or stolen in that we can contact our credit card issuer to freeze or cancel our account and dispute unauthorized purchases.
Here are several tips for using your credit card when overseas to reduce your costs, protect yourself financially, and maximize your enjoyment of your travels.
1. Make sure your card has a chip and know your PIN
Credit card transactions may be processed differently overseas than in the U.S. Some transactions require you to insert your card in a chip reader and enter a four-digit PIN rather than swipe your card and sign a receipt, as is common in the U.S. Be sure that you know your PIN before you travel. If you don’t know your PIN, you can contact your credit card issuer to obtain one.
2. Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
Some credit cards charge foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside of the States, commonly 3% of your purchase. While an additional $3 on a $100 purchase may not seem like much, these fees add up, and do nothing to increase the security of the transaction. In short, you don’t need to pay them. Fortunately, there are several cards available that have eliminated this charge. Make sure yours is one of them.
3. Notify your credit card issuer that you will be overseas
Many credit cards automatically suspend an account if it appears that unauthorized charges are being made. This can happen if overseas charges suddenly begin showing up on an account that was previously only used domestically. All it takes to avoid this inconvenience is a phone call prior to your departure to let to your credit card issuer know of your travel plans.
4. Take a picture of the front and back of your credit card
Credit card issuers want you to contact them if your card is lost or stolen. If your card is lost or stolen, however, you likely won’t have the necessary information available, such as the card number and customer service phone number. Take a picture of your credit card so you have this information at hand if necessary. If you can’t take a photo, write down the card and customer service number and keep it in a secure location, such as with your passport and other important papers.
5. Bring a backup credit card
Having a second credit card account will be convenient if your primary card is lost or stolen. While credit card issuers will ship replacement cards overseas, they cannot guarantee the card will get to your location in time for you to use it during the rest of your overseas stay. Additionally, while most hotels will accept packages on behalf of their guests, if you are off the beaten path, it may be difficult to locate the nearest express mail service office to have a replacement card shipped.