Hints on Using Credit Cards Wisely when Traveling

Use your credit card wisely while abroad

Here are a few hints to save you some money on your travels.

It pays to shop around. Credit cards are not created equal. Take the time to do a bit of research to find the best card for your needs. Be sure to read all the fine print to prevent surprising charges. Many major credit card companies charge a foreign transaction fee ranging from 1-5% on all charges made internationally. Check with your credit card company before you travel – fees change frequently and you don’t want to end up charging much of your trip on a card with hefty charges. You’ll find many cards from smaller banks and local credit unions usually charge smaller fees, or perhaps, none at all.

Next, check to be sure the exchange rates are consistent with your other cards. For more information on how conversion rates affect the final price of products and services purchased abroad, visit Visa’s currency converter at www.corporate.visa.com.

The next step is to notify your credit card company(ies) before you leave on your trip. If you neglect to do this, you might find a credit card company may place a hold on your card due purchases because vary from your “usual” pattern of spending. By your calling the company beforehand, they will place a note on your file indicating your dates and locations of travel. You might also request a temporary increase in your credit limit on you credit card of choice (ie: the one with the most favorable fees for traveling)

Make a copy of all your credit card numbers along with the phone numbers to call if your cards should become lost or stolen. Keep these numbers in a safe place but not with the cards themselves. The number of who to call is usually printed on the back of each credit card.

Some European countries have started using credit cards with embedded chips where purchases are confirmed with a pin number instead of your signature. If your card is a more traditional card with a magnetic strip or a new chip card which requires a signature, you man encounter difficulty making purchases from automated machines and ticket machines. You will need a person to assist you in finalizing the purchase(s) (ie: a teller at the ticket window) so you can sign for the purchase.

Try not to use a credit card for a cash advance whenever possible. Additional fees occur and interest is charged immediately.

Before charging something, check with the merchant to see if they will do a dynamic currency conversion (DCC). With these transactions, the merchant converts the currency and charges you in US dollars. Thus, you’ll normally pay the merchant a 3% fee for each transaction along with any credit card company and issuing-bank foreign-transaction surcharges. You have a choice – speak up to avoid these fees. If you use an American Express card, there is no problem; DCC is not offered at all.

When traveling in an area where the currency fluctuates a great deal, take note of the transaction date of your purchase(s). Less scrupulous shopkeepers will often wait a few weeks, even months, to submit the charge to your credit card company. In doing this, they might get a better exchange rate. The credit card statement will show the transaction date, the purchase date and the posting date (the date the merchant actually processed the charge. If the dates vary wildly, call your credit card company and ask them to research the matter.

Also, keep in mind the Diner’s Club Card is rarely accepted abroad and Discover is not an option at all. American Express is usually accepted at the more upscale establishments but not at all more modest businesses. B and B’s frequently charge if you prefer to pay by credit card and some do not take them at all.

Happy travels.

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